Gilgit - Baltistan

Marriott Blast and FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance

by Sultan Ahmad

On Saturday September 20, 2008 around 8:00 PM, the capital of Pakistan presented a horrific scene after a suicide bomber attacked the Marriot Hotel in the heart of Islamabad. The attack resulted in loss of 53 

lives leaving 265 innocent people injured. The whole building was surrounded by fire and smoke while a number of other buildings got damages of varying degrees in the surrounding areas.

Immediately after the incident, FOCUS was in close coordination with Pakistan Army and other law enforcing agencies. The FOCUS SAR team from Karachi comprising of 18 members arrived at Islamabad on the morning of 21 September 2008. Lead by the Consultant, the team took briefing from the Army, hotel management and other security agencies before the operation. Search of the entire building (5 floors and basement) was carried out by the team in small groups. There was no living person found but 4 dead bodies were identified and recovered. The search operation continued for almost 5 hours.

Key features of the operation, from FOCUS’ point of view were:

• It was the first real time exposure for this team to work in a disastrous situation of this magnitude. The building was completely under fire and smoke, however the team managed to work through enormous heat and rubble. Now the team has become more confident about handling such situations in real scenario.

• The inner side of the building was completely dark and the team members used head lights while searching.

• The team identified some dead bodies and also recovered some important official documents of Pakistan Air Force which were then handed over to relevant authorities.

• While carrying out the operation, the team got good coverage in the media. Three TV channels i.e. Aaj, PTV1 and Dawn News covered the activities of FOCUS team.

• Although the media was strictly banned to enter the building, a number of media persons contacted the Executive Officer outside the building and recorded his interview. The major channels included: CNN, Al-Jazeera, BBC, ARY and GEO. Some of those have already aired the interview. 

The contributor is the communication officer of FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, an affiliate of AKDN.

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  1. it was nice to see an well equiped FOCUS team in marriott hotel doing the rescue work. i was watching aaj tv giving live coverage to FOCUS team. it is good to see that FOCUS is now getting the trust and confidence of not only our own community but it is being recognized on national and international level.
    well done FOCUS

  2. It was a matter of pride for all of us when we saw the workers of Focus Humanitarian Assistance Programme, busy with search and rescue activities, at the Marriat Hotel, although they reached very late (the next day of the insident),

    AAJ TV did not only praised their efforts, but they called it an exemplary Search and Rescue team.
    Great Work FOCUS


  3. It is an excellent task that FOCUS humanitarian Assistance Program, has carried out in the wake of devastating incident. As it has mentioned by Aziz, if FOCUS will be in a position to respond quickly to any incident such as the ‘Marriott Fire’ it would add tremendously to its value of work. As well as would is it possible for FOCUS to equip itself with updated apparatuses of fire control at least initially in the mega cities, or influence Govt. policies in this regard. It has been observed that the current inefficiencies of poorly equipped and trained people are unable to respond effectively to this kind of incidents.

    An another option could be to train all the community businesses and property holders such as Marriot, PC, JKs, Hospitals, AKDN offices Industrial buildings etc. to effectively respond this kind of disasters. The video footage of the Marriot Fire shows the indecisive situation of the security guard present at seen and their confusion for for 3-1/2 minutes before the blast and their reliance on only two small domestic fire distinguishers it shows the need for a proper and through training in all the areas of safty and security and FOCUS could do this job in a better way.

    Everywhere Jamati members as shocked and have sympathies with the Hashwani Family and with all those suffered from this unfortunate incident, it is a loss for every body and people of Gilgit-Baltitan and Chitral are direct effectees of this incident.

    Abbas Ali (ISMC-AKU-London)

  4. Focus team did a wonderful job and I feel very proud to have such a professional team in Pakistan. Good job keep it up!!!!

  5. it is really shocking for all of us,the heinous blast at Marriott which took many innocent lives, my deep sympathy are with the aggrieved families. May God rest the souls in undying peace.
    Indeed we are very fortunate for having such organize organization for immediate response in very time of need not within the community it acts instantly to humanity at any scale and level. this exactly differentiates the activities of our institutions and obviously people have been calling them examplary organizations. if we glance back few years back,during the incredible catastrophe of 8 october,at that time FOCUS played key role in resuce operation. it was loaded at every stage by national as well as international organizations ,we are blessed with amazing institutions but need more focus to have them very accurate as our leader wants them and us too,as Abbas Bhai described some core area’s where every one of us need to look and identify the flimsy acts,particulary in JK’s and other community institutions , we need to install new things for best security and safty for all of us.
    mirza ali

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