When the Presidential election is more important than the Parachinar blast

Published: July 27, 2013
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A motorcycle burns at the site of one of the blasts in Parachinar. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Pakistan is a rather strange place.

If you are unable to fast because you are unwell, you can end up with a black eye and maybe a few broken ribs. This is courtesy of our informal, yet thorough and self proclaimed moral police marching down the streets 365 days of the year; they are the ‘righteous’.

However, if you want to join in the Ramazan festivities beware that shopping for iftar in a local market or going to a mosque may become a gamble on life. 

The twin blasts in Parachinar yesterday, left at least 50 dead and around a 122 severely injured.  Is it an uncanny coincidence that this was a famously Shia dominated area and that Ansaar ul Mujahiden (a local Sunni militant group) has taken responsibility?

No, it is not. Shias have been targeted time and again, the numbers of casualties more chilling each time whilst the state and mainstream media maintain obstinate silence about the affair.

Remember, back in January when the residents of Alamdar Road were protesting alongside dead bodies of their loved ones in the penetrating cold? It took two days for the media and the government to acknowledge and respond to their demands – two whole days.

And, this time was no different.

Last night the electronic media obsessed over the Presidential election whilst the families of the Parachinar victims were tortured by crippling grief and hopelessness.

Clearly, the media has better issues to address than the grief of these stricken souls.

But the truth is, we don’t care who the next president is; what we care about is how the state is going to protect our people.

What I find amusing is that such tragedies usually result in spats – government officials and the opposition, mainstream political parties and highbrow personalities, from those who were responsible to prevent the disaster to those who will now use it to undermine their opponents. Although, each one of them are able to find someone to blame, they are unable resolve the issue and come up with a solution.

The same happens when Hazaras are butchered; when a roadside bomb explodes in Peshawar, or when innocent people are massacred anywhere in Pakistan.

These statements are awfully trite; they bear the same run down sentences, hurriedly altered to suit the new situation – the place, date and number of dead.

“The Prime Minister strongly condemns the Quetta blasts.”

“PM Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemned the blast in Lahore and reiterated his determination to overcome the menace of terrorism!”

“President Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned the blasts in Quetta targeting a bus of the Sardar Bahadar Khan Women’s University and the Bolan Medical Complex”.

Yes, this is precisely what we owe the victims.

The proclamations are brandished over the electronic media, printed in newspapers and spread on social media; with that, the job is done. We can all go home now and carry on with our lives.

However beyond the numbers and standard statements announcing the dead, there is an identity of a person that they forget to mention; the nameless faces who bear the brunt of our law and order situation are not merely numbers. They are human beings with families. Beyond the blame games and ‘security lapses’ there is the macabre silence clinging on to the houses of these victims that they are unable to remove. There are families that are torn and hearts that are broken. But there will be no justice.

Smug in the comfort of our homes we fail to see the story behind these numbers, the incredible human tragedy behind the label of an ‘unfortunate incident.’ But, these news stories are real.

I have grown up seeing our eagerness to condemn these killings and our tardiness to actually do something about them. It makes me feel like a hypocrite. We stage mass protests when Rohingya Muslims are persecuted in Burma but do nothing to ensure that the state assists the families of sectarian violence victims here, at home. We are hopping mad when Kashmiris are killed by the Indian army but do little when our Rangers shoot an innocent man point blank. We are the flag bearers of Palestinian independence but treat our own minorities like animals. This is great- isn’t it?

Grandiose condemnations don’t bring back the dead nor do they guarantee the right to life, property and liberty for masses. They just prove that no one cares past image building stunts.

You do not have to belong to a particular religious sect to empathise with the families of sectarian attack victims. You don’t have to be a Karachiite to mourn the hundreds killed in the city each day. You don’t have to be a Christian to feel for Rimsha Masih. You don’t have to live in Fata to feel the terror of drones buzzing overhead echoing death.

You just have to have a tea spoon full of humanity.

The path that lies between condemnation and action determines who we are as people and as citizens. It is this distance that can save the lives of many others; the action that would alleviate the misery of victims’ families.

The action that would ensure justice is done.

