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Peshawar's Reaction: Personal Accounts of the Bombing at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Pakistan

"I heard a very loud noise and then because of the pressure I was lifted in to the air and then fell to the ground...everything went black around me," said Akhtar, who had just walked out of a mosque located near the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, where a bombing on June 9 killed more than 11 people. I spoke to acquaintances from Peshawar -- some of them knew people who had experienced the blast firsthand, but understandably, were too traumatized to speak to me (or anyone for that matter).

I then spoke to Imran Ali Shah, a young 27-year-old man who works at a private marketing company three kilometers away from the Pearl Continental (which Pakistanis call the PC). "I heard a very loud noise -- it was so loud that I knew a blast must have happened near to where I was -- because of the pressure, the doors swung open and I faced a gush of air. The windows broke too. I quickly went to the roof to see what happened and where -- then I saw the clouds of smoke coming out of PC -- the clouds stood in the air for a long time...then I just switched on the TV to find out what exactly was happening. I think this blast happened at the PC so that people would be feel terrorized...they would think that if such a high-security area could get bombed, then any other place in Peshawar could also be bombed easily."

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Peshawar Bombing
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Peshawar Bombing

The overall situation in Peshawar has been progressively deteriorating for the past few years. Many families have left the city, moving to nearby Islamabad, the capital city of Lahore, or the metropolitan Karachi. "People are very very worried in Peshawar, you never know when a bomb could go off... No one goes out to busy places out of fear, and businesses have been badly affected. Markets that used to be open till eleven or twelve at night now close at eight o'clock. People are now losing jobs and only the affluent can make it out of this city," says Ali, a journalist based in Peshawar.

Fatima, a young graduate of advertising, was in Peshawar when the blast took place. "I heard a really loud sound and I instantly knew that it was a bomb blast...but when I found out that it had happened in PC which is about a twenty minute drive from my house -- I was very surprised...it felt much nearer." But Fatima doesn't seem to be extremely perturbed by the incident: "Yeah, we went on as normal." But then she adds slightly defensively, "My cousins are worse! I called a cousin of mine who was out at the time the blast happened...I told him to come back because my mother was getting worried, but he just laughed and said he was busy having dinner."

This statement, though surprisingly flippant, is not entirely devoid of sensitivity. Many Pakistani youngsters are witnessing and experiencing what might be the most disturbing chapter in Pakistan's history. Bomb threats have become a regular warning through SMS, and in many parts of the country, suicide bombings, though frequent now, were unheard of only a few years ago. CCTVs and metal detectors never used to be part of a schools infrastructure -- but now they are. And although many youngsters feel strongly about what is happening, many also feel that their lives should not come to a halt. "You know, we have to keep living -- things have gotten so bad but life has to go on," says Maham, a ninth-grade student in Peshawar.

In an attempt to understand the deteriorating situation in Peshawar, Fatima speculates "I think the PC was bombed because Americans were staying there...or other foreigners."

Pakistan is a country where everyone talks about politics, whether on TV, in markets or people's living rooms. No Pakistani can ignore the crisis their country faces, nor do they want to. And many feel that the reason for the current state of insecurity in Pakistan stems from America's increasingly unpopular "War on Terror." As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently admitted, "Pakistan is reaping what United States sowed", which is a clear reference to the dishonest creation of the Taliban whose intention is to misuse religion for the purpose of war.

Today 3 million Pakistanis in the north of the country have been displaced from their homes, and many are facing the unimaginable: as Fatima says, "People are moving out of the city, and I don't think I want to live here either....We feel like we are losing our city....Peshawar was never this unsafe and I am afraid that one day my children will merely hear of this city and will never actually be able to visit, let alone live in Peshawar. "

This is part of HuffPost's Spotlight On Pakistan. Eyes & Ears and HuffPost World are building a network of people living in Pakistan who can help us understand what is happening there. These individuals will send us reports -- either snippets of information or full-length stories -- about how the political crisis affects life in Pakistan. This is an opportunity to have a continued conversation with Americans about what's happening in your country. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

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