As condemnations from political leaders began to roll out (like paper does from a photocopying machine), one immediately felt that in spite of such automated and cyclostyled exhibitions of grief that usually emerge in times of a national tragedy in Pakistan, the country’s most recent collision with terror was drawing a somewhat different reaction.
This time, outrage from the usual quarters (that are unfortunately mocked for being overtly ‘sensationalist’) was not quite coupled by the reptilian waffle and reactionary drivel that often emerges alongside the ire.
On social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, one actually felt a profound sense of shock even in some of the most animated sections, which, on normal days take the lead in immediately spinning up theories and narratives that obfuscate a tragedy – any tragedy, even including the slaughter of men and women by the self-claimed warriors of faith.
But this sense of shock in such people was largely exhibited by a long, awkward silence. After all, many of them had been wagging their fingers at all and sundry for bringing upon Pakistan so much violence and bloodshed; blaming everyone from ‘US imperialism’ to ‘liberal fascists’ to drone attacks, to ‘sold-out media houses’ to even a group of teenage girls who were shot by extremists in Swat three years ago – yes, everyone but those who, by and large, are actually committing the violence.
Nevertheless, many of them were caught in no man’s land when school children began to fall by the dozens to the bullets and bombs of extremists at a school in Peshawar.
Just how could one justify, rationalise and obfuscate the mindless slaughter of school children and that too for an obscure, myopic and vindictive cause?
One just couldn’t, and thus the silence.
One could easily taunt those who went suddenly quiet on that dreadful day. But the truth is that despite their penchant for tweeting and ‘facebooking’ arrogant spiels and convoluted rationales for reactionary shenanigans, their silence did prove that their minds were still mammalian in nature and hadn’t entirely regressed to becoming reptilian.
One did see a few statements being quoted here and there about that ubiquitous (but always elusive) ‘foreign hand’, but such statements were overwhelmed by the anger and the grief that erupted across the country.
It is correct to point out that politicising a tragedy of such a magnitude would be trivialising it. Yes, there are still mainstream political parties out there who remain frustratingly obscure and vague about their stand on the issue of terrorism and extremism in Pakistan.
Yes, one of them just couldn’t get itself to make a decision (about challenging this issue head-on) and was pushed into making one by the military; and yes, another party just refused to see beyond the nose of its rather contrived and naïve understanding of the same issue.
Never mind the fact that I once saw two very popular rock stars (in a news report) actually suggesting that ‘extremism was not an issue in Pakistan.’
Never mind the fact that the proof is in the pudding and both the gentlemen kept repeating their brilliant insight even when the pudding was flowing from their mouths, nose and ears.
Never mind the apologists who only a few months ago (on TV) were describing civilian deaths in terror attacks as ‘ casualties of war’, but then in the same breath insisted ‘this is not our war.’
Yes, all this is true, but despite the cynical fear that this tragedy might soon be forgotten, I have never before seen so many distinct Pakistanis behaving as if each one of them was now on the same boat.
The entirely meaningless and horrid deaths of all those school kids have well and truly shocked the nation like no other tragedy or act of terror. In each one of those fallen boys and girls, Pakistanis across classes, ethnicities and political inclinations saw a child of their own – a son, a daughter, a nephew, a grandchild … It is unfortunate that a nation who considers itself to be proud, patriotic and passionate, had to wait right till the point where their children began to fall so tragically, so heartbreakingly to finally come to a state of a sombre and desperate unity.
This must not be forgotten. This must never be forgotten. This must be molded in the making of a brand new existential narrative for the besieged nation.
This point of unity achieved with the senseless deaths of over 50,000 Pakistani civilians, soldiers, politicians, cops and now over a hundred school children must be free of all politics and ideologies punctuated by false bravado, obfuscation, paranoid theories or cyclic navel-gazing.
Our military leaders, civilian representatives in the parliament (and even on the streets), our media, in fact each one of us must immediately strive to reach that long-awaited new consensus about exactly what kind of a Pakistan we want; how to achieve it and, more so, make sure that never again will we allow a madness that causes thousands of mothers and fathers cry over the still bodies of their children.