KARACHI: It had been a long wait: 22 days. On the last day, Batool* waited all night for her husband to come home. She had cooked and kept aside change to pay the taxi driver when he arrived.
In the living room of Dr Masood Naqvi’s* house in Quetta, women were reciting verses of the Quran and praying for his safe return. Every sound outside the house would raise hope, but each time they were disappointed.
The night passed and in the morning a friend called and frantically asked Batool if her husband was OK. The tone of his voice told Batool the wait was over. She let everyone in her house know there was no need to pray anymore. As she now tells the The Express Tribune: “The tickers about his killing had started running on TV, but I did not know until then.”
She heard her neighbour scream “Is it true?” and the faint hope she had until then was lost. The police gave the body to her neighbours, who informed Batool.
At first glance, only the black shoes and shalwar on the body were visible. She told herself the clothing was not his, so the body must be someone else. But there he was, lying beneath the sheets drenched with blood.
Dr Naqvi had been shot that day with four bullets, including two to the head. Police said Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had told them to “take their doctor home”. Without bandaging his wounds, police officers had brought the body back with his face still dripping with blood, she says.
Dr Naqvi, a professor at a medical college in Quetta, was one of 91 Shias killed in Balochistan last year, according to police statistics. On March 28, he was abducted while on his way to college.
Despite the frequent sectarian killings, his wife believed he would survive. “I thought he would come back because if they wanted to kill him why would they ask for ransom?” she says.
The ransom had been paid the night before. Batool’s brother negotiated with the kidnappers for 22 days.
“First the kidnappers asked us for Rs50 million, but it was impossible for us to pay that much. As soon as they came down to Rs2.6 million, I somehow collected the money and asked our friends to pay it,” Batool says. The kidnappers not only took the money and killed Naqvi, but also left a note on his body which said: “My wife and brother-in-law did not pay the ransom so I was killed.” The note had his signature on it.
“I am glad we paid the ransom … If we had not made the payment I would have always felt that he was killed for money,” Batool says.
The day the ransom was paid, Batool’s brother was threatened that he would be next. Fearing for their lives, all the relatives fled their hometown within days.
The media’s coverage of the death increased her fears. “When Masood died, the media flashed our house on TV screens. However, later no one came to ask us what happened.”
Batool also says there was no support from the police or government. “The police did not carry out any investigations; they only brought the body home. They didn’t even ask us where and to whom we paid the ransom to.”
The Balochistan government has not made things easier. “It’s been nine months, but I still have not been paid his salary. There is a government rule that if a person dies in a target killing, their family is paid their salary till the day the deceased was meant to retire,” she says.
Now Batool lives with her siblings in Karachi. Despite their love and support, her heart is in Quetta. At various points in the interview she keeps going back to how her city used to be.
“We left the city as soon as we could. We left everything we had struggled so hard to build. I was born in Quetta, I lived there all my life and at this age I had to leave…”
Of course, not everyone can seek refuge in another city. “When the news of Masood’s death came, the majority of people sitting in my house were those who had lost a brother, husband or son in similar incidents,” she says.
“But it’s not easy to leave your job and house. I had the support of my siblings so I moved to Karachi and I have only come here because of the security of my daughter.”
Her teenage daughter Zainab* does not understand why they lived in Quetta to begin with. As her mother talks about how the city was once peaceful, with a week-long education festival, debates and theatre at the boys’ college, Zainab listens in disbelief. The only question she asks is why her grandparents chose to move to the “worst province of Pakistan” after partition.
Once again, Batool insists that it is not how it used to be. But, to Zainab, the stories sound like an old fable.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy