Is it fair to blame Imran Khan for the Peshawar Church Blast?

Published: September 27, 2013
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Imran Khan was pelted with abuses and rotten tomatoes for the Peshawar church blast; why do we find a scapegoat for every wrong that occurs? PHOTO: REUTERS

The church blast in Peshawer took away more than 80 innocent lives. People had gone there to pray, not knowing their funeral prayers would follow soon.

As always, the shock had subsided the day after the blast, but there was sadness – a constant dull ache that refused to recede. A recurring realisation existed that so many had lost their lives just because they prayed differently. Nothing seemed to help. Tweeting and facebooking allowed people to vent and rave temporarily, but frankly, social media acts as temporary anaesthesia. It numbs the pain for a bit, but the pain and anger returns. Always.

Then there was a call to attend a vigil for the victims and it turned out to be just what I needed. I needed a forum to express my solidarity with Christian Pakistanis – stand by them and join them in prayer. I needed some semblance of peace in that time of turmoil. As a mother, I needed to teach my daughter that this matters to us.

Thankfully, the vigil offered all this.

Like most vigils, a handful of people gathered at 8:00 pm. outside the Karachi Press Club. There were representatives of the Christian community, activists, a few Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters, and some student activists of other parties – all with candles amid eerie peace that is always present on candlelight vigils.

While some people took the microphone to share their feelings, others quietly donated blood at the makeshift blood camp. They knew that their blood might never make it to Peshawer to the injured of the blast, but it would reach someone somewhere and someone would benefit.

That was the only thought on everyone’s mind – to help, to do something.

However, slowly the mood began to change. As the crowd spotted PTI supporters showing their respect peacefully, the quiet whispers became loud insults.  One person questioned,

“So you kill people in the day by being apologists for extremists, but you attend a vigil for those whom you murdered in the night?”

Another continued,

“You all have your political agenda.”

As the insults became louder and more direct, the anger escalated and the blame game started. Abuses and loud slogans of “Shame Imran Shame” became louder. The poor organizer apologised for the unpleasant allegations being hurled and the ‘peace’ that we had all come looking for, was replaced by the scapegoat syndrome.

As the pastor eventually began to recite a beautiful prayer for tolerance and harmony in Pakistan, the irony became all the more jarring. I realised that the lack of tolerance first rears its ugly head when people can no longer hear each other out. We all know that as a nation, whenever anything happens, we are quick to jump the gun almost as if our only way of trying to find sanity amidst the mayhem is by looking for a scapegoat.

For this incident, the scapegoat happens to be Imran Khan and PTI’s pro-negotiation policy. I saw this not just at the vigil; but on social media, talk shows and heard it in conversations. According to Twitter, he was even pelted with insults and tomatoes. His supporters were made to feel guilty as if they and their party were the reason for killing the slain.

As a nation, we are too angry, too bitter, too mistrusting and too awkward in the art of dialogue. We accuse, we abuse, we vent, we blame and we move on. Until the next tragedy and then the chain begins again.

However, this attitude is hardly surprising and our history shows this more than once. I recall clearly the Karsaz blast of October 18, 2007 that killed some 200 people. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had returned to Pakistan with utmost sincerity to lead her people to democracy once again and her welcome procession was attacked. Although she survived that blast, just hours after the blast, I remember these words being uttered:

“She must have gotten the blasts done herself to gain sympathy and support”.

These voices were silenced but only once she was assassinated. However, the inherent psyche still remains.

This blog is not about Imran Khan or the efficacy and legitimacy of proposed negotiations. This is not about the fact that Pakistan has lost 35,000 civilians and 3,500 security personnel to acts of terrorism between 2006 and 2011 only according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-2011 – years in which we had a strictly no-negotiation policy. This is not about whether extremists should be offered an office or not, though that move actually may help give them a face and make it more feasible to deal with them. After all, whatever the scapegoat says or does, even if it makes sense, people will oppose it on a reflex.

This is about the realisation that if we differ in opinion, we must first learn how to disagree with a certain decorum. We can’t hurl a shoe at Musharraf and insult Imran Khan, and then expect tolerance in society. If we do so, we will claim our sincerity as much as we like, but we will end up causing more dissension, which is not what this country needs at all. By playing blame-games, are we doing a service or a disservice to those who lost their lives last Sunday?

