The Pakistani dream: A kingdom in heaven

Published: December 24, 2014
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As a nation, we wear our emotions on our sleeve, given to sudden declarations that fizzle out like the ocean surf. Our tragedies forgotten before the wounds have sealed, we continue desensitised. PHOTO: FILE

On 16-12-14 the Taliban struck at the very heart of Pakistan. They plucked our children one by one while we watched in a catatonic fix, struck by disbelief that the enemy had entered our homes. But why the surprise when they have been rapping at our doors? We remained deaf, blissfully unaware.

In June earlier this year, the Global Coalition for the Protection of Education Against Attack pointed out nearly 800 such incidents at educational institutions in Pakistan from 2009 to 2012. A grenade explosion at a government high school in Bannu took place in November, preceded by the bombing of a school bus in Khurrum Agency that claimed the lives of an 11-year-old school boy and the bus driver. We were quick to forget Aitzaz Hassan, a schoolboy who we all hailed a hero after he sacrificed his own life to save classmates from a suicide bomber. The list of terrorist attacks is long, relentless and an aggregate of years of neglect and corpses being swept under the rug.

Were we not aware of the fact that the Taliban were now targeting schools and children?

Were we so caught up by the whole political drama, focusing on disgracing each other amid muddled up priorities, that we forgot the cauldron of extremism brewing in our backyard?

The media, instead of highlighting the on-going war within the country, Zarb-e-Azab, fought for who captured the best shot of Imran Khan vehemently leading nationwide shutdowns, as Nawaz Sharif hid behind his goons creating havoc across the cities. We shrugged off our responsibilities, both as individuals and as a state, and now we must face them before we go back to being complacent in our bubbles.

As a nation, we wear our emotions on our sleeve, given to sudden declarations that fizzle out like the ocean surf. Our tragedies forgotten before the wounds have sealed, we continue desensitised. The unjust killings of the 127 innocent lives, at the All Saints Church in Peshawar, the senseless massacre of the 90 Ahmadis as they knelt in prayer, the gruesome lynch mob killing of the Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan; there have been many incidents that should have spurred us towards a nationwide revolt instead they made for some fiery Facebook statuses and tweets before flickering away like the candles lit at vigils in their names. The image of 132 uniforms drenched in blood has enraged us, twisted our guts to make us cry out with damning convictions and promises of change, hashtags such as #Peshawarwewillneverforget, running amok on the net. Has it really jolted us out of our reverie, to wake up and smell the stench of our own decay? Or will it become yet another number that will ultimately fade into another statistic.

There are the sceptics wondering if our efforts will bear little consequence now that the society’s fabric has been woven in years of corruption and inadequacy, and then there are those who insist we must play our role in having our unified voices heard so that in the solidarity of number, we can become a formidable force the government needs to reckon with. We have all seen what staying uninvolved and recluse in the comfort of our homes has accomplished. No amount of Facebook display picture changes or long statuses expressing your emotions of the carnage will actually compound in making an impact. If there’s anything that needs to change, it should begin with our own mind-set and level of pro-activeness.

Our penchant for conspiracy theories has not won us any favours. Very easily we surrender to the blame game, ridding ourselves of any responsibility while our own soil continues to be a breeding ground for terrorists, our youth seduced by the promise of hoors, glamourising martyrdom. Many are in denial of the gravity of the situation and the fact that we do live amid and create terrorists.

What good is the attempt to bomb them to extinction when an ideology possesses the power to transcend time and embed itself in eternity?

We are at war with a belief, their raison d’être.

Our fight is with the brainwashing of vulnerable young minds tortured and beaten to embrace antipathy and plumped up with a lust for death – the dream of a kingdom in heaven. We fight their dream. We cradle our fragile world, our zest for life standing face to face with their disdain for it. In the least, there is a need for a paradigm shift, the status quo to evolve drastically and radically with the ever so pressing constraints of time. This romance with martyrdom must end. The time has come when the common man must pick himself up from the debris of his mundane existence and understand that the enemy will strike again if he becomes complacent. He must yield the weapon himself and claim back his mosque. Taliban apologists held responsible, and pro-Taliban agendas nipped. The government should enforce rules for all mosques and madrassas to register and denounce the attacks, and refusal to comply should result in their shutdown. Moreover, madarasas should be brought under the ambit of education ministries and look into revamping syllabi to remove any semblance of extremist narrative.

