Ten-year-old Atiya Arshad does not know if she has passed or failed the fourth grade. On the day when her result was to be announced, she lies in an operation theatre at the Civil Hospital Karachi fighting for her life.
Her school in Ittehad Town was attacked by gunmen in a first such attack in Karachi, leaving the principal dead and five schoolchildren injured. The award ceremony was cut short by a grenade blast followed by gunfire.
“The four other children were shocked but had suffered minor injuries. They were sent home after first aid,” said the on-duty doctor.
But Atiya was injured critically. Doctors say it is a gunshot wound to the stomach. Her family still too shocked for words, huddles outside the operation theater. “We have no clue to what happened. We rushed to the hospital as soon as we heard the news,” says her uncle Qaiser Ali.
Men from the neighbourhood also reached the hospital to help out the family. “Never before have terrorists attacked a school in the city,” says a young man in the crowd.
Two more ANP workers were present at the school. One of them, Mian Sayed Wahid, has been operated upon in the Civil hospital and is out of danger, says ANP General Secretary Bashir Jan.
“The workers had been getting threats for a long time but the first thing this caretaker government did was to take away police security from our politicians,” Jan claims.
Leaders of the party rule out the possibility of extortion. “These are poor people who lived in small houses. Extortion threats are not given to poor people,” says an official on the condition of anonymity. He blames the Taliban.
The attack may prove right the longstanding fears of many citizens. Several reports on rising dominance of Taliban in Karachi’s suburbs have been published. Shariah laws are already being enforced on citizens in areas like Kunwari Colony.
While schools blown up by militants in the North-Western region have become routine news, the attack on a school in Karachi is bound to raise some eyebrows in the authorities.
Several reports, though unconfirmed, suggest Taliban have been giving out extortion slips in many parts of Ittehad Town.
Some residents also claim jirgas are being held. “You cannot imagine the sort of place Ittehad Town has become,” a man says.