10 years after a massive explosion, Marriott Islamabad has regained its prestige
Islamabad: Nothing attracts attention in the lobby of Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel like the 1922 dark-coloured Rolls-Royce decorating the entrance of the building. There is nothing that appears unusual. No sign of fire damage. Nothing is there that brings back the memory of what happened at the hotel 10 years ago.The hotel seems like any five star hotel in the world: elegant interior designs, big chandeliers dangling from the ceiling and a smiling and professional member of staff wherever the eye looks. Giant paintings decorate the walls, mainly in the hotel’s different restaurants. However, massive security measures have been taken around the hotel. Barriers and steel gates are erected around the building. Such fortification may be normal in a country that has fought a fierce war against terrorism for several years.Back on the eve of September 20, 2008, terrorists attempted to ram a truck loaded with 600 kilogrammes of explosives through the gate barrier of the Marriott Islamabad. The vehicle could not make it through the barrier and exploded.The blast killed 53 people, mainly Pakistanis, and injured 266 others. The explosion left a crater 20 metres wide and 8 metres deep. Some reports said the sound of the explosion was heard 15 kilometres away from the hotel, which is located in a fashionable neighbourhood, surrounded by government buildings and diplomatic missions. A few months later, the Pakistani government reconstructed the Islamabad Marriott and it was officially reopened on December 28, 2008. Marriott Islamabad is a franchise hotel owned and operated by Hashwani hotels, a prominent Pakistani company in the hospitality field, which is also running other luxury hotels in other Pakistani cities. Today the hotel is the most prestigious hotel in Islamabad. Foreigners and Pakistanis throng the hotel either as guests or when celebrating special occasions. According to reports, the man who was believed to be responsible for that attack was a senior Al Qaida leader, Qari Yasin. He was killed in a US drone attack on March 2017 in Afghanistan. Pakistan, officials and analysts say, paid a high price for its war on terrorism — the lives of 6,000 soldiers and 23,000 civilians, along with $123 billion (Dh451 billion) of economic losses in Pakistan war to eradicate terrorism on its soil. “We think we have done more than any other country in the world,” in fighting terrorism, said Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. “We actually reversed the tide of terrorism,” he told a UAE media delegation that visited Pakistan recently.