ISLAMABAD: It is only a week after a deadly explosion at its gates claimed the lives of more than 50 people and gutted its building, but the Marriott hotel in the Pakistan capital has thrown itself into a spirited effort for a quick comeback.
Three days after the blast, hotel owner Sadruddin Hashwani had the blackened soot covered exteriors repainted their familiar white.
“It was giving such a depressing look, that is why I got it painted,” Mr. Hashwani told The Hindu.Look of normality
Despite the destruction inside and outside the hotel, the whitened walls have given a semblance of normality to the site. They are also sending out a message to the devastated city that all is not lost.
“There is total panic in the city after the Marriott attack. But Hashwani has taken a very good step. He has shown people the right way to respond to the crisis. In his own way, he has done his bit to calm people down and restore confidence,” said Anees Jillani, a Supreme Court lawyer who once worked for a Hashwani concern.
The hotelier has also been praised for announcing that he would look after the families of all the hotel employees who died in the blast, and that he was keeping all employees on the rolls even during the period of its closure.
“Instead of playing the blame game, he has taken a leadership role — from looking after the families of the dead and wounded to rebuilding the hotel,” said Rashid Khan, a friend of Mr. Hashwani and a fellow businessman.
The road outside the hotel is not yet open to traffic, though the moon-sized crater left by the truck bomb was covered up after investigators had finished examining it. The street lamps are still lying wrenched from their moorings, and the burnt-out trees will take time to grow back.
Inside, the hotel is wrecked, the false ceilings torn out, their frames hanging twisted and bent, and pipes, tubes and other innards of the building hanging through them. A main banquet hall of the hotel, which was in a straight line from the centre of the blast, was particularly badly hit, with the entire ceiling collapsing under the impact of the explosion. Considering 300 people were dining there at the time, the number of casualties could have been much higher than it was.
Not a single of the hotel’s rooms escaped the fire, and parts of the truck bomb — its steering wheel and gear box — were recovered from two rooms on the fifth floor.
Exactly a week later, on Saturday afternoon, the entire site was humming with activity, giving more an appearance of a construction site than a bombed out one. Outside, tractor trailers and bulldozers cleared the rubble and the twisted steel rods. The road has been swept of all the glass and the remains of the trees have been pulled together on one side. Inside, workmen cleared the remains of the false ceiling and glass in the lobby area, while managers sat with their papers on tables outdoors, by the side of the emptied out pool. .
“Whatever parts of the hotel we can start off with, we are going to without any delays,” said Rizwan Saeed, senior duty manager at the hotel.
The bomb attack has given people of this city, both Pakistanis and foreigners, a sense of living under a siege. Pre-Id shopping and festivities have virtually ground to a standstill, the showpiece Faisal mosque is under a bomb threat, several schools have shut down citing security fears and amid a host of cancellations of diplomatic receptions and dinners, the German Embassy was the latest to cancel its National Day celebrations. But defying all fears, the Marriott held a public iftaar on Friday outside its destroyed frontage. Hundreds of people gathered, offering prayers for those who were killed, before breaking the Ramzan fast with the hotel management and staff.
“We cooked for a thousand people in our kitchen,” said Mr. Hashwani. Outdoor catering
The kitchen was one of the few spots in the hotel that is mostly intact, and the hotel has already begun its outdoor catering hopes to get the coffee shop up and running by the end of October.
The target date to get the entire hotel functional is the year-end, said Mr. Hashwani. The structure has been pronounced safe, so the focus is on rebuilding the destroyed interiors. The magnate, who owns another chain of hotels in Pakistan besides the Marriott, said he had a good security plan so that the hotel could not be attacked again.
“We are going to make it like a fort, so we can protect it from those who have an evil eye on the hotel,” he said. The hotel was a target of terrorists twice before, and Mr. Hashwani said he would not take any more chances.
While Mr. Hashwani said he was making every effort to fill up the hotel with people again, he pointed out that it was up to the government to persuade foreigners to come to Pakistan and those already here to stay on.
At a meeting on Friday between the Interior Ministry and representatives of diplomatic missions, Aaj Kal, an Urdu daily, reported that the government pleaded with the international community not to pull out of the country, following the example of British Airways earlier this week, which suspended operations indefinitely.
Interior Adviser Rehman Malik, who functions as the Minister, outlined all the security measures that the government had taken for the protection of diplomatic personnel and in particular the Diplomatic Enclave, where most of the embassies are located.
6 months ago