The public should remain mindful of events and take it upon themselves to ensure important issues are addressed. If we now possess the will to get out of our houses and partake in dharnas, let’s try to focus on issues that can actually have an impact on the wellbeing of the society, like a proper education system, healthcare for the masses and an economy that supports employment and opportunity for people so they do not turn to dire measures to sustain a livelihood.

People like Qadri who paid no repentance for the murder committed in cold blood should be stripped off their status as heroes and defamed as the monsters that they are.

A 2012 report from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province shows a mere four per cent conviction rate for terrorist suspects. In Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, 269 of 365 cases ended with acquittals in the first half of 2012. A report by the counter-terrorism department and Punjab police states that, between 1990 and 2009, out of 311 cases, 231 resulted in acquittals. That amounts to 74% of all cases during the 19-year period. Questions should be raised about such issues and we must be more prudent when they are easily swept aside. Let’s make it our responsibility as, at the end of the day, it is our lives that are dispensable.

The opposition to any form of extremist narrative is highly essential, and should extend to all factions of society, including the media. Any news outlet, show, reporter or political personality who uses the media as a promotional tool for extremism should be punished. The recent unrest at Lal Masjid is a harbinger of change, this turn in sentiment should take root into the psyche of the nation. The media channels covered these protests as minimally as possible with events being highlighted in the ticker only, and were far from condemning Maulana’s Abdul Aziz’s statement. The Lal Masjid protestors succeeded in getting an FIR registered against the Maulana, which is testament to the fact that we can bring a change against this festering disease eating away at the core of our society. The media should be more responsible in their reporting and instead of focusing on sensationalised news spreading Taliban agenda, which could in turn influence more people, promote a more tolerant mind-set that the masses need to be severely exposed to.

Apart from slapping the reality in our faces yet again, the Peshawar attacks have led to some revelations that can no longer be denied. The Pak-US combined efforts of waging a war against terrorism are nothing short of a failure. Since 2004, the Taliban have grown, strengthened and increased their attacks despite the 400 plus US drone attacks. The Pakistan Army, despite being one of the largest in the world, cannot protect its civilians or any soft targets. The government of Pakistan, embroiled in their own political battles, has been unable to galvanise the public against extremism, or be conducive in squelching extremist entities flourishing within the country. The government needs to take ownership of this fight against extremism instead of hiding behind US drone operations and the general public needs to be convinced that the war against the Taliban is no longer one of the US, but our own.

We must stop living in history and blaming the US for their creation. We must face facts. And those facts more than state the growing existence of the Taliban, regardless of whose brainchild they were, especially now that they are practically knocking on our doors. Engrossed in their individualistic agendas and contradictory strategic calculations, there is little hope we can pin to those we hoped to protect us from such atrocities. We, the common man, need to keep this tragedy alive if that is what it takes to stir us, and finally step up. We belong to a polarised state that produces people like Maulana Abdul Aziz and Malala Yousafzai. There has never been as decisive a moment in our history as the one we face today. Which end of the spectrum we tilt to is now contingent on not only the army and the government, but us as well.

Recognise that fact and understand it well, for we have no time left for excuses and no more innocent lives to waste in the process.

Nimra Khan

Nimra Khan

She works as a marketeer and freelance journalist with an MA in International Journalism from City University, London.