It is time we gave practical solutions rather than blame scapegoats with allegations of unholy alliances.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

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

  • Omair Shahid

    Excellent article all the people who are pointing fingers should give a solution.8 to 10 years we are fighting with them nothing good has happen except it has destroyed Pakistan. militarily action is not the solution right now we should have talks with them.Recommend

  • umaima

    very good point madeRecommend

  • Mj

    Imran is blamed because he is erroneously trying to tie terrorism to the drone strikes. There is little link between the two.Recommend

  • fappy

    Well if they cannot perform their duty (safety of civilians) they are unfit for the job. It’s their job to provide security to civilians, we pay taxes, they are responsible for this failure, adding insult to injury they want to talk to murderers! They deserved to be ridiculed and criticized.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Military action with neeyat and full force like the one in swat and was successful.Recommend

  • Umar Abbas Babar

    Hello Writer! In the past 10 years we have tried 9 Peace Treaties. Now whosoever is at fault, they failed. They will fail in the future as well since the end-goals of Taliban (Read TTP and associated groups) and Pakistani State are totally divergent. The talks may only help to restrict their influence to certain quarters (For example: in the past Treaties they were allowed to stay in their respective areas that they held). That will be tantamount to abandoning those who live there to anti-state and brutal forces. Follow that path and Pakistan is no more. Secondly, i am amazed to note that the article has a hint of support for Taliban opening their office. What do you suggest exactly? Three questions: (1) Legalize the TTP Franchise? because opening offices is like treating them as peers and legal (i can’t think of any illegal, anti-state entity to have an office right in areas of state’s jurisdiction) (2) Secondly, who would be held responsible for the deaths of the thousands you quoted earlier? Taliban or the Pakistan State? (3) Thirdly, don’t you think that it will set a precedent to others to raise arms, create havoc and anarchy and attain your goals (4) Where else in the world has there been so much leverage given to Terrorists? we are not talking about militants here. BLA could be asked to open up their offices since they are militants. But TTP is a terrorist organization. With terrorists the only reason for negotiations is to gain the leverage for some grand scheme in the future.Recommend

  • bp001

    No it is not fair to blame Imran for the blasts. But it is fair to deride him for his cowardly, weasel response after the factRecommend

  • Falcon

    This sums it up…beautifully articulated…

    As a nation, we are too angry, too bitter, too mistrusting and too awkward in the art of dialogue. We accuse, we abuse, we vent, we blame and we move on. Until the next tragedy and then the chain begins again.Recommend

  • Aamer Khawaja

    Let me rephrase the question: “Was it fair that Imran Khan always blamed Zardari or NS for every bomb blast?”Recommend

  • Protestor

    It’s a wonderful notion: tolerance towards whatever another person says should be practised. In view of which, is the author of this article recommending that all the books that have been banned in this country – and YouTube – be also accepted for their viewpoints?
    Also, I was there at the above mentioned vigil. While there was a lot of intolerance on display from various groups, the author has forgotten to mention the PTI member who went up to the mike and started making political points of his own by referring to his “Quaid” and drones, thereby sparking an unnecessary and furious reaction.Recommend

  • Syed K Kamal.

    “As a mother, I needed to teach my daughter that this matters to us.”
    We have to learn ourselves and teach our kids the decorum of disagreement and living in harmony. I feel bad for the people who were insulted at the vigil.
    Another thought provoking and well written article. Recommend

  • deep

    I am glad you took your daughter for this meeting. great example of tolerance in action – not just as a passive conceptRecommend

  • MA

    Would you mind elaborating your point please? What makes you think that terrorism has little to do with drone strikes? Your input would be much appreciated.Recommend

  • Harris Shahzad

    wasn’t it Imran Khan who took all of 1 hour to lay blame on Altaf Hussain when Zahra Hussain Aunty was assassinated? He didn’t even have any proof.

