More than statistics

August 21, 2019

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TODAY, the second International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, represents an opportunity to recognise, honour and support the individuals, families and communities impacted by this evil scourge. The world over, terrorism remains a serious challenge to lasting peace and security. In countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, deadly attacks continue to plague all aspects of civilian life — from markets to workplaces, schools to places of worship, sporting to election events. Only days ago, the Shia Hazara community in Kabul was targeted yet again; turning a wedding celebration into a mass tragedy in an instant. It is not inaccurate to say that the world will soon forget about these casualties. All too often, we hear statistics, and move on.

So it is within Pakistan too. While terrorism in our country has decreased significantly in recent years, tens of thousands of lives have been cut short or forever altered by the lasting impacts of such attacks. Yet, while the apparatus exists for supporting the families of our fallen servicemen, a holistic, institutionalised response mechanism for civilian victims still eludes us. Pakistan often prides itself on its resilience, but it might be more accurate to say that we are inured to violence. If one of the objectives of terrorists is to alienate and divide communities, a befitting response would be to honour our bonds by providing long-term financial, legal, medical and psychosocial support for survivors and victims’ families. If terrorism thrives in the absence of justice, it is our moral duty to not only provide peace, but to preserve and protect the rights of victims by upholding the rule of law, ensuring transparency and accountability, and building victim-centred mechanisms into our criminal justice system. And, if individuals and communities scarred by terrorism are made involuntary experts by virtue of their experiences, including their voices in conversations about counterterrorism is essential. Today, let us pay tribute, pledge support and justice, and listen to victims of terrorism.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2019