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

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I will be severely ridiculed but whatever. Here goes.
    Until we start killing ALL Terrorists nothing will change. I mean ALL Terrorists not ALL TTP. If you have watched the news today you will see that the leader of LEJ has been released. YES . RELEASED. The murderer of more than 700 Shia’s has been let off. Same is the case with Mumtaz Qadri. He lives in luxury in his prison. Same is the case of the attacker caught during the attacks on Ahmadis mosques.
    So Pakistan will have to start destroying all kinds of terrorism or we should be mentally prepared for more atrocities sooner rather than later.Recommend

  • Gaad

    I think the whole point of DHARNA was to force a change in favour of good governance, which supposedly PTI can bring. Theoratically, it would then shift strategic priorities towards social sector along with honesty and integrity etc. I don’t think anybody went to dharna thinking they would bring in IK to start another cycle of corruption by granting permits and contracts.

    But your point is well taken. We need to take ownership of this war, rather than be bystanders. Each and every neighbourhood should pitch in and stand fast in the face of these marauders. The greatest of Jihad is to say the truth in front of a tyrant and its time to stand up and confront every person spreading hatred anywhere through sermons, leaflets, pamphlets etc.

    Some of the rules of war that are taught to any cadet are:

    Unity of Command, Clarity of Aim, Security, Coordination and cooperation, Economy of effort, Morale, Surprise, Motivation (through dedication, camaraderie, and trust in leadership).

    When you look at the enemy, they are well equipped with all this. When you look at self…………duhhhh!!! We must – as a nation – confront the situation, should condemn every act of terrorism, and must become the sentinels of state in every street, village, and city. There should be clarity, cooperation, morale and motivation among the ranks of all civilians on these issues.Recommend

  • Sajjad

    Excellent piece of writing.Recommend

  • Sajjad

    Excellent piece of writing.Recommend

  • Gul Bahadur Marri

    The murderer Qadri was garlanded by lawyers. Lawyers are
    considered officers of the court. Upholders of justice for all. With
    this kind of mentality pervading the judicial system…… consider
    it an uphill battle. If at all. On one hand the Govt. is foaming, fuming,
    breathing fire,..doing the sword dance,.. and then they release these
    animals on bail ?Recommend

  • Hamaz Anwar

    Finally a provocative piece by tribuneRecommend

  • amber

    they are also hanging 14 year oldsRecommend

  • Rijja Ghias

    wonderfully articulated..Recommend

  • saud ullah abbasi

    all the political parties are too coward to condemn the taliban and don’t even call them by their nameRecommend

  • Agrippa – The Skeptic

    DHARNA
    Wiki
    A dharna (Hindi: धरना, Nepali:धर्ना), is a non-violent sit-in protest.

    How are you guys corrupting Pakistan?
    Isn’t there an Arabic word for it?Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    some are released without bail aka acquitted. some are not even arrested. Some are made into heroes.Recommend

  • shumaila

    true….its time we took responsibility……Recommend

  • sam_a

    very well-written and thought out. just how little we can rely on the politicians to do anything positive may be seen by the dull and /or sullen expressions on most faces in the news shows this evening, when the report about the “committee” was being telecast!Recommend

  • Arshad

    I completely agree with this, sadly Pakistan has learnt nothing from this episode. Releasing LEJ, Supporting M. Quadri and Lal masjid etc. Sad to see 140 kids died only for a few days of rage instead of a clear policy by the political parties.Recommend

  • Gaad

    sorry, didn’t quite understand your point here.Recommend

  • EndTaliban

    inspiration..must share..Recommend

  • Me

    What?Recommend

  • Asad Ali

    Mr/Ms Maximus
    . What else do you expect from Pakistan? Nuke FATA? I think the government is trying their best. Its not a easy situation. Afghan war under ZIa literally destroyed the mindset of the society and created these monsters and an environment of extremism in Pakistan. The indian trolls just hate Pakistan and very few people come to these forums for logical discussions. Rest is just hateful trolling.Recommend

  • Agrippa – The Skeptic

    I just find it amusing that the Islamic Republic whose definition of itself is “not India” is using an expression out of Hindi (from Sanskrit dharaṇaṃ) which is an Indian or rather Bhartiya language and the principle of which is non-violence – again a very Indian (Hindu Baniya) trait.

    How can Pakistani Muslims use / follow DHARNA?

