Is the Charsada attack shaping a narrative for Pakistan that we need to change?

Published: February 21, 2017

Do people understand that maybe we are the victims of terrorism, not the ones who cause it? PHOTO: REUTERS.

As I started writing, breaking news tickers were flashing across my TV screen, stating that seven people have been killed while over 21 others have been injured in today’s Charsadda attack. An image conjures in my head, entailing a court session in progress, full of burning candles being dowsed in multiple blows. Another few die, while my brothers look for love.

To love is to comprehend; to comprehend something is to go beyond a single story. Yet one single story often goes beyond how we view the world. For example, some common assumptions include, girls are bad at sports, men avoid commitment, corporates are evil, Ireland is unsafe to travel across, and Africa is an entirely backwater dark continent where the population struggles to survive.

See where racism and prejudice stem from?

I work as an accountant, and so far in my career I have constantly been told that I need to develop skills in one specific field. It makes me wonder why it is impossible to accept that a person can effectively function across multiple arenas. We get pigeon holed and side-lined because that makes our expertise easier to explain and ultimately easier to sell. And that is the appeal of the single story – easier comprehension.

As I read updates on the Charsadda attack, I find myself thinking that maybe those western generalisations are true. Maybe Pakistan really is a train wreck in slow motion!

It is sad that Pakistan is often considered a fertile breeding ground for modern day terrorism, almost as if there is an incubator that plants terrorists across the country.

For me, however, Pakistan is home. I was born in Karachi and left when I was a few-weeks-old. During the time I lived abroad, the language I conversed in was not my own and my peers were not like me either. For me, Pakistan was a place I knew solely through the occasional mail I exchanged with my cousins who lived there. It was an imaginary homeland until I moved back at the age of 10.

I often wonder what it means to be Pakistani. Is it a question of values, religion, belonging, or of opposition? For me, Pakistan is not the wars it has fought, Quaid’s speeches, or a green passport. To me, Pakistan is much more than that.

Pakistan is so many different things all at once – it is Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque, it is food from Burns Road in Karachi, and it is the beautiful drive across Islamabad’s Margalla Hills. Pakistan is a monument encapsulating variant hues of beauty.

Pakistan is the sound of the myna birds that nestle quietly in the trees all day and come alive early in the morning. It’s the jasmine garlands worn around wrists. It’s the adrenaline rush of hitting a six while playing street cricket. It’s the nuclear green, cardamom smelling Pakola drink.

But most of all, Pakistan is its people. I remember participating in a sustainability project at work which involved distributing food in a village. The area was visibly poverty stricken, yet full of love. Everyone I met shook my hand and inquired about my journey. Each family offered me tea and water, and one woman even stretched her dupatta to cover my head from the blazing sun.

Terrorism is a brutal reality that paints ugliness on what is otherwise beautiful. What happened in Charsadda is tragic. Headlines are being updated; the number of casualties will increase. One would agree that given the surge of recent attacks, the past few days can be described as Pakistan’s bloodiest.

February 13th: Sariab Road, Quetta

February 14th: Punjab Assembly, Lahore

February 15thMohmand Agency and Peshawar

February 16thLal Shahbaz Qalandar Shrine and Awaran Baluchistan

I fail to understand the hatred behind these actions. In these attacks, we have lost friends, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. My Facebook newsfeed is full of updates on the attack showing remarkable solidarity for the victims.

We live every day under the threat of yet another attack. Do people understand that perhaps we are the victims of terrorism, not the ones who cause it? What is it that we miss when we look at things from their surface, rather than their depths? What other single stories do we have in our heads that prevent us from truly understanding each other? I hope that as the world watches us, it stands in unison to mourn our country yet again. We can find the courage to change our single story of Pakistan.

Pakistan constantly imparts lessons on acceptance across colours, castes and creeds; it teaches us to confront multi-faceted extremism and is gradually showing us the need to build a better place for future generations.

I wish I could tell the world to use love to replace hatred and misunderstanding. But it isn’t easy, because the cycle of change starts with each one of us.

Sarah.Fazli

Sarah Fazli

A qualified account with a business degree, I work for the banking sector in Karachi, and am very interested in reading and writing

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Bhanu

    Ireland is unsafe to travel?? Never heard of it.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “It is not the ideology of Pakistan that needs to change, but the ideology of the GHQ that needs a revision.”

    The ideology of Pakistan and GHQ are the same in my opinion, the ones who can with or without people’s support change the course of Pakistan is the GHQ. It is highly unlikely that the GHQ would do that because they are not just a war machine but also a political and an economic enterprise.Recommend

  • Sarah

    Go beyond the graffiti, maybe? The change starts from within each of us. It might sound idealistic. But it is not impossible.Recommend

  • Sarah

    Go back to the Roman Catholic / Protestant strife. Security was a concern then.Recommend

  • Malik

    “” who started first?” because it is tasting it is own medicine”

    If one can not unequivocally sympathize, then it is best to stay silent.Recommend

  • Kp

    A country created by a sentence that Muslims can not live with Kafirs. Then they couldn’t live with Muslim Bengali? oh dear you mixed Politics,Institution with religionRecommend

  • vinsin

    sympathize with terrorists. Since when Muslims start showing any sympathy. I have never heard any sympathy for Arab Pagans.Recommend

  • vinsin

    But what change? Have you changed and changed to what?Recommend

  • Razzy

    check what all these ‘pagans’ did to the early Muslims . Yet then mecca was conquered, they were spared the fate which they richly deservedRecommend