Zara Shahid

Zara Shahid

A Youth Activist and a student of Politics at LUMS. She tweets @twitter.com/ZaraShahid_

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

  • Nasir Theba

    Aah,the same old game of ‘my religion is better than yours’ continues unabated.This is the outcome when people allow religion to take over their lives,when maulvis decide our laws,when legislators make inhumane laws based on religion,when the non-religious are treated as pariahs and lepers by the society.Recommend

  • Mohsin jafri

    Has this bombing finally proven who has the better sect?What will such mindless violence achieve?is sectarian violence the solution to all our problems? Both sides need to closely look at the fanatics within their ranks and sideline the hardliners.People from both sects have suffered heavily in the last few years.It’s time the religious violence ended.Recommend

  • Muhammad Usman

    It’s time people started listening to what Dawkins,Harris,Dennet,Hirsi Ali have to say and stopped listening to the violence inciting sectarian clerics.We’ve witnessed the horrific effects of religion on our society,it’s time for a change.Recommend

  • Arsalan malik

    This was an open market,people from both sects died here.Stop disregarding the Sunni dead.Recommend

  • Obvious

    Yet another article that will come and go. Yet another ‘rant’ as far as they’re concerned….which they’re not – their motto is “time is money!”Recommend

  • kanwal

    @arsalan malik
    Yes people from both sects died. But it was a shia area and clearly the shias were the intended target. Why is it so hard to see? Our problem is, we dont want to accept there is a problem. Recommend

  • Islah

    Indeed shocking and this tragic incident should be condmned at all foras. However, very few people, indlcuing the writer of this blog know that the shia communities themselves have been involved in grave human rights violations- in recent past they the vast majority kurram agency/parachinar to flee the area by inflicting heavy losses on them. Having said that this incident should not have occurred. Recommend

  • Muhammad Umar

    @kanwal
    Yes,the problem is that only the deaths of one sect are highlighted,given extensive media coverage and social media hype with all sort of misleading hashtags.What about the Sunnis killed in sectarian attacks?There should be fair coverage of the dead of both sects,not favoritism by the media towards one sect.Recommend

  • Ali Raza

    Our country has become a battleground of spy agencies of different countries from the middle east.They are fighting their proxy sectarian battle on our soil.It’s time the Arab and Persian country stopped fighting their war on our soil.Recommend

  • Sharjeel khokar

    This is religion based violence.Then why are the ET comment moderators censoring any mention of atheism and religion in the comments?Why this extreme anti-atheist bias by the ET comment moderators?Are atheists not human?Recommend

  • Kaafir

    @Islah: My friend if you look at one incident, then you may be right, but see what happened to them before that. these people were forced to raise arms for their rights and defence. Earlier, with help of Taliban in Afghanistan and other sectarian forces, they were killed based on their religious beliefs. On One end they are being killed, and when they retaliate you call its atrocities? When Hazara in Baluchistan were killing innocent people? Name one LEJ/ASWJ/TTP leader who’s family was forced to flee, beheaded by a Shia? Ever heard of Shia victim who went and did Suicide bombing? US with help of Pakistan government carry Drone attacks not because of Shia’s in the region. Come out of prejudices instilled in you through Media, Maddrassah’s and Education. Think like Human being, act like a Human being.Recommend

  • gujranwala789

    This is a result of centuries old tribal warfare between shia Turi tribe (never understood how an indigenous tribe became shia) and their rival sunni tribes local to kurram valley. All of them racially belong to the same mega tribe of pashtuns called Karlanri which are native to the tribal agencies of FATA. It is sad the people who are related to each other by blood are slaughtering each other in kurram valley since quite some time now. I am never able to understand how Turi tribe ended up being shia where their closest cousin tribe of zazai/zazi/jazi/jaji both in kurram and neighboring afghanistan region are majority sunnis.Recommend

  • Proletarian

    @Muhammad Usman:
    If people had been more courageous and had listened to Marx, Bakunin and Kropotkin these third rate polemicists that you mentioned who merely criticise yet offer no alternative would never have had any relevanceRecommend

  • Babloo

    well written. Shias need a political party that will champion their cause and highlight their plight.Recommend

  • Hassan Khan

    Excellent article, no doubt we have become substantially hibernated when it comes to human tragedy! Recommend

  • Shahood

    We should stop expectation from the government, we need to stand and protect out home and land from these evils. I dont think they are brainwashed they are doing it intentionally to create hatred among others who wanta to stay united, we all should understand beliving in one god and the last messanger and the holy book makes u muslim and no one has the right to certify u as muslim or non muslim as far as ur obeying allah and his messanger. I can only request the scholors from both the sector to preech this, may allah rest the shuhadda is peaceRecommend

  • Silas

    You speak my mind lady.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @Arsalan malik:

    Maybe we should also not disregard the Sunni extremist militants Ansar Al Mujahideen who said they were targeting Shia Muslims, and plan further future attacks.Recommend

  • Aschraful Makhlooq

    In Pakistan’s leaders minds and sights bomb blasts are routine’s activity and presidential elections shall be held only once now so presidential elections do have more importance than bomb blasts…….Recommend

  • AGHA ALI MOOSAVI

    strong textDEMOCRACY IS THE WORST REVENGERecommend

  • Speedbird

    Very well written blog……..but no action will be taken, at least until corrupt, greedy and absolutely pathetic people rule the country….Recommend

  • syed

    Arsalan Malik. Parachanar is a Shia area. If any Sunni died then please blame the Sunni fanatics. They are causing all the destruction in Pakistan. Shame on trying to dilute the grave situationRecommend

  • Atif

    what is the government, security agencies and the military doing ?. Bulk of the national budget is taken up by defense and security yet their output is zero.
    this is becoming all too common i’m seriously now wondering if the government/intelligence agencies/military are intentionally letting this happen!.

