Noise on the Connecticut shooting, but deafening silence at home

Published: December 18, 2012

It is this immunity towards such issues of mass violence that such incidents occur in the first place. PHOTO: IQBAL MAMOUND/EXPRESS

Shootings at Sandy Hook happened a day before the bombings in Peshawar. There was an outcry for justice and amendment in the United States gun control laws, worldwide. Pakistanis in the US and abroad, also expressed their deepest condolences towards the people who had died in this tragic incident. President Obama addressed the nation with immense grief. His teary-eyed, sombre voice sent a shiver down my spine.

Several news publications and scholastic journals published detailed reports and academic discourses of the incident within 24 hours of the shooting. And the average person in the United States, is still reminiscing over the innocent deaths and the immense damage caused to the young survivors of this shooting.

A day later, six rockets were launched from an unknown location targeting University Road in Peshawar. Following that, fire arms and explosives were continually used inside the Peshawar airport. The news channels reported for over an hour that, “the rescue team is on its way.”

Five people died and 25 were injured in this incident; property damage and the terror that surrounded the city is another story.

“I am safe though I witnessed rockets from my car in the air. My room is destroyed and there is noise of perpetual firing. My little brother is insanely terrified,” said Hassan Saeed.

He witnessed the attacks up-close. At that time, I could only feel sorry for the poor kid and say a silent prayer for all the families and travellers that were in danger due to these attacks.

However, what really strikes me about this incident is the reaction of Pakistanis. Most of my acquaintances were not even familiar with the attack and even after knowing the details, there really wasn’t any such reaction from them.

At the most, “I hope nobody you know has been hurt.”

So, if anyone we are not related to is hurt, is it okay?

This apathy is part of a larger picture that society has neglected. We have accepted such actions of violence as a part of our daily lives. They only make us pause for a minute and look around for possible damage done to our belongings and relations, before we move on with our daily concerns.

It is this immunity towards such issues of mass violence that such incidents occur in the first place.

As a nation, we have lost the value of the life of our own people. Shootings in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, United States appalled us. It made the Pakistani social media activists and other influential groups advocate for stricter US gun laws, but the frequent numerous casualties of our own people cease to bring out the much needed compassion.

Just because we know we can blame our corrupt government and ineffective leadership of the country, we feel that our part in the situation is done.

I am not suggesting any solutions here; honestly, I personally do not know how our collective sensitivity can be revived. But this void in the equation should not translate into continued indifference towards the plight of our country – our people.

There are questions that all of us must ask ourselves today.

What are our priorities?

How do we approach such widespread problems of terrorism and separate them from our cultural and religious biases?

Have we demeaned the value of our lives?

Whose responsibility is it to counterbalance the harm caused to young minds and the culture of country?

Whose liability is it to maintain peace in the country and fight against terrorism?

Is it only the leadership that is to be held accountable for the lack of importance given to this issue?

Have we done our part in advocating for a safer Pakistan for ourselves and our future generations?

Answer these questions for yourselves before your dear one engulfs in the fire of a bomb blast, before it is the wail of your mother that haunts you, and before it is you lying across a pavement with a bullet in your chest, wishing you had done something differently.

Read more by Komal here or follow her on Twitter @komalali92


Komal Ali

Komal Ali

Born and raised in Pakistan, Komal Ali is an International Relations major and Law and Public Policy nexus minor at Mount Holyoke College. She is currently doing a Pre-Law certificate at University of Amsterdam. She tweets at @komalali92 (

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

  • Pessimist

    Your blog is confusing. Are you concerned with Pakistan’s reaction to the Sandy attack or does the lack of apathy of events at home bother you? I’m not really sure.

    Regarding the latter, I already gave my views on the blog written by Farina Alam. We’ve become numb and allowed violence to become a part of our daily routine. There’s nothing more I can say about that.

    Now regarding Pakistan & Sandy, I would have to completely disagree with you. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but apart form one blog and one news story, I have not seen any coverage of Sandy. I don’t live in Pakistan so I don’t know what kind of coverage was given on the local news. I am aware of the social media response which I can’t really say is a cause of concern. Pakistanis are good when it comes to social media activism. However, what disturbed me was how the Pakistani Right Wing nut brigade used this tragedy for their anti-Amreeka bashing. I found a few memes of Obama & his speech, which I found disturbing and in bad taste. I wont go in detail about that, unless someone is naive enough to bring that up.

    Anyways, Miss Ali, I think the world (us included) reacted the way it did because children were directly targeted. Innocent children were murdered for no reason. There was no reason to kill them. No there wasn’t. I guess we believe that children are immune to suffering and war, and we always react strongly when something happens to them. Remember Malala? She was directly targeted and hence the global shock. I’m not saying that lives of other children are insignificant, but I think this is human psychology if you directly go after a child, you’re likely to make a bigger impact. I would also like to mention the Beslan hostage crisis. That also gained international media coverage because children were made hostage inside a school. Even the loony bin who attacked children in China was a global story. One more example, in the recent Israel-Gaza conflict, the image of the journalist holding his deceased son was one of the most powerful & disturbing images of the conflict.

