Marriott Hotel. 2004. 2007. 2008

If you’ve been to Islamabad chances are you’ve been to the Marriott, at the very least you’ve passed it. In the 1990s I stayed there during my SATs only offered in Islamabad during the time. The room I got was not to my satisfaction. I remember writing a letter of complaint which I handed to receptionists who tried hard not to giggle over the girl with the English accent who’d actually written a damn letter of complaint.

“Madam,” said one with a straight face, “I will personally see it gets to the party responsible for assigning rooms without views.”

More recently I’d been there for weddings and dinners. Marriott with its off-white arches and marble floors symbolized, for all those who need to spend a night away from home, home away from home like any hotel.

In 2004 Marriott saw an explosion that killed seven. Pakistan says that explosion was the result of a short circuit while the US says it was an explosive. In 2007 a security guard died after trying to stop a bomber. And, now, in month of fasting, Ramzan 2008, another explosion, this time a truck with supposedly a tonne of explosives slamming into it and killing, at last count, sixty.

Obviously for the killers there is no difference between Muslims and Non-Muslims. They are equal opportunity killers. What do they want? To be able to aggressively recruit if the US invades in order to restore ‘stability’? 

I chose the above pic with the injured victim because often, in the US at least, such footage is always sanitized. And it shouldn’t be. Buildings can be rebuilt; lives lost and traumatized cannot.

A day into the bombing I have not seen coverage on any of the US news channels– perhaps there was a blip, but I missed it. Or the channels are too busy with Obama and Palin nama. Why isn’t there a US news channel which caters to world news?

Oh- of course, we the US, is the world. Why are Americans so okay about being so uninformed? Not knowing what’s going on earth is not a great strength but a weakness– albeit one that can be easily remedied.

I helped Maqsood, a driver, who was lying injured in his Corolla parked outside the hotel. Blood was pouring from his head but he requested to make a phone call. I gave him my mobile phone. He called someone and said that “I am Maqsood. I am badly injured in the bomb blast, I don’t think I will come back to Sargodha alive on this Eid. Please take care of my daughter Mariam, please don’t inform my mother what happened to me because she will die, I cannot speak more, Goodbye.” Maqsood was shifted to an ambulance in a very precarious condition.
A journalist colleague, watching the immense human suffering, was getting mad. He was abusing the terrorists, saying: the
 “Americans are killing us in the tribal areas, these Taliban are killing us in Islamabad; they will not go to paradise they will go to hell.”
I don’t have words to express the pain and agony of the women and children who were injured in the hotel. One woman, holding her little daughter, was not ready to leave the Nadia Coffee Shop where the body of her husband was lying on a table. The little girl was crying, “Papa I am sorry, I forced you to come to this hotel, I am sorry Papa, please wake up Papa.”
read the rest of Hamid Mir’s report 

Ambulances rushed to the area, picking their way through the charred carcasses of vehicles that had been in the street outside. Windows in buildings hundreds of yards away were shattered. Tropical fish from the tanks inside lay among the torn furnishings in the entrance area.
Mohammed Ali, an emergency service official, said that after an initial chaotic search to find survivors, rescue teams had only been able to make two brief forays into the hotel. He said they had found neither bodies nor survivors and had to retreat quickly.
“The fire has eaten the entire building,”
he said.
read rest 

(published September 2008)