August 30 was no less than an apocalypse for hardworking President Abbas. That evening, his seven-year-old daughter Kaneez Fatima and four-year-old son Muqdad Hussain drowned in a lake near the house.
According to Sadar Abbas, who lives in Ward 15, Mohalla Pahari, Shahkot Tehsil of Nankana Sahib District, his daughter and son were going to read the Holy Quran that evening when the dog got the son's shoe in its mouth and ran away into the lake. The innocent son also followed him into the lake and started drowning in the water. The sister jumped into the water to save her brother and both drowned.
He says that hearing the screams of the children, his mother Uzma Bibi and ten-year-old brother Amar Yasir also went down into the lake, but it was too late by then. The wife and elder son were also about to drown when the local people saved them.
Sadar Abbas sells dal poda and papad from village to village on a bicycle. On August 29, he had gone to Sheikhupura on a bicycle, 50 km away, to buy goods. He doesn't even have a mobile phone, so he got the news of the children's death three hours later when two young men from the village on a motorbike found them at Ada Mananwala.
The lake, which is one kilometre long and half a kilometre wide, does not have a protective fence around it, nor does it appear to have any other arrangements to keep people and animals away. Around two hundred families are living in the vicinity of the lake whose lives are in constant danger. Sadar Abbas's house is only a few furlongs away from the lake.
Sadar Abbas believes that this lake was exposed in the past as an outcome of the demolition of a nearby hill with explosives, the water of which is also highly poisonous due to explosives. He also thinks that his children died not by drowning but by the poisoning of the water.
In the last few years, about 20 people, including Safeer Hussain, uncle of Sadar Abbas, have drowned in this lake, most of them young children.
That is why it is now called "Bloody Lake".
Local journalist Ashiq Hussain Bhatti confirms that the number of people who drowned in this lake will be more than two dozen. He has also published news about the people who died in a few incidents like these.
Ashiq says that after so many accidents, parents in this area have restricted their children from playing outside the house. The people of the area protested many times against the lack of safety measures on the lake, but it did not affect the district administration and local politicians.
Ali Akbar, media focal person of Rescue 1122, says that apart from removing the dead bodies from the lake, his organisation has also rescued the lives of at least half a dozen people.
A hill borders this lake. According to the Punjab Mines and Minerals Department website, it is a part of the Kirana Pahari Hills Punjab, from which the stones obtained are used for construction work. In Pakistan, the Kirana hills are located 12 km south of Sargodha city and rocks of the same structure are also present at some places in Shahkot, Sangla Hill (Nankana district), and Chiniot district.
According to Tanveer Ahmed, an official of this department, there are two types of Kirana Hills: the one above the ground is called Kirana Hills and the one underground is called Shield Rocks.
Farooq Sultan, deputy director of the Sargodha region of this department, says that it is not a natural lake but has been created after excavation, in which rain and sewage water accumulates.
In Shah Kot, this hill, located not just underground but also above the ground from all four sides, has been broken. The remaining part is preserved only because on top of it lies the famous shrine of the revered Sufi saint Syed Murad Ali Shah, also known as Baba Nu Lakh Hazari.
Sahibzada Ali Raza Shah, an inheritor of the Darbar, says that after the 60s, stones were taken out of this hill to construct roads, which continued until 2007 when only part of the hill remained where there is a Darbar.
According to him, explosive materials were used to extract stones. At the same time, the part of the hill where the lake is located was dug so deep that underground water came out. In addition to underground water, the dirty water of the region is also being added to this lake.
Thousands of devotees and lovers from across the country participate in the Urs celebrations of Baba Nu lakh Hazari on March 23 every year. Police security is temporarily increased these days so that no untoward incident occurs near the lake, but no arrangements have been made permanently.
Shaukat Ali Shaukat, head of local social organisation Shahkot's Awaz, also believes that in the temptation to extract more stones, the contractors dug more than 100 feet. The underground water rose and the lake came into existence.
He says that the people of the area are still suffering the effects of the gunpowder used to break the stones at that time because the water of the neighbouring communities has also become harmful to health.
About ten years ago, the prior Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, inaugurated a beautiful family park for five crore rupees, a few meters from the lake. Today, this park is deserted due to the lake and the accidents that happened in it.
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Chief Officer Municipal Committee Shahkot Arshad Ghafoor also acknowledges the loss of lives in this lake, but according to him, his organisation cannot take any steps. They say this is because this hill was under the management of the Department of Minerals, which gave a contract to extract stones from here. A considerable amount of money has to be spent on other safety measures, including safety fencing; the Municipal Committee does not have enough funds and the Minerals Department should take these measures.
But no Mines and Minerals department official is ready to accept this responsibility; when called at their Lahore office, they said that information in this regard can be obtained from the Sargodha region. But when the Sargodha region was called, they said it was under the control of the department of the Lahore region.
Sadar Hussain says that it is his wish that this lake should be closed by adding soil, but in the opinion of most of the local people, if two boats are arranged in this lake along with the construction of a safety fence, then it can also become a tourist centre, as there is already a park nearby.
Published on 27 Oct 2023