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'Death was waiting to take my children'

By Sagar Kulkarni in Panipat
February 23, 2007 14:12 IST
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"Death was waiting to take my children away from me," said an emotionally choked Rana Shaukat Ali as he struggled to identify his five kids devoured by the flames that engulfed Samjhauta Express on Sunday night. "I came here with six children and would go back with all of them," said Ali, who arrived here along with his wife Rukhsana and one-year-old Aksa late on Thursday night.

His family was not too keen on the India visit as his children were to take the annual school exams due March but went to Delhi to inquire about an ailing aunt.

"We crossed the border on January 23 and reached Delhi the next day. We had planned for a 10-day trip, but kept delaying the departure for one reason or the another," said Ali, who was admitted to Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital with 15 per cent burns. His wife, Rukhsana and daughter Aksa had 10 per cent burn injuries.

"It was as if death was waiting for us," Ali, who runs a departmental store in Faisalabad, Pakistan, said.

Even as the other injured were flown to Pakistan, Ali decided to come to identify the bodies of his five other children.

While all their children were special, the duo coulnd't stop thinking about the eldest daughter, Ayesha (15), who was born after 16 years of their marriage. The other children who died in the blasts are Bilal (13), Meer Hamza (11), Abdul Rehman (6) and Aasma (4)," said Ali. Ali used to visit India no more than once a year.

Even that was hard when the Samjhauta Express was suspended in 2002. This year he came with his family to attend his niece's wedding in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh.

He was heading back to Pakistan with bags full of bangles, necklaces, kitchenware and clothes when the bombs went off.

Tears rolled down when he recalls the sight of seeing his children burning in the fire.

"Minutes before the blast, they were all playing, shouting in the coach, my wife and I had to ask them to sleep.

"Barely had we fallen asleep when we heard a loud roar. I opened my eyes, it was very difficult, I saw my children slowly dying.

"The blast had occurred right near their berths. A security man sitting near them was also dead. Later, it all went dark and when I regained consciousness, I was in the hospital," he said.
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Sagar Kulkarni in Panipat
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