With every Hazara you kill, you are killing a piece of me too

Published: February 18, 2013
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This isn't just about saving the persecuted; this is about preserving who we are. PHOTO: REUTERS

It’s easy to be disheartened by the general state of affairs in Pakistan at present. We seem to have lost the capacity to choose dialogue over violence, to stand for what is right over joining the latest political circus (Tahirul Qadri et al), and to be a nation, if ever we were one.

And now we’ve taken to something not-so-new, driving out all elements that are deemed non-Pakistani, or non-Muslim perhaps — there is little distinction between those terms of late.

The latest 80 plus Hazaras massacred, depicts what is swiftly becoming nothing short of genocide. To what end, I ask?

What kind of a Pakistan are we heading towards?

A nation isn’t defined by the land that it inhabits; it is defined by its people. Their identities are forged by every citizen.

I am a Pakistani, and while the perpetual identity crisis is a given, there are some things that are absolutely certain.

I am Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi and Pathan.

I am Sunni, Shia, Christian, Ahmedi, Parsi, Hindu, and a myriad of other sects and religions.

I can’t be Pakistani without the diversity that each faction of society brings. And when any one of these elements is mercilessly attacked, every incident, quite literally, brings us closer to ripping this identity apart.

This isn’t just about saving the persecuted; this is about preserving who we are, because it’s them today and it could very well be you tomorrow, in what seems to be an endless quest towards a mono-religious, mono-sectarian, gender-skewed ideology.

The point, however, is how we might rebuild the strong socio-moral fabric we seem to have lost. The way I see it, this isn’t about economic disparity; it’s not about corrupt political leaders. This is about showing that we, as a nation, as one community, will not allow for our identities to be tarnished.

Yes, we can have a long march for a cause that supersedes any political agenda, or peaceful protests that might force the government to give the wound some temporary relief; we may even condone the use of force to protect citizens who are wrongfully targeted, but our efforts have to go much deeper than window washing if we are to salvage the mess, so to speak.

I don’t have an exact framework or model for how this might be accomplished. It’s an arduous task at the very least, but as a Communications major, I’d like to suggest that we start with dialogue and understanding.

The western world has inter-faith councils, and it may serve us well to emulate them for our own benefit. We need places where we can acknowledge that Pakistan is a country that is religiously diverse, and can begin to appreciate the complexity that brings; places where minorities and other religions aren’t portrayed as second class citizens; places where we can sit next to each other and disagree without aiming for the throat; places where we say, it’s important for each one of us to be at this table, for Pakistan would not be the same without any of us.

Whether these conversations happen in the media, on the streets, in homes, community gatherings, academic institutions or at the highest echelons in a multi-stakeholder setting, we must find a way to bring disagreements from bloodshed to words; the fate and future of our identities hangs in the balance.

While the simplicity of this idea might seem foolish, and the power of conversations negligible, remember that religions began with words and conversations, nations were born from words and conversations, and perhaps, the deepest of atrocities can be conquered with the same.

Fatima Zahra

Fatima Zahra

Fatima is a graduate student at the University of Southern California, and is passionate about using Communication Management as a medium for solutions to social issues. She tweets as @zahra7891 twitter.com/zahra7891

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