    To sum up, there is always media coverage when children are the direct target of any attack. If one day (God forbid), a drone attack specifically targets children you’ll see that it would make mainstream media. That’s just life. I should stop rambling now, I hope you get my point….Recommend

  • Sonali Pandey

    This gave me goosebumps.Recommend

  • Syed Shehroz Hussain

    I so agree with the writer. Thumbs up for raising such a topic. Our insensitivity will be our undoing.

    Thank you for this Komal Ali.Recommend

  • Raza Shahzad

    I liked the way you linked up the attack at Sandy Hook to the recent heinous antics near University Town, Peshawar. Collective sensitivity can only be restored if every bullet buried under one’s chest, every fellow citizen turned into corpse and every single drop of blood spilled touch our hearts as it would had a family member fell victim to such shameful acts. Saddened, I were, to see statuses dedicated to last episode of Ishq-e-Mamnu on facebook with people having no idea whatsoever of the turmoil exercised in their own homeland that very time. Recommend

  • Book-Keeper

    Very rightly thought and chalked-out Komal!:) I had been contemplating on the same lines lately.Recommend

  • H2A

    I totally agree to what Pessimist has just mentioned. I am not impressed by the way you have tried to connect the two, because there exists no connection between the two. I hardly saw any coverage of Sandy on the local media. Even your blog is the second one I have read on the Express Tribune so far. There is no coverage of the story either. So you are not very right to say that people in Pakistan focused more on the Sandy incident than the Peshawar attacks. May be our own people are just so used to of having attacks in Pakistan that its no more a news to them. This pretty much explains their numbness towards their own country.

    To be honest, I didn’t think that people in Pakistan cared more about Sandy either. I actually read very ruthless comments and very inhuman response to the sad incident occurred in the USA. For many it was not a tragic event, rather a relief for them to see Americans going through some sort of pain. A perfect example of our Numbness as a nation????

    And lastly, I don;t see a problem one should have in sharing condolences with another nation in their times of grief. I don;t see why it should be an issue that people in Pakistan should not condemn Sandy or express their opinion. If you will stop sharing others’ pain, no one will come to share yours. Neither does USA need our condolences, nor it would make any difference to them. But it definitely tells about our character as a society. It is not a nice thing to isolate yourself from rest of the world and become insensitive to the world around you. Be an American or a Pakistani, one should know what is right and what is wrong and raise voice accordingly.

    ET, please show some grace in sharing others opinion. I fail to understand why you chose not to include my comments on different blogs. :(Recommend

  • Sonali Pandey

    It is important to notice that she has NOT said that Pakistanis should not sympathize with other nations for their loss; instead she is making a point that because of the frequency of terrorism incidents in Pakistan, we have become indifferent to the value of the life of our own people.

    Understand the difference before you point fingers.Recommend

  • Anoop

    The way I(sadly) and many of my countrymen grown insensitive to poverty, you have grown insensitive to Terror. Recommend

  • Insaan

    Author “However, what really strikes me about this incident is the reaction of Pakistanis. Most of my acquaintances were not even familiar with the attack and even after knowing the details, there really wasn’t any such reaction from them.”

    Terrorism has become a way of life in Pakistan. Even Pakistan government is deeply involved in this. Terrorism is a big business in Pakistan.Recommend

  • gul khan

    @Sonali Pandey:
    Thats the real point….pointed out by sonali pandey….Due to frequent incidents of terror and mismanagement/misgovernance and inefficient govt, the people have become used to such events that big and big event cant make them move, on the other hand, a minor incident of terror shake the entire country…………………So terror and such events are day to day matter for us here in addition to the fact that we have no value and care for the human life in the era when every body has one mission to collect money at every cost. Really we have derived from the bright principals of Islam, we running after money and have run over every principal of Islam which guides us how to care and treat the human beings…………Recommend

  • Haroon

    The more attention an “incident” receives in the media, the more it is pasted on our television screens and blown up in the viewers face, the fiercer the reaction and sentiment that will flow from the general public.
    Any “incident” that happens in places where muslims live (arabs or non arabs) isnt worth a news channels’ time to show the public, hence all lives lost in bombings, drone attacks, foreign invasions, and even domestic crimes gets swept under the rug as “just news”.
    Just as the attacks were happening in Newtown, there was an equally “appalling” incident happening in another elementary school in China where two dozen kids were stabbed by a 36 year old maniac. I dont know what to say Komal, but if it happens in the U.S., it deserves media time, otherwise its “just news” whixch might not even make the local papers and channels.
    Someone said something about desensitization and thats exactly what has happened with all the muslims. We see each other dying everyday all over the world but we dont have the gall to raise our voice…..our fear is our downfall.Recommend

  • p r sharma

    law of diminishing concern is applying in Pakistan where not a single day is passed without a bomb blast/ mass killings by extremists and alike. When a person gets such news continuously on daily basis the sensitivity gets reduced and limited to acquaintance — This is how i feel.Recommend