    May God save the minorities in Pakistan (esp shia community) from the increasing intolerance in the country. Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @gujranwala789:

    You say it like as if an indigenous ethnic tribe in the middle of Asia being Shia instead of Sunni is something abnormal, shouldn’t have been and not to your preference.

    The army, which has its own ideological biases and leanings, tried to downplay the violence there as being ‘tribal’ too, simply because it is still trying to hide the fact that there is a presence of Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni extremist religious sectarian militants, including the Afghan Taliban Haqqanis, who unfortunately some are considered as strategic assets (the location is strategic as well as a gateway between Afghanistan and Pakistan). When even Sunni members of the Bangash tribe joined the Taliban ranks and targeted their own Shia Bangash members who had to flee towards the Turis, you realize its not just tribal. Below are some links of not too long ago developments, among the backdrop of a long history of sectarian violence, which is not merely just ‘tribal’, which is also the same case phenomenon the country in Pak, which too has diverse Shia populations be it Hazaras in Balochistan, G-B, Karachi, South Punjab, etc, and can’t simply be dismissed as ‘tribal’.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KurramAgencyWarApril2007

    The Pakistani tribe that is taking on the Taliban
    Pakistan army blockades anti-Taliban tribe in KurramRecommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely pointed out.
    The Presidential elections, basically being a non-event, was played up in the media because that is what they do. The Parachinar killings on the other hand, was very much a serious event where to talk about forces involved would be stepping on toes and possibly getting finger burnt.
    Most of the media ignored an item saying that the KSA was sending two of their highest clerics to Pakistan to strengten religious ties………..as a commentor on the DAWN site said it was to strengthen the Wahabbi and Salfi philosophy which is today the backbone of the terrorist movement destroying our country…….and there were 65+ comments with hundreds of ‘likes’ supporting the comment.
    So it appears Parachinar style killings will continue unless enough pressure is placed on those who matter to stop it.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @gujranwala789:

    Please go back to Saudi Arabia, your bigoted views will be much appreciated there. Sir you are the problem, who brings Islam into disrepute. I have seen your other comments.Recommend

  • gujranwala789

    @Mehdi:

    And I really dont understand why an indian commentator like yourself is criticizing me when it has got nothing to do with you what I say about my country and its people. Why should it hurt an indian , I really cannot understandRecommend

  • ALI SAEED

    Bozos! Government functions and functionaries are not intact without President. In fact the Agencies which engulf the swathes of Parachinar are the subject under the President. People seem to have a disposition of arguing for the sake of argument, and when inquired about solutions they come up with a threadbare cliches. A very poor analysis Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @Islah:
    Please see my reply to gujranwala789

    Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @gujranwala789:

    I’m surprised how you can’t understand why Mehdi is criticizing you, and seem obliviously blind on such matters. Recommend

  • Hassan

    @gujranwala789:
    What stupid rationalisation of a massacre, made to look even more stupid now that a takfiri group have taken responsibility, and claim its in revenge for Shia fighters, fighting in Syria. Take your bloodied hands and money back to KSA, leave Pakistan to the Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Mehreen

    What a moving blog. I agree with you 100%. When our minorities are under fire its the duty of the majority to extend support. Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    Don’t know why my last two comments were cut down to size. I’ll repost, even though it seems to be a problematic and frequent bothersome exercise on the blogs section.

    Rest of the first comment:
    “@Ali Raza:
    Maybe back in the 90’s this two sides proxy claim would have some weight, but now its very much lopsided and our own local Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni extremist militants, used in the past by our own Pak govt across borders in Afghanistan and India , have a monopoly not only on sectarian terrorism, but overall terrorism as well.”

    Rest of the second comment (with an additional own self edit):
    “Mehdi’s concerned for the safety of Pakistani Shia Muslims, who are clearly being targeted, attacked and killed, and naturally takes issue with such prejudiced biases and denials and anti-Shia intolerant bigoted remarks against the community, which of course hurts. I’m also aware of your past skewed and disturbing remarks, which gives credence to Mehdi’s valid criticisms.”Recommend

  • Ahmed

    …it looks like somebody is stealing the soul of humanity from our country; mostly we remain silent on hearing such attacks or do little debate and then get busy with our lives again, is it enough that we do for the victims of such terror attacks?Recommend

  • np

    @Muhammad Umar: Please provide instances where ID cards were checked , Sunnis were pulled out of the bus and then shot dead. Cannot do so so – can you? Please stop establishing false equivalence.Recommend