Something has bothered me about the deadly Gulshan-i-Iqbal blast but I could not put my finger on it. Yes, the senseless killing of children at a park is almost too horrible to imagine. And, yes, the fact that the attack was carried out in Lahore and not some remote area brings the war closer to home. However, still there was something else that was lingering in the back of mind. After reading Asif Aqeel’s piece in The Friday Times, today, I think I have finally figured out what has been bothering me so much.
Actually, it was the title of Aqeel’s piece that first hit me hard. ‘Bombs do not discriminate between Muslims and Christians’. This is something that I heard many people saying after the blast. I was told over and over not to call it an attack on Christians because more Muslims were killed in the blast. It wasn’t until this headline showed up in my email that I realised what bothered me so much. It was a simply question: What if bombs did discriminate?
The evil behind the Easter blast was easily understood as the dead were mostly innocent women and children. When asked about this, the Taliban spokesman said women and children were not their target it was the male members of the Christian community. The women and children were ‘collateral damage’. What if the Taliban had been successful in their plot to target only male Christians? Would we still be as horrified?
What if the bombs did not kill any Muslims? Would Army still be talking about Punjab operation? Killing of Christians is not new. Are we only reacting to this attack because the bomb did not discriminate? Are we only angry because we believe that we are not being spared? Are we willing to sacrifice our Christian brothers to save our own skin?
The answers to these questions make me as scared as the possibility of being in the wrong place during the next jihadi attack. We know that bombs don’t discriminate. What scares me now is that I’m not sure we don’t. So what does that make us?
Pakistanis are known as the most charitable people of the world. We contribute more troops to UN peacekeeping missions than any other country. We have been outspoken leaders on issues of human rights. Despite all of these undeniable facts, there is still an undeniable problem. Hyperopia is the medical term for farsighted, the condition in which a person can see things clearly when they are at a distance, but those same things fall out of focus when they are close up. Therefore our commitment to human rights is undeniable, but I believe it also suffers from this condition hyperopia.
The scene is a familiar one. Enraged youths take to the streets in response to a brutal attack that leaves over a dozen in their community dead. They are throwing rocks at armed security forces sent to contain them. Media terms the attack as regrettable but reserves harsher condemnation for the protestors whose response they say cannot be justified. Only, this scene is not taking place in Gaza, it is taking place in Lahore.
Arsonists burned down a Hindu temple in Tando Mohammad Khan district last week. SSP Tando Mohammad Khan, Naseem Aara Panwhar responded to the incident with the type of compassion that we have come to expect from authorities.
“We had asked them not to keep these things in this manner and at least raise proper boundary walls. But they did not care,” she said.
You see, it was the fault of these stupid Hindus for keeping their holy artifacts in a manner that they could be seen instead of hidden away where they belong.
Perhaps Shama and Shehzad would have been better to have kept themselves hidden away, too. Their very existence as non-Muslims was so offensive that they were burnt alive, purifying our country of their Christian-ness.
In his oft-quoted speech of 11 August 1947, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah famously said, ‘Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.’ Nearly 70 years later, that ideal is not only further than ever from realisation, we may actually be in a period in which religious intolerance threatens to alienate millions of people, and possibly the nation’s very future.