Graduating against all odds

Ummad Farooq's graduation.
Ummad Farooq's graduation.
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A STUDENT who survived a gun attack which claimed the lives of his brother and uncle has told of his pride after he graduated just weeks after his ordeal.

Ummad Farooq, 22, had gone home to Karachi for his brother Saad’s wedding in October when they were attacked by gunmen who opened fire at their car.

Saad was riding behind on a motorbike and was killed. Ummad’s father was shot five times and managed to survive, but is still ill. His uncle died weeks later from his wounds.

Ummad was also shot and Pakistani doctors were unable to remove a bullet lodged beneath his eye.

Friends raised cash for him to travel to a hospital in Birmingham and have the bullet removed by specialists.

Back in Sunderland where he picked up his MBA for Finance at the Stadium of Light, Ummad said: “I was so happy to reach this achievement. It was my first graduation of my life and a life achievement.

“Of course there was sorrow, because we had planned for my father and uncle to come and see me and that wasn’t possible as my father is still ill.

“I missed my family but I am glad my friends came. Overall though, I was extremely happy”

Ummad said his vision has improved since the operation, but is still blurry. Doctors have told him to watch his blood pressure.

Recalling the attack Ummad said: “We heard a gunshot nearby. We didn’t realise they had shot my brother, so my father sped the car up and we all ducked.

“A motorbike pulled out in front of us and my father instinctively stopped the car to avoid hitting the bike, but they began firing into the car. My father was shot five times.”

Ummad added: “The bullet went right through me. I have never experienced such severe pain before.”

His injured father had to drive his family 10 miles to the nearest hospital, where Saad was declared dead.

Ummad’s family come from Karachi and belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect. Like many religious minorities in Pakistan, Ahmadis face the constant threat of persecution. Until recently, his father was a leader at their local mosque, while Ummad Saad worked as the student secretary.

“We have been receiving death threats for two years,” said Ummad. “I would be abused in the street.

“At school, some people wouldn’t talk to me. People put up posters across the road from our home abusing us. We knew there were dangers so we kept the wedding a secret from everyone who wasn’t invited.”

Despite his family’s tragedy, Ummad said he was not bitter: “I lost my only brother, so of course I feel angry, but as Ahmadi Muslims, we say our main motive is to bring peace to the world, so we do not think of revenge. Prayer is the only weapon we use.”

Ummad’s family have moved away from Karachi and Ummad is living with friends in Sunderland.

“I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my old home,” said Ummad. “I love it here and I want to stay.”

Jayne Adams, senior lecturer in Business and Management at the University of Sunderland, said: “Ummad is a very special student. It must have been a very bittersweet moment for him to attend his graduation just weeks after the attack.

“The students and staff gave him a loud burst of applause when he walked on the stage and I know that their wishes go out to him and his family at this very difficult time for them.”

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho