x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Bomb-hit hotel to reopen on Dec 30

The building reduced to rubble by the blast will be ready soon, its owner said in Dubai.

The memorial to the 32 Marriott Hotel employees killed in the Sept 20 bombing in Islamabad.
The memorial to the 32 Marriott Hotel employees killed in the Sept 20 bombing in Islamabad.

DUBAI // The Islamabad hotel reduced to rubble by a bomb blast that killed 52 people and injured hundreds of others will reopen for business by the end of the year, its owner said. Hundreds of labourers have been working around the clock to rebuild the Marriott Hotel, which was devastated by a bomb on Sept 20, said Sadruddin Hashwani, who is also chairman of Hashoo Group and owns hotels in Dubai.

"I can say that the hotel would be opened on Dec 30, in just 90 days from the attack, and would be opened with Pakistan's flag flying on the top," Mr Hashwani said. "This will be a proud moment for Pakistan." Mr Hashwani was speaking at a gathering of Pakistani businessmen to honour the new ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE, Khurshed Junejo and the Pakistan ambassador at large, Javed Malik. The blast was one of the worst in a series of attacks by suspected al Qa'eda militants in the conflict-ridden nation. A suicide bomber drove a lorry carrying more than 600kg of explosives into the gates of the hotel, injuring more than 260 people.

Mr Hashwani said that the speed of the hotel's recovery reflected the spirit and determination of Islamabad against such militancy. "This attack was like a 9/11 on Pakistan," he said. "It was not just an attack on the hotel but an attack on the heart of Islamabad. It's an attack on the people, an attack on Pakistan itself." Thirty-two employees of the hotel, as well as diplomats and other hotel guests, were among the dead.

"The entire hotel was reduced to ashes in no time," Mr Hashwani said. "I was standing right there as I watched it go down." A fund was set up to help the families of the victims, which now totals 20 million Pakistani rupees (Dh906,975). "The widows are our daughters and we will do all we can to help them," he said. The gathering of businessmen yesterday was organised by Gul Mohammad Lot, a businessman based in the UAE who is also adviser to Qaim Ali Shah, the chief minister of the province of Sindh..

Mr Lot called on the business community to help Pakistan at a time when the country faces a financial crisis. "The country needs investments and help from its expatriate community," he said. "We hope to see Pakistani businessmen put up new industries and companies in the country." There is also hope the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency will be positive for Pakistan. "Mr Obama spoke to the president, Asif Ali Zardari, on Friday and assured him that the situation in Pakistan will change," said Mr Lot. "He said that the way Americans look at the war would change."

Mr Junejo, the ambassador, said Pakistan's new government faced a lot of challenges inherited from the administration of Pervez Musharraf. Mr Hashwani said while the hotel would reopen, the Sept 20 attack could have a lasting impact on the rest of the country. "We are going to get back," he said. "However, the effect of this on foreign investments and other businesses will depend on the political and economic scenario of Pakistan in the coming years." pmenon@thenational.ae