The Narrative Needs to Change

This morning, Pakistani’s found themselves standing in lines, shoulder to shoulder behind the coffins of a Shia doctor and his eleven year-old son.  Reason for death; bullet wounds.  The real cause for death however, was not the bullets that pierced through their bodies but rather the sect of Islam they believed in.  While the twitterverse and other social media outlets have openly expressed their disgust and shock towards the ease by which minorities and citizens are being hunted and slaughtered, the government seems to have their head in the sand, oblivious to reality.

Rumors are adrift of what all is happening.  MQM creates chaos in Karachi by targeting their kill; Baluchistan is the battleground for foreign agents and players hence the unrest; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) does not approve of Shi’ism and therefore has Shi’as murdered at will.  While all these games are simultaneously being played, the PPP sits idly on the sidelines, issuing press release after press release, shrugging their shoulders claiming in private that the Pakistan Military controls foreign and national security policy, thus their hands are tied.

The PPP constantly reaffirms that they are committed in fighting the ‘menace of terrorism’ and their ‘resolve’ will not wane despite the thousands of lives lost across the country. But is this really enough?  Where are the Parliamentarians? Where are the standing committee meetings? Where is the legislation to control violence that has buried thousands six feet under the ground?

The most the government could muster for the recent murders of the Hazara community in Quetta was a “condemnation.”  Issuing press release No. 119 and No. 120 denouncing the blast and “direct[ing] the concerned authorities to provide best medical facilities to the injured of the blast”.  The releases like the other hundreds issued before 119 and 120 are nothing short of a façade.  What does it mean to ‘provide the best medical facility’? Where is the “resolve of [this] government to fight and eliminate the menace of terrorism”?  Does credibility mean nothing to the PPP-led government?  How many more bomb blasts and target killings, murders caught on CCTV cameras and missing persons petitions will it take for the government to uphold their oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”?

Over the course of this government’s tenure, the action undertaken by those in power has done little to curb terrorism and violence. Rather than taking the onus and looking for long lasting initiatives that will reduce such heinous crimes, the federal and provincial governments have at best taken only stopgap measures. Such actions have morphed Pakistan into a real-time fort.  Government buildings are wrapped around in razor-sharp barbed wires with security checkpoints at every nook and corner.  All army installations and entrances to cantonments across the country have vehicles screened and trunks inspected.  Sniffing dogs are dragged around cars at hotels and restaurants making it feel as if one is entering a top-security prison.  But the citizen of Pakistan is still living in fear.

The problem of sectarian and ethnic violence and terrorism will not be brought to an end unless Parliamentarians and the Federal Government alter the prevalent narrative.  Those with empathy towards the violence we experience will always carry out protests.  The Hazara community refused to bury their loved ones and sat in the cold to register their anger while the civil society and human rights activists try and shed light on the plight of millions across the country.  Unless our public servants and officials grab the bull by the horn, we will continuously be holding our heads in shame behind the coffins of those who lost their lives due to our cowardice.

Some politicians took a stand and publicly denounced the activities of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.  While this baby step is still a step, the mountain we have to climb needs far more tenacity and strength.  We cannot bow down to the very ideology that is slowly but surely eradicating Pakistan from within.  Elected officials having the legitimacy of the electorate can no longer issue a mere press release while refusing to undertake any serious action to exterminate this hateful ideology.   It is time they use the microphone and loudspeaker as a tool to denounce the violence rather than ink and paper.

Religion cannot be used as a tool of violence.  Has the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the Mujahedeen activities in Kashmir of the 1990s not taught us anything?  Due to our Establishment so fondly using religion in pursuing their own agenda, Pakistan has now become synonymous with terrorism.  Across the globe our moral standing has greatly diminished while we also find ourselves completely fractured from within.  The Establishment must be curtailed and this too can only be done by the Parliament.

History has taught us that the ballot is stronger than the bullet.  While the ballot is still a raw force in Pakistani politics, its credibility can only be strengthened by the acts passed by those voted to the legislature.  The responsibility of freeing Pakistan from this warped and bigoted interpretation of Islam rests on the shoulders of those in power.  The narrative needs to change.

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