Imagine being a parent on a bus, going home to meet your children. Imagine being a youth on a bus, going to find a better job in another city. Imagine being a patient on a bus, going for treatment to a better hospital. Imagine being pulled out of the bus then and shot dead. Why? Because some men weren’t too happy with your religious affiliation and since your name seemed to confirm your association with a particular sect, the men didn’t think you really deserved a chance to live longer.
Are you terrified of what you just imagined? How much more terrifying is it to know that this is the reality today in Pakistan? At least it was for those 20 Shia passengers who lost their lives in the Mansehra attack. Sadly, the UN Chief seemed to be the only chief ‘appalled’ at this tragedy. No government chief and no judiciary chief seemed to share Ban Ki-Moon’s sentiments. They never do when it comes to these killings – these killings of innocent members of the Shia sect, who are pulled out on the street and shot dead or when Hazaras in Quetta are targeted randomly. And no, politicians tweeting “outraged by attack” doesn’t cut it.
No suo moto action from the Chief Justice, no condemnation from the president, prime minister or opposition leaders. Why? Which group are they trying to appease with their silence? Where are the sit-ins and the dharnas and the “iron-fist” dealings on these killings? As pointed out in Dawn’s recent editorial, if there could be swift response on the Salala attacks, why is there sheer silence and apathy on the Mansehra killings? Why are some lives more important and others less? Who decides this? Does condemning these attacks or taking action against sectarian violence have no place on their agenda? Is security for all not in national interest?
The time has come where changing routes of buses carrying Shia travelers and providing security to these vehicles is not enough – neither will conspiracy theories featuring our favourite “foreign elements” pacify the masses. The government, the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary need to realise that their silence and indifference to these human lives are costing the nation heavily.
Finding out who is instigating, arranging, funding and provoking such attacks is only a small part of the solution. The bigger priority needs to be placed on the plan to stop these attacks and targeted killings. And if the government and security agencies are not willing to do that, they might as well follow former Prime Minister Gilani’s example and openly declare that “those who wish to leave can leave.”
At least that way, every minority, every sidelined sect and anyone else who doesn’t conform to the majority (or favoured) group will know that they have been left to their own devices and now saving their life is up to them – not the state. For it seems that the state has already started the process of abandonment.
Shyema Sajjad is a former Dawn staffer.
She tweets @ShyemaSajjad
The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.