Tears and Laughter at Family Reunion in Pakistan

“Everyone was crying,” says IOM Bagh Field Coordinator Tahlil Wardere who escorted two-and-a-half-year-old Mohammad to the village of Maldarah in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and to his father. “It was very emotional. That’s all I can say.”

There hasn’t been much good news for the Attique family in the past five months. The earthquake devastated Shehzad Attique’s family, killing his wife, 13-year-old daughter and seven other close relatives.

Shehzad, who will have to use a cane to walk for the rest of his life, sadly never saw his son being taken away to Prague. He was also unable to see his newly healed son run into his arms upon his return. The earthquake had blinded Shehzad. 

Nevertheless, the reunion of father and son on a bright morning was filled with tears, laughter and hugs – and many thanks to the Czech government and IOM.

Several weeks ago, the Czech government, which had airlifted Mohammad and eight other children to Prague for medical treatment immediately after the earthquake last October, approached the IOM office in Prague to help take Mohammad back to Pakistan. IOM paid for his ticket and on 24 February, Mohammad arrived at Maldarah, 16 kilometres west of Bagh with Tahlil to be reunited at long last with his father.

Although the family is together again, more difficulties await them in the future. Shehzad’s house was destroyed, and the land he farmed is likely to slide into a ravine with the next large tremor. Reconstruction will be hard for a widowed blind man with children.

“When we left, we told Shehzad that if he needed anything – corrugated iron sheets, transportation, reconstruction help – he was to contact IOM,” says Tahlil, who was touched by the tearful reunion. “Everyone needs help in this region, but we’ll do whatever we can for this family. They have tough times ahead and hopefully we can help.”