A cow that has not been able to go to the toilet stands in sheer terror in the cattle crush, a stand that keeps it from bucking. The vet puts on a long pink plastic glove. The owner smacks its rump, grabs its tail and raises it. A few minutes later the misery is over.
Welcome to the Civil Veterinary Hospital of Lakki Marwat where the animals may not be able to convey their gratitude, but their owners certainly do. Without the animals, many families in Lakki Marwat would starve. In this southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa district, the land is hostile to seeds most of the time and when it will take it, the skies do not oblige. The animals, on the other hand, are much more cooperative. Traders breed and rear calves that can sell for up to Rs15,000 in the daily bazaars or melas that are held across the district. The dairy farming also keeps many families afloat. Desi ghee or clarified butter, for example, sells for a handsome Rs1,800 a kilo.
But for a brief moment in 2010, when the place was destroyed by a bomb blast, everyone panicked for their lives. It was only the sheer heroism of the newly posted vet Dr Mubarak Khan that saved the day.
He had arrived in Lakki Marwat from Nowshera just four days earlier. “I had sent the hospital guard to get my children breakfast from the market,” he recalls. He was waiting at the hospital when the explosion took place, followed by gunfire.
When Dr Mubarak gathered his senses he found that his clothes had been shredded and his right shoulder was broken. The hospital’s old building had crumbled along with the office of the district director of livestock, Dr Gul Rehman. Dr Mubarak stumbled home. He found it had been razed to the ground. His new car had crumpled and a 125cc motorcycle had been destroyed. “Injured as I was, I returned to the hospital,” he says. He was x-rayed and sent to the emergency after which he had to be sent to the nearby District Headquarters Bannu.
The very next day the Civil Veterinary Hospital opened—even though it had no building left. An injured Dr Mubarak had decided that if they had no office, he would have to be returned and pitched a tent. “We did not close the hospital for even a day,” he says. “It is because I thought a bombing had taken place. Under the circumstances, if the hospital was closed down, it would be tantamount to yet another attack on the people. Lakki Marwat is an impoverished area. Most people rely on the livestock for sustenance.”