Ismailis, among the first Muslims to arrive in the subcontinent, are under attack today in a country that was founded to safeguard the interests of Muslims.
The attack on the community is not only utterly and overwhelmingly disturbing, but also ironic; the assailants attacked a people who introduced Islam to the subcontinent. The attackers labelled them ‘kafir’ in a country founded by a political party whose first president, Sir Aga Khan, himself was an Ismaili Imam.
This contemporary nihilistic violence is a clear break from our past and history. It is not only the mortals that are getting killed at the hands of the perpetrators, but also the past; anything good and beautiful that is left amidst us is perishing slowly.
Editorial: Attack on Ismaili community
These recurring episodes of violence have given rise to a frightening sense of estrangement and exclusion among many of the indigenous communities living in Pakistan. They are a people too diverse, too integrated, and too many to be compartmentalised as minorities.
The only thing more alarming than the current state of affairs is our collective national attitude to hush up everything that has gone wrong with state policies, and our attempts to find scapegoats that don’t exist.
There are moments whose memory or the lack thereof defines people in the time to come. The attack on the Ismaili community is precisely one such moment.
For some, it is nothing they would remember hereafter.
For some, it is everything they would never forget.
The people of remembrance and the people of forgetfulness can never be the same people again. They are the 'others' for each other.
The 'others' among us transcend sect, ethnicity, race and religion. The lovers of Jesus of Nazareth, the admirers of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the devotees of Sufis, the sons of the mighty Sindhu, the homeless of tribal areas, the missing persons of Balochistan, the Ahmadis, the political dissidents; we are surrounded by the 'others'.
No so-called paradigm shift whatsoever in the state's policy can take away the scars and stigmas of this otherness. No rehabilitation can bring them back to the national dream that was not there in the first place.
Two parallel worlds exist in today's Pakistan. One is real, it is bloody and horrific. The other is unreal, it is rosy and feel-good.
Our reality is a logical upshot of the central ideology of Pakistan, rooted in religion. Children are shot at point-blank in this world. Shias are butchered. Thousands get killed mercilessly without any apparent reason. People cry. Blood flows. Trees burn. Birds go silent. Homes are burnt. Atrocity feels mundane.
Then, there is this unreal world.
The unreal world is a make-believe setting; also an upshot of the central ideology of Pakistan, but only wishful.
This world exists in textbooks, military headquarters, in the drawing-rooms of the elite, in the minds of the educated urban middle-class.
The army is the saviour here. Angels exist. Information is knowledge. The Ummah is the only reality. Sugar-coated hypocrisy is a norm. Mediocrity is the new genius. People bleed green and red blood does not exist.
These two parallel worlds are mutually exclusive. For one to exist, the other will have to perish.
As I write these sentences, I witness the real world perishing drop by drop.
To save the real world, the red blood, the green trees, the chirping birds; the unreal one will have to be dismantled.