When things strike close to home – Pakistan’s stance on Sectarian violence

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You know the feeling of carelessness when you hear the news? The idea that ‘such things’ happen to other people and not us? Yeah I am a living example of that. Every day on the telly you come across stories of people being chopped up and thrown across the city, murdered in cold blood, attacked with acid, and you think, that’s so sad. And then you change the channel.

That’s me. That has always been me. The continued spate of violence in our lives has made us immune to the most ghastly of criminal stories. And we find it very easy to digest them, along with the biryanis and niharis which we usually consume for dinner while watching these bulletins.

Back to the point, the recent wave of terror raising a chill down the spine of most people I know is the Shia genocide. On a steep rise with no intentions of slowing down, people across the country are being murdered gruesomely just for being Shias.

While the country already sees so many people being killed regardless of their religion, what baffles the mind is that we as a nation have simply stopped caring. Hardly getting a peep out of anyone, me included these murders continue. Everyday in Quetta, members of the Hazara community come under attack. Pilgrims from Gilgit Baltistan are made to stand in a line while their ids are checked and then shot point blank.

And what happens? A curfew during which these savages roam free while the grief stricken family members are under lock down and cannot even give their loved ones a proper burial. This is happening very regularly now. And while I am very aware of this, knowing how huge the danger is, I am also immune.

Karachi sees its fair share of sectarian violence. Very recently three lawyers belonging to the Shia sect were gunned down right in front of the court house. Extremely saddened I took to a social networking site Twitter to protest. But what I found was that many of the most respected Twitterati found it more compelling to protest against Maya Khan and her date catching brigade than raise a voice against this blatant murder.

Absolutely disheartened, I realized, that raising a voice against sectarian violence is not something this country feels important.

The recent weeks have seen protests against this genocide across the country. In Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi hundreds of thousands of Shias took to streets to protest against the killings. No media coverage was provided. What I got to know was solely through following relevant people on Twitter.

And once more back to the point, while news like this terribly disheartens me, I didn’t think they could strike so close to home. Whenever I hear of targeted sectarian violence in Karachi my heart skips a beat. Who? Where? When? How? Are questions running across my mind. Was it someone I knew? Was it someone I called brother, uncle, cousin or just knew through someone? 

Even if I don’t recognize the name, I can almost hear the cries of those who can. Nobody can realize the actual danger until they experience it themselves.

Stories of such violence are our dinner table conversations. Whenever we gather we talk about how a neighbours cousin was shot dead in front of his house, or how so and so’s son was killed. We talk about how dangerous it is to live in Pakistan now. We exchange duas for our protection. We tell each other which routes to take and which ones to avoid. It’s a ritual now. We all then part hoping none of us have to actually resort to those measures.

And so goes on the life of the immunized. And for the last time, back to the point. While I consider all Shias to be a unit, one family, still when you don’t know people personally there’s only a limit to how utterly helpless you can feel. So  I didn’t think things would ever strike so close to home. But they did.

I saw on the news a story of a very young man, in his early twenties being shot right outside his home as he waited for his ride to work. While extremely saddened I didn’t recognise the name, and so saying a silent prayer went back to doing what I was. It was only until late that my mother informed me that an aunt’s son had been murdered, the bubble burst. I vaguely remembered him. Seeing him sometimes in religious gatherings like Majlises. Worse I remembered he was two years younger than me. His life was just starting, and someone took it from him.

For the sake of not going too emotional here, I will stop here. The point I have been trying to make unsuccessfully throughout was nobody is safe. Nobody. And now I find it almost offensive to expect help from people who just don’t care. The protests are no help either. Pakistan is not a country where protests can make a difference, at least not in this age. If something has to be done, the people in power need to stop condemning these acts and actually do something. We on the other hand, need to stop looking up to them for help and look out for each other instead.

Our most powerful weapons, are our Imam Zamins, and duas. We cannot stop these acts by force, because contrary to what most think, sectarian violence in Pakistan is ONE SIDED!

My prayers are with every single one of you. In Pakistan and abroad.

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4 responses »

  1. Ok this nearly had me in tears. All you’ve written is true, just one thing: It’s not just Shias, it’s every minority. If you belong to a minority you are unsafe, extra unsafe because every life here is threatened for one reason or another.

    What’s happening to people in Hazara and other similar places is heart breaking in the least. And the fact that those people aren’t even getting sympathies of people around the country thanks to zero media coverage makes it worse. Like their lives aren’t worth mourning. Like they don’t even matter. In a way then, we all become murderers because at one point you do become immune to all the brutality and we’ve reached that point.

    Nicely written 🙂

  2. It chilled me when the Hazara Shias were lined up and gunned down…what kind of world are we living in?

    Well written and completely hits home

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