Hikmat Shah was just doing what any normal father would, taking his daughter – almost 4 – to school. He had her backpack in one hand, and her hand in the other. By his own admission, he was still half asleep.
That made it hard to see the men. One was crouched behind his car in the front yard of his Karachi (Pakistan) house and the other hidden behind a pillar waiting on a motorbike to make a quick getaway.
There were five bullets that struck Hikmat in a strafing pattern across his chest. One passed just millimetres by his heart, tearing into his spleen, liver, stomach and lower intestine due to the angle from which it had been fired.
After the threats and the unreasonable demands, the Taliban had finally come for Hikmat Shah.
It felt like burning, he said.
I sat down with Hikmat to talk about the Taliban, the attacks and finally claiming asylum in Australia. He was a wealthy businessman who made $AUD200,000 a year acting as a marketer for traditional Pakistani artisans. But not even he could be protected.
Q: Your life began to unravel when your uncle joined the Taliban?
A: Back in 2003, after America invaded Afghanistan the Taliban fled to Pakistan. My Uncle sheltered many of those Taliban. He was already a political figure. He had a big a mansion over a few acres, he sheltered them and then he joined them. He used them for his own personal strength.
First he harassed the local people. They had to, they had to subdue [sic] to him. You can’t stand to a gun saying you won’t. They say ‘you are either with us, or you’re not’.
Q: What were they doing?
A: They would ask them for donation. Small amount and then every month and every week. Then they started kidnapping rich people and ask for ransom and just threaten them.
My Uncle asked me at the beginning and I thought he was just my Uncle and I did transfer money. But then he asked me to change my lifestyle, like keep the long beard and change my uniform. I had never done that … since I lived in the city where I was born, Karachi. I loved my suits and ties and, you know, my company was a member of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce. I used to travel aboard, it was an international city. And my wife did not wear the hijab. That was one of the issues. Number three, my children went to one of the top English schools in Pakistan.
He said my family was too western, they threatened to kidnap my kids and murder them. I had three kids. My daughter was 3.5 when I was shot.
Q: Tell me about that day. What happened?