    You only get what you give..Recommend

  • Gingo

    Was it fair to blame Zardari for corruption in Pakistan.
    Imran Khan vehemently thumped his chest and proclaimed to be better and fairer than the rest of politicians, so now if he doesn’t deliver on his promises, people have every right to drag him to question his promises.Recommend

  • Guest

    Imran Khan is berated because he feeds the already feeble minds of Pakistan with destructive conspiracy theories and connections that aren’t there. He may not be a terrorist and cannot be directly blamed, but he sure is making and recruiting terrorist sympathizers/bombers by keeping the Taliban narrative running.Recommend

  • Asif Khan

    What a refreshing piece.
    It’s not about anybody.
    It’s about every body ..
    Hats off.Recommend

  • CMRP

    Yes, because IK is asking for negotiations, while they were not. Their solution didn’t work. Let’s see if IK’s solution works, if it doesn’t, blame him too.Recommend

  • Abbas

    we should be fighting till the last drop of blood, no place for terrorists ..Hell No!Recommend

  • Parvez

    If blame has to be apportioned it lies squarely on the shoulders of past politicians and the armed forces………. and now that is history.
    The religious extremists are controlling the narrative because they realise, that we the people have lost faith in our leaders, resulting in frustration and discord.Recommend

  • aaaaa

    We should indeed maintain decorum while disagreeing but subtlety and Pakistanis have never agreed. IK’s reaction to the blast is what alot of people reacted against. Which was justified. And if we want to throw a shoe at Musharraf, thats fine too. Its not like somebody trapped him in a cave and then made it collapse on him, or say denied him protection which ultimately killed him.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    The sad part is that victims of terrorism and common people don’t see Imran on their side. Most of the time he do not condemn attacks and if he does, there are many if and buts in his statement.Recommend

  • observer

    “Is it fair to blame Imran Khan for the Peshawar Church Blast?”

    NO.
    Let us blame the victims for following the ‘wrong’ faith in the ‘wrong’ country.

    PS- As per Mr Khan, innocent victims of Drone attacks join the TTP. How many innocent Christian victims from Shanti Nagar, Gojra, Peshawar have joined the TTP ranks, as theorised by the Great Khan?Recommend

  • Mj

    a) There is no conclusive proof that bombers and militants are relatives of those innocents killed in drone strikes. However, there is ample proof that the insurgents are seminary students and religious extremists who are bent on imposing their will and ideals on rest of the population.

    b) If drone strikes were creating militants, don’t you think that suicide bombings would create even more? Innocent victims of drones number around 300-700 out of a total of ~2,700 casualties while terrorism has claimed 35,000+ lives. If IK’s narrative were correct, hundreds of thousands of relatives of militant terrorism would have been going into epicenters of terrorism to claim their vengeance.

    c) Terrorism and suicide bombings started well before the first drone strike.

    d) There were no drone strikes in Saudi Arabia, London, America, Bali, Madrid, and many more, and yet they were still targeted by the death cult.

    e) Most terrorists belong to the more puritanical and rigid sects which regard other sects and religions to be heretical and worthy of death. Takfeeri terrorism is nothing new, and we have hundreds of madrassas espousing this rigid interpretation.

    f) Terrorism would not subside even if US leaves Afghanistan, just as violence did not subside after Soviet withdrawal from there.

    g) Military action can lead to peace as we’ve seen recently in Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia. The whole nation has to stand behind the army or the likelihood of an action succeeding is reduced. In Pakistan, many politicians, mediapersons, religious leaders are presenting a flawed narrative by labeling the terrorists as mislead brothers, innocent tribals, holy warriors, then there’re wild conspiracies, hints at foreign hands.

    h) There is no check on what is being taught in madrassas and what is being preached in sermons. KSA has strict guidelines to reduce preaching of violence.

    i) No one is talking about the 100+ million dollars that is making its way into the hands of seminaries and militants from Gulf countries. The role of Gulf sunnis in playing a proxy war against Iran cannot be neglected.Recommend

