It's hard to pull myself up after a tragedy like the Bacha Khan University attack.
It's that much harder when public responses to such tragedies are so misguided and insensitive.
While I understand that people will respond to such horror in different ways, perhaps it is time we critically examined some of our knee-jerk reactions for what they actually imply, and especially how they would sound to those directly affected by such tragedy.
“Boys in boots did a great job. Managed to prevent a lot of damage.”
I heard Kamran Khan say this on Dunya News after the Bacha Khan University attack. Similar sentiments were expressed at the time of the Army Public School (APS) attack — how it could have been worse and how the army's quick clearance operation hindered terrorists from wreaking further mayhem.
This 'damage could have been more' rhetoric needs to change — even one life lost is one too many.
“No Muslim can do such acts”
This is how we shrug off responsibility. By living in denial and saying, "there is no extremism or terrorism in Pakistan." This is somehow 'the other'.
We engineered terrorism in Pakistan in the form of 'jihad' against the Soviets back in the 80s. We embarked on a journey to fight that war with a terribly misplaced strategy.
We kept snakes, our progeny, in our backyard and were under the false impression that they would never bite us. They have, and they are our own.
“Where is the vigil brigade?" “Where are the black display pictures on Facebook?”
It's highly unfortunate that we have started comparing tragedies. Not only have we started to compare responses to tragedies, but as a nation, we have also begun 'otherising' people, based on their reactions to different atrocities across the world.
While many of us were still reeling from the Bacha Khan tragedy, there were people lamenting on Facebook as to why the social media giant did not come up with an option for people to change their display pictures in solidarity with the attack.
As long as people are united against terrorism and condemning it unequivocally, it doesn't matter how one chooses to record his/her protest and in what capacity. Everyone mourns differently.
“India, or a foreign hand is behind this”
“It is India, because they threatened us after the Pathankot attack, I am 100% sure, they are our enemies.”
And yet another speculates, “Uzbeks. Yes, its the Uzbeks, because I know.”
This guesswork is always without any material evidence at hand. I'm not discounting the likelihood of a foreign hand in terrorist attacks, but I strongly feel that the more appropriate question to ask is:
“Who were the aiders and abettors at home?”
Before going after foreign elements we suspect of orchestrating attacks, let us start with exterminating the extremists within us.
“Ye un ka sooba hai, un se puchain na.” “It is the PTI’s province, ask them.”
One would think that a deadly terrorist attack would galvanise political parties to end their petty differences. But no — there is almost always enough point scoring to go around, more so after national tragedies.
Political parties will leave no stone unturned to blame their counterparts. The provincial government will say, “it is the federal government's duty” and vice versa; same is the case with civil-military dynamics.
“These courageous people have given their life to save the nation"
We said this about the APS children and, in a similar vein, we are saying this for the Charsadda victims. By hailing children and teachers killed in attacks as 'martyrs', by saying that they died for a cause, we are trivialising their deaths.
Let's be clear - labelling these lives lost as sacrifice is just plain false.
This is our failure. We couldn't protect them.