The death toll of Pakistanis in the Mina stampede stands at 57, out of which 26 have been verified
Ten days into the tragic Mina stampede that claimed hundreds of lives, Shehzad Azhar is getting desperate looking for his mother. The family remains clueless about the whereabouts of Yasmeen Bibi, 43, who had travelled to Saudi Arabia with her younger son Ayaz Azhar, 26, to perform Hajj.
A day after the tragic incident, one of their relatives in Makkah confirmed the death of Shehzad’s brother after he identified his body in one of the cold storages set up to preserve the bodies of hundreds of pilgrims.
Yasmeen could not be traced. “I fall short of words to express my pain. I have no clue where my mother is and I have no courage to bear the pain of losing my younger brother who was to get married in the first week of this month,” said Shehzad, who works in the GHQ and is based in Fateh Jang, Punjab.
“We offered his funeral prayers the day his wedding celebrations were to begin,” he told The Express Tribune. The house and the street outside were decorated with lights just like his younger brother had asked for before leaving for Hajj.
Ayaz had won a ticket to the annual pilgrimage to Makkah in a lucky draw and decided to take his mother along. “They both were excited before leaving for Saudi Arabia and had big plans for the wedding on their return,” Shehzad recalled.
He last spoke to his mother and brother at 6:30am on the fateful day. “They were both asking all the family members to forgive them and pray for them,” he said. “It seems they knew something was going to happen.”
Since then, Shehzad has been trying to figure the whereabouts of his mother.
“I have contacted the government several times and all other officials concerned in Saudi Arabia but have not been given a satisfactory answer,” he complained. “All I am told is to be patient and wait for a day or two.” “My mother is missing, how I can be patient?” Shehzad asked.
“It seems like no one cares for our pain of losing our family members,” he said, expressing dissatisfaction over the government’s efforts for locating the missing Pakistani pilgrims.
Like Shehzad, many other families are also clueless about the whereabouts of their beloved. Around 97 Pakistani pilgrims are still missing, according to the religious affairs ministry’s website, which has been updating the list of deceased and missing pilgrims every day.
Of the 97, 19 have been confirmed missing by the religious ministry while 27 have been reported by the Hajj Organisers Association of Pakistan. Another 12 missing people are Iqama holders reported by callers and 39 are pilgrims with insufficient information as reported by callers from Saudi Arabia and other countries.
The death toll of Pakistanis in the Mina stampede stands at 57, out of which 26 have been verified and 31 have been reported by eyewitnesses or the victims’ relatives. The Pakistani government continues to claim it is making all-out efforts to locate these people.
MNA Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, the focal person on Mina incident, is currently the only official listening to the pleas of the desperate families and most of the times he is unavailable for a comment. Even he has been relying on the information shared on the website of the religious affairs ministry.
Since the tragedy, most of the religious affairs officials have been out of the picture. Most importantly, Minister of State for Religious Affairs Pir Muhammad Aminul Hasnat Shah is still unavailable for comments.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2015.