“Of course, I do.”
“It is burning. I left the city in the afternoon…will return later.”
I never stayed there. The people I spoke to almost always mentioned that it was a place which was more watched than many others. I did not want to ruin my stay. As it turned out, you get watched anyway.
There used to be a smile in her voice whenever we talked about the Marriott because I would tell her about the meetings I had there. She was particularly amused when I had hopped into a jeep with a guy from the Tablighi Jamaat.
I remember that parking lot so well and how everyone looked at his jeep with wonder; he had recreated it to look old and battered. What an irony that had it been parked there on September 20, it would not stand out. It would be as stripped off colour as any others destroyed in the blasts.
- - -
Saturday’s bomb blast reports have already mentioned how a suicide bomber rammed into the gate and blew up 1000 kg explosives that have killed about 60 people and injured many, many others.
However, I find some statements in Dawn to be more than reports.
The Marriot Hotel has been popular among the foreigners visiting Islamabad and had been previously targeted by terrorists.
Pakistan, like India, has gone through too many of these ‘incidents’. And terrorists always look for hot spots. Whenever I visited there were always many more locals in the restaurants than foreigners. Unless there was some event; then people from news channels would invariably position themselves at the hotel. It is the only five-star property that is centrally-located.
The attack came a few hours after the newly elected president Asif Ali Zardari made his first address to the joint session of the parliaments amid tight security. The president said in his address that he would not allow Pakistan’s territory to use for terrorist activities.
Every politician says it and terrorists know they will say it. They do not wait for such sound bytes. Incidentally, Zardari’s appeal to curtail presidential powers is a huge gimmick. Even if it is carried out – or ‘revisited’, as he said – it will send out the signal that he is not after power. What he really means is that he does not want to take too much responsibility. Not at this juncture when the country has to deal with strife in the Northern areas as well as the parking of American troops.
The Marriott Hotel is located near government buildings, including President House, Parliament building, Prime Minister House, and right opposite to the Sindh House and judicial colony.
If suicide bombers want to attack these hallowed institutions they can aim their explosives there. There should be no implication that this is a blow to democracy, for sure. It is not. There were blasts during Musharraf’s regime, too.
At that time some people had implied that it was staged.
Let us wait for the verdict now.
And to see what plans the United States of America has for Pakistan.
- - -
Another time, another memory
I had wanted to probe his mind and I suspect he was doing the same. We shared a curiosity about everything. As we sipped tea and conversation flowed, one would not have imagined this was only our second meeting. He told me about his life – complex, layered.
We had got so comfortable that I suggested an experiment – there was a long-stemmed rose at the centre of the table. I told him that we should write something impromptu about it. Mine was a poem; his was an interesting theory on physics.
This was not an Indian and a Pakistani, just two people sharing their views about a rose that could have grown and thrived and withered anywhere.