    You’ve got to have a Turkic, Arab, Persian word and a thought for it. Anything with a wiff of Indianness is such a no-no!
    No?Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    You will see that in my more than 500 comments , not a single one advocates or condones mass killing. In my opinion terrorism in Pakistan is like the Myhtical hydra. Mass Killing will create a thousandfold greater threat. The only way is to kill one head then make sure that head stays dead. In other words, instead of nuking the entire FATA, you kill off the terrorist mullah who is running things (this is cutting off the head) then you change the syllabus of all madrassas and enforce that change(this is preventing growth of new heads).
    Also in my comment to which you made this hateful reply, I have said that we only need to kill 5/6 people and terrorism will be dealt a heavy blow.Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Max, I finally agree with something you said wholeheartedly! Some writers here and on Dawn have raised “By doing this, we descend to their level” knee-jerk, feel-good arguments. The right question every society should ask: Should we be according democratic rights and equal application of laws including due process to a group of people who are anti-democratic in their mindset and actions and dedicated to creating anarchy and dismantling democracy for all? (It is what I call the Morsi Paradox – A sectarian anti-democrat elected by Eqyptians so he could start dismantling the very democracy that people demonstrated for during the Arab Spring after decades of military dictatorships.) What is the nature of “the Greater Good” in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Re: trolling. I have been reading blogs and readers’ responses for over ten years on this site and Dawn (and selected international news sites). Most responses by Indian readers, like most Pakistani readers – assuming that a reader self-identifies him/herself and can be recognized as either Indian or Pakistani or whatever – are reasonable and courteous. You may not agree with the substance of the opinion – but to do a blanket denigration or dismissal of that opinion as a “troll” is quite unfair and reflects on your mindset rather than on him or her. Your assumption they hate Pakistan (or, Pakistanis hate India) is just your assumption. (Perhaps there is some of that.) Pakistani newspapers’ websites (especially English ones) are no different from those around the world. In the service of freedom of speech and free flow of ideas, it is their right to allow readers to respond – whether just to simply agree or disagree without elaboration, or provide a clarifying comment to back their agreement or disagreement. My guess why so many Indian readers come to Pakistani news sites like this one is that they are genuinely interested in what’s happening in Pakistan, good or bad. (I can wager a bet that Indian readers do not go to Chinese or Iranian news sites as there are no such sites and there is very little widespread interest.) You ought be proud – rather than feeling resentful or angry – that some English language Pakistani newspapers are attracting so many readers from outside Pakistan. As they say in the U.S.: It’s the readership, stupid!Recommend

  • Hamid

    I believe this is the type of trolling Asad Ali was referring to above…not a very good attempt though.Recommend

  • Asad Ali

    Its good to see some sane people like yourself who want good and logical discussions.Recommend

  • Asad Ali

    Its good to see some sane people like yourself who want good and logical discussions.Recommend

  • Asad Ali

    OK, Thanks for the explanationRecommend

  • siesmann

    well saidRecommend

  • siesmann

    So Urdu is not an Indian Language?And what has been made of Hindi by indiscriminately importing Sanskrit into it?Recommend

  • Agrippa – The Skeptic

    Urdu in India is an Indian language, the Pakistani Urdu isn’t.
    Languages live with the culture, grow with the culture, die with the culture. Why is Hindi indiscriminately importing and Urdu isn’t being Arabised and Persianized?

    @Hamid
    Just showing you a mirror and telling you how the world outside sees you. If this trolling – go on continue to live in denial.
    Pakistan is doing a great job of showing the world what a classy act it is!Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Mayhap a Kingdom in Heaven is sought only by those who couldn’t succeed in this one? It’s true for born-again Christians (now called The Evangelicals) in the US, too. It would be fine with all of us if such believers sought post-Earthly-life just for themselves. Some of us would even pitch in and hasten the process for them. :-) But no, they wanna drag everyone to it, whether we like it or not.Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Or, even a whiff. :-)Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Oh, dear! I’ll let the Trolls Worldwide Union know about the trolls on this site, who are using logic and evidence. Against the rules, fellas!Recommend

  • siesmann

    where did I say,Pkaistanis Urdu is not doing the same thing as Hindi of India?Recommend