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If terrorists burst in, where is the nearest exit I can push my brother towards?

Published Feb 18, 2017 09:51am

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It hurts, deeply. Lahore. Quetta. Mohmand. Peshawar. Sehwan.

I wonder if we'll ever live without this sense of fear – the fear that you or your loved one will never return as they step out of the house.

One of the ways I spend quality-time with my younger brother is to go to the cinema together. There have been times when I’ve been struck by this anxiety and seized by apprehension.

What if someone blows this place up? What if terrorists burst in? Where is the nearest exit that I will be able to push Abdullah towards? How can I hide him? No, he’s too tall now to be hidden. We shouldn’t be here. What if something happens? What if?

I wonder. I worry.

I worry that someday even the Badshahi Mosque or other monuments of historical and cultural significance might get attacked.

Nothing is sacred anymore.

I worry my cultural heritage will irrecoverably be taken away from me.

There are texts and emails every now and then. Security alerts and warnings. Places to be avoided.

I wonder how long we will continue to hide in our houses while our homeland burns.


After the APS attack, I thought it couldn't get worse after this, but after the spate of bombings this week, I learned that what’s broken can be shattered further.

The past few days brought back memories of 2009, a year in which Pakistan witnessed 500 bombings.

I thought we were past this. I had hoped. I had prayed.

The rising death toll. The call for blood donations. The full impact of the attack. The same old condemnations. The same old rhetoric. The same old statements. The same lies, the same passing of the buck. Forming commissions. Ordering inquiries.

Thousands and thousands of deaths. And counting.

We have come to a point where cities are symbolic of the violence, loss and tragedy they have borne. Peshawar is not its culture and beauty. Nor is Peshawar Fort Bala Hisaar or Khyber Pass. Peshawar is the APS attack.

Quetta is not Quetta. Quetta is Hazara killings.


Cities are no longer cities; they are signifiers and signposts of tragedies. Of losses borne, of lives mourned.

These are tragic ruptures in our collective identity, and cultural and social lives.

Everything is a reminder of what we face. There is no distraction, there is no relief.

I am at a point where I shut my social media when a tragedy occurs. But while I can shut down my social media accounts for a while, I cannot control the torment of my heart.

There are times when I want to escape Pakistan, perhaps not physically, but certainly emotionally.

There are times I want to close my eyes, my ears, my mind and my heart to the suffering in this land, for my own sanity and survival. Only to realise that its suffering is inseparable from mine.

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The writer is an undergraduate student at LUMS, writing about socio-political affairs on her blog hafsakhawaja.wordpress.com.

She tweets @Hafsa_Khawaja


The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.



Comments (22) Closed



Sara Feb 18, 2017 10:34am

Killing, terror act against other humans is a big sin even if it done in the name of religion. It's a shameful act. Human lives matter.

AD Feb 18, 2017 10:57am

Don't show fear , protest ...

Ali Feb 18, 2017 11:22am

If we let fear in they win. Dont live in fear. live life to the fullest and these people and their acts will accomplish nothing.

umar Feb 18, 2017 11:38am

Be brave and do not be so fearful, it is going on all around the word. Good days will come surely.

Asif Hayat Khan Feb 18, 2017 11:56am

Don't be sad and hopeless. As a young, educated and gifted individual propagate hope ... because life goes on ..... 220 million souls rise every day to fight for another day. Never give up.

asif Feb 18, 2017 12:39pm

Nothing to say.

Abdul Rauf Feb 18, 2017 12:45pm

Thank you for echoing sentiments of almost every Pakistani. Please be sure that althought we are down but we are certainly not out, please have faith in this nation. We will rise again!

Saqib Feb 18, 2017 02:17pm

Thought provoking article,we must think about it.

Saqib Feb 18, 2017 02:31pm

Mam your article was emotional but u didn't mention solution for those all those incidents,at the end there is despair and hopelessness.

Arun-KS Feb 18, 2017 02:42pm

Do not always ask for help, put efforts to get out of problems on your own. Instead of making habit of only putting queries, place solutions too along with the questions.

DrTK Feb 18, 2017 02:51pm

This is how Pakistanis feel. Trapped.

EMp Feb 18, 2017 05:01pm

There are solutions,

Why can we not choose better leaders? Why are the corrupt free to roam and worse rule?

A man with the hunger for power and wealth is the worst virus that can affect human life.

The problem and the root of the problems is in front of us, yet we are as useless as the inquiries/commissions that will form in the days to come.

Don't expect change unless you are willing to actually be a part of it yourself.

Thank you for the article though, it was simple,articulate and extremely moving.

Syed F. Hussaini Feb 18, 2017 05:25pm

"Nothing is sacred anymore."

To make this fear disappear, we first break the bonds emotionally, as you suggest, then we break the barriers physically to let the fresh cool breeze drift in.

Thank you so much for speaking our hearts so truthfully.

virendra singh Feb 18, 2017 05:30pm

Killing innocent in the name of religion is a heinous crime and is done by cowards. Take the bull by its horn. Remember when going gets tough the tough gets going

jameel Feb 18, 2017 07:53pm

Why this pain? Stop now... The root... stop..

Ajay Gupta Feb 18, 2017 09:16pm

If terrorists burst in, don't u need to save urself first? Then only can u b of use to anyone else!

Chris Rodriguez Feb 18, 2017 09:19pm

Pakistanis should move towards their original culture and heritage instead of following the destructive ideology of the middle east.

Helloall Feb 18, 2017 10:25pm

Ordinary people feel completely trapped and do not know what to do. With that said, who is ready to do WHATEVER it takes to eradicate this cancer? Not politicians, not most people... not yet anyway. It requires being brutally honest with oneself.

Sara Feb 19, 2017 12:21pm

May those who died RIP and those who are injured give them strength to recover and move on with their lives. Terrorism is not an answer. It's a shameful act against human being. Shame to those who carried out such act.

ram dubai Feb 19, 2017 10:46pm

not all middle east countries are violent..

rahim Feb 20, 2017 08:31am

My advice to you, and all other brothers and sisters who feel the way you do, is very simple. Get out...out of the country that is. Its only likely to get worse. Much worse.

Meher Feb 21, 2017 09:43am

Thank you for your honesty.