How do you live in a country that’s killing you?

Published: January 12, 2013

The parents and grandparents of these martyrs have refused to bury them. Instead, they're sitting with their sons' bodies in the street. PHOTO: PPI

I’m not in Pakistan at the moment, but whenever I travel I leave my heart behind in its hands for safekeeping. I keep thinking about it, like a woman thinks about her beloved, talking to people about it, looking for news about its well-being.

So it was with horror that I learned about the bombing in Quetta on January 10 that killed nearly a hundred Shias as they were at a religious gathering. On the same day, bombs went off in Swat and Karachi, killing yet more innocent people. We lost a wonderful human rights activist, Irfan Ali, who had attended last year’s Social Media Mela in Karachi and left a huge impression on everyone who heard him speak there. We lost scores of other young people for no reason but that they were Shia. Militant groups Laskhar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah Sahaba have vowed to undertake more attacks, probably until every last Shia in Pakistan is either dead or driven away.

They have threatened attacks on doctors if they treat the wounded, who are now lying unattended in Quetta’s hospitals like the living dead.

The parents and grandparents of these martyrs have refused to bury them. Instead, they’re sitting with their sons’ bodies in the street. But their grief has a backbone of steel, as they are protesting the lack of security. They will not move, they say, until the Army takes over Quetta and ensures their safety. I read an account of how the smell of death is strong in the air, keens and wails of grief ringing in eerie echoes.

This is what Qayamat looks like.

For the first time in many years I’m wondering about Pakistan’s future. Because while they are physically killing the weak and the vulnerable – the Shias, the Christians, the Hindus, the Ahmedis – the rest of us are suffering from this cancer too. We cannot be healthy when parts of our body are being amputated in the most brutal way. We are mortally ill with hatred and fear and the doctors are refusing to treat us, instead concentrating on how they can become more powerful and more rich. They play games with politics and the Constitution and changing bedfellows while we die a little more every day: ten here, two dozen there, half a dozen more elsewhere.

How do you live in a country that’s killing you, bit by bit?

I don’t know. But I suspect we’re all about to find out.

This post originally appeared here.

Read more by Bina here or follow her on Twitter @BinaShah


Bina Shah

Author of A Season For Martyrs. She tweets @BinaShah (

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