  • Ali Tahir

    He is as much as to blame as the Sharif Brethren for ‘spreading’ dengue and being called Dengue Bradraan. He is as much to blame as the Punjab government was in the Badami Bagh/Joseph Colony incident. SImilarly he is as much to blame as the Sharif clan was blamed for deaths due to wrong drugs… Politics is a dirty game. It is an apt example of living in a glass house. If you hurl accusations at others then you simply can not expect that no one is going to accuse you for anything…Recommend

  • Guest

    Well argued, sir.Recommend

  • saad

    What made you think that it has a lot to do with drone strikes? Suicide bombings began before the first drone was struck.
    Even if you assume that it is a reaction to drones (though it is a wrong assumption), then go after the culprits but not the ones who have even remotely nothing to do with their loss. Somebody kills your brother, you don’t kill your neighbors as vengeance.Recommend

  • Abdul Salam

    You are wrong that IK is attaching terrorism with drones only. He attaches this with Army operations as well and our Army’s support for US as well but I think you don’t follow him properly?

    And where are the proof that those who got killed in Drones are real Terrorists? Did you get any proof from Americans and Army? How can you believe them who destroyed the whole Iraq on a Lie of Weapon of Mass Destruction?

    Plus can you answer me that were there any suicide attacks in Pakistan before the starting of Drones and Army operations? If yes, please do share. I will answer that as well.Recommend

  • Abdul Salam

    Please give me the date (with proof) of First Suicide attack and Drone Strike please.Recommend

  • Sceptic

    Brilliant… what was IK doing on stage during his election campaigns calling Zardari, Nawaz, FazlurRehman names for bad intent and incompetence and calling Altaf Hussain a murderer just cuz he didn’t agree with them mebbe…. there is a proverb in every language of the word. In English it says, ‘As you sow, so shall you reap.’Recommend

  • Azeem Aslam

    Really a nice article based on logic and thoroughly analyzed.Recommend

  • Realist

    thank you for putting all this together but don’t expect kids to understand any of this!they will keep following the pied piper to the hell!Recommend

  • Mj

    1st Drone Attack in Pakistan: 18 June 2004. Killed Nek Muhammad Wazir, 4-5 militants, and 2 civilians.

    1st instance of suicide attack I could find: December 2003 against Pres. Musharraf. Twin bombers, 16 people killed.

    Even before the first suicide attack, Pakistan had been facing increasing amount of terrorism carried out through bombings and indiscriminate firing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents_in_Pakistan_since_2001Recommend

  • Mj

    Actually, upon further research, the first suicide attack was carried out on July 4, 2003 against an Imambargah, leading to the deaths of of 50 people and scores more injured.Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Imran khan and his teenager followers are to blame for this mess. There is no solution to the problem of terrorism but to fight it out no matter how long it takes. Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers as it is apparent in case of KPK that these people who brought PTI in to power will suffer the consequences of their thickness unfortunately.Recommend

  • moz

    Yes there were. And now answer that were the drones flying from a church??Recommend

  • Taimoorr

    Let those who call for operations send themselves or their kids to the nearest Pak army recruiter station. Join the fight instead of murdering the sons of the poor, so you and your kids can text and spend endless hours on Facebook.Recommend

  • waseemakhtar

    Just imagine how wonderful, powerful, peaceful and beautiful Pakistan would have been had Imran Khan not stepped into politics. Ban the guy from politics and initiate a high treason case against him for separating emotions from realities and being more committed to the nation than politics.Recommend

  • taimoor

    Then join the army, what are you sitting there typing your hypocritical comments for.Recommend

  • Muhammad Saim

    Protection of life and property of the citizens is constitutional, legal, and moral responsibility of the government. If Imran Khan or his party is in government, and I believe they are in KP, then without an iota of doubt responsibility lies on shoulders of Governement of PTI & hence on IK.Recommend

  • Shoaib

    Blame Blame Blame, what about the ppl who are dying ?Recommend

  • salman

    when zardari , cia , mosaad and raw are blammed for most of the ills in society why cant we add imran khans name to the list ? after all he doesnt want action against those who are slaughtering pakistanis !!Recommend

  • Zara

    How these two are interlinked?Recommend

  • Omair Shahid

    war is never the solution while we are comfortably sitting at home or office writing comments army and people are dieing right now talks are the only optionRecommend