Abdullah picks up the thermos and pours the tea for the guests in the hujra. Some of it spills from the cup but no one minds. They are just happy that he is able to do this because three years ago, when he was 13, Abdullah’s hands were blown off by a thermos-like toy bomb.
It was 2015. He was playing with some friends at the banks of River Kurram in Lakki Marwat. They found the toy-like object. A few seconds later he didn’t have any wrists.
He was initially treated at the District Headquarters Hospital in Bannu and later taken to Peshawar. He was sent home in two weeks after the wound was treated. The devastated family oscillated between mourning the loss of his limbs and being grateful that he was still alive.
Abdullah is one of scores of children, some as young as three years old, who have fallen prey to the remnants of war and the dirty tactics of militants. These explosives are littered across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and former Fata. In May 2017, for example, a girl and her mother were killed when children accidentally pulled the pin of a grenade in Upper Dir. The children had found the live grenade on the street and brought it home believing that it was a toy. The latest reported incident took place in Mohmand on Sept 20, when five siblings were injured when playing with what they thought was a toy in a scrap heap. They were between 3 and 13 years old.
“They use cars, planes and thermoses. The kids don’t know what is in it. They pick them up and mess with them. And this is when the damage is done,” says Ziauddin, the deputy in-charge of the Bomb Disposal Unit in Lakki Marwat.
“Sometimes, the kids take the toys home and everyone gathers around to try to open it. That’s when they blow up. And the kids are killed. Parents should and schools should teach children not to pick up toys they find on the roadside. They should not accept them from strangers either.”
Some of the children stumble across the bombs while playing in rubbish heaps, others find them on the banks of the rivers if they have been washed down in the rains from areas where there was fighting. They are a sort of IED hidden in water coolers and even tennis balls. In June 2017, possibly the highest number of lives were claimed when six children were killed in South Waziristan.
Abdullah’s family is not a wealthy one. His father, Mir Badshah, works as a mason and he has two elder brothers, one of which is a soldier in the Pakistan Army. Mir Badshah says that they had hoped their elected MNAs or MPA would have done something to help but no one showed up. “We don’t need money,” he says. He is just looking for a bride for his son now. He would be grateful if his son could be given a government job on the quote for people with special needs. Abdullah got prosthetic hands and continued with his studies and passed his Class IX and X exams. He is studying to become a Hafiz-e-Quran as well. He wants to study both English and receive a religious education.
Abdullah’s brother, who is a soldier, just thinks about how his own brother became a victim of terrorism while he was fighting terrorists. My brother is educated and can do everything despite losing his hands, his brother says.
Abdullah is a little more realistic. I wanted to protect my country like my brother but terrorism has taken my hands, he says. I thank God for saving me from greater damage.