THE simplest way to alienate a people, to make them feel less equal than others, is to remain indifferent to their pain and suffering.

Pakistan did precisely that this Eid, with festivities across most of the country undimmed by the devastating twin bombings last Friday in the Kurram Agency town of Parachinar. The attack has so far claimed over 70 lives.

No senior government official, ostensibly out of security concerns, has visited the area in the week since. The omission is all the more reprehensible given that the prime minister cut short his trip to London following the ghastly oil tanker inferno in Bahawalpur on Sunday and rushed back to visit the injured and condole with victims’ families.

Anger among locals over the security lapse and official indifference provoked a large number of them to congregate in the town’s Shaheed Park for an ongoing sit-in. Tribal elders yesterday rejected Nawaz Sharif’s compensation for the victims, saying they want to be recognised as human beings first.

Self-preservation is a poor excuse for the chief executive of any country to desist from visiting a scene of such terrible carnage as was visited upon so many Pakistani citizens last week in Parachinar.

Imran Khan, who has been fulminating about the prime minister not visiting the area, has not yet done so either.

Considering he has been urging the merger of Fata with KP where his party is in power, it would have, at the very least, made political sense to be seen commiserating with the victims.

Those aspiring to national leadership must demonstrate their determination to fight terrorism not only through words but by their actions as well.

Standing up to extremism, however, also requires an unflinching acknowledgement of realities.

Downplaying the role of sectarianism in the attack that took place in an overwhelmingly Shia-majority area, as the military leadership seems to be doing, does not make it less so.

The claim of responsibility by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Almi, one of the most violent extremist groups in Pakistan that openly flaunts its gruesome record of sectarian killings, leaves no doubt of the motive, if there ever was any.

Sectarianism is the very bedrock upon which much of the extremist violence in Pakistan is based.

Obfuscating the fact does not promote social harmony: it merely adds to the disaffection and bitterness of those who know well why they are being repeatedly targeted.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2017

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