Are we not ‘Pakistani’ enough for them or are we not ‘Muslim’ enough?

Published: May 14, 2015
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Safora massacre death toll rises to 44 as Ismaili community say their last goodbyes. PHOTO: AFP

Safora massacre death toll rises to 44 as Ismaili community say their last goodbyes. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS Safora massacre death toll rises to 44 as Ismaili community say their last goodbyes. PHOTO: AFP Participants demanded the government move beyond talk of action and take concrete steps to eliminate terrorism. PHOTOS: INP

I got to work and checked my phone; there were a dozen missed calls and messages from my friends and family – all in a span of 30 minutes. Being a Karachiite, I instantly knew something was wrong. As soon as I read my father’s message, I froze. I was stunned at the words before me.

An attack had taken place and this time it was our community. 45 of our people.

We were no longer the silent observers.

We were the victims.

When I reached my cubicle, I could hear news of the attack blaring from multiple TV screens.

I sat and watched news after news on the incident. I couldn’t believe it. It was people of my community on that bus – fathers, mothers, sisters, daughters, sons, humans. And they had been turned to mere numbers – 30, 41, 43, 47, 50, 56 – different channels were reporting different figures of the death toll. I didn’t know which one to believe. I was hoping I didn’t have to believe any of them. I didn’t know how many of them survived. I didn’t know if I knew anyone on that bus.

Everyone at work was talking about it. Everyone wanted to watch the live coverage of the aftermath. Ambulance sirens, reporters describing the scene of the incident, footages of the blood-filled bus – they wanted to see it all. But it made me sick. I didn’t know how to concentrate on work anymore. I just wanted to go home, get into bed, curl up and weep myself to sleep. I wanted it to be a bad nightmare I hadn’t woken up from yet. I wanted it be over by the time I woke up.

Every channel had its own perspective on what happened, how it happened and why it happened. Political leaders got their precious airtime and every Tom, Dick and Harry was busy passing absurd and insensitive statements. It was nauseating. There wasn’t a speck of empathy in their voices. Not an iota of compassion.

The respected Chief Minister of Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah, who was “terribly sorry” about the attack, informed the media personnel present that the SHO and DSP of the area had been suspended. He also proudly announced a compensation of Rs0.5 million to each of the deceased’s family and Rs0.2 million to each injured victim.

But do enlighten me, my dear chief minister will this money bring my people back, Sir? And do you think we need your money? Because one of the channels shamelessly labelled us as the “rich community of Pakistan” – as if that was the only identity we possess.

Our information minister, Sharjeel Memon, condemned the attack and said,

“It wasn’t a particular community that was attacked, but the whole nation.”

I am sorry Mr Memon but no, the whole nation was not attacked. It was just one community. My community. It has always been people from minority communities who are brutally killed for no reason other than their faith.

The Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, cancelled his visit to Sri Lanka and the Sindh government announced ‘a day of mourning’. Our beloved prime minister was busy indulging in his lunch when the attack took place and is now planning to visit the survivors and the families of the deceased.

Mr prime minister, if you want to help them don’t visit them unless you can confidently say that you have the perpetrators behind bars. They are not in a condition to face the media or ‘cooperate’ with your security protocol or your meaningless sympathies. We don’t care.

After all, that is all you can offer right?

This is what the government of my country is doing to protect the rights of me and my community? Is this one day of mourning going to change anything for my community or all the other minorities that have been targeted in the past?

The media declared that a splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jundullah, claimed responsibility for the attack in Karachi.

Can someone ask them why they did it?

Do they have a reason to justify their act?

Are we not ‘Pakistani’ enough for them or are we not ‘Muslim’ enough for them?

Religion, political affiliation, race or ideology – what is the reason behind this barbarity now? What is it that makes us despicable enough to deserve such brutal death?

What is it that makes them kill anyone? What is the reason behind their cold hearts that makes them want to put a bullet in an infant’s head in front of his/her mother?

Every time an attack took place on the members of our Shia community, I would condemn it and tell my Shia friends to be calm and that everything would be okay. Now I know how it feels when your people are the victims. Now I know that ‘being calm’ is the last thing on our minds. Now I know that for some, especially the people who have lost their loved ones, it will never be okay. How can one be calm when they know they can very well be next? How will my mother, or any mother, sleep when she knows that her children are not safe when they step outside their house? Or even inside their house for that matter?

Every time there has been a tragic attack, people change their Facebook display pictures to black or to pictures condemning the attack. They call it a ‘Black Day’. But the reality is, we have observed so many ‘black days’ and have changed our display pictures so many times that we have lost count. And it is of no use anymore. I have never changed my Facebook display picture to black and I never will. This doesn’t make me any less humane than those of my friends who do. I am sad, I condemn the attack but my display picture is not an adequate expression of my grief.

The Ismaili community has a right to live and practice their faith freely in Pakistan, not because Aga Khan III struggled with Jinnah to fight for a separate nation, not because Jinnah was Shia himself, not because the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is working for the betterment of this nation, and not because the Ismaili community is a peaceful community. But because they have a right to live and practice their faith freely in this country because they, like you, are humans; because freedom to practice all religions was one of the foundations this nation was built upon.

But you do not need to worry, because neither will the members of this community come out on the streets and protest nor will they pick up weapons and attack. Not because they are few and weak but because they are the community that welcomes peace and harmony. Because they have survived worse evils in the past, and they will survive this one too. But the scars remain. Always.

Sana Lokhandwala

Sana Lokhandwala

A student of English Linguistics at the Karachi University, she is a freelance content writer and editor and likes writing about social issues and entertainment.

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