Death and joy

Published: September 2, 2011

Local residents gather at the site of a car bomb blast in Quetta on August 31, 2011. A car bomb on August 31 killed at least 11 people and wounded 13 others in the restive southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, police said. PHOTO: AFP

Eid is of course meant to be an occasion for joy, as well as for prayer. But it seems even this is to be denied to some in the country. For the families of the 11 people killed and 13 others injured in a bomb attack at a Quetta mosque immediately after Eid prayers, the day of happiness turned in to one of mourning. As has happened before in the city, Shias were the target of the attack. A car bomb planted near the Shia mosque caused the explosion — but such technicalities are of course largely irrelevant. The fact is that 11 more graves have been dug, 11 more people have been buried and even on an occasion such as Eidul Fitr we are incapable of demonstrating the kind of unity we so desperately need as a nation.

More and more fissures are appearing everywhere, cutting through our society and dividing it up into smaller and smaller groups. We are split on the basis of ethnicity, of social status, of gender, of religion and of sect. Quetta over the last few months, appears to have emerged as the focal point of the attacks on Shias — often members of the minority Hazara community. The latest act of violence directed against them shows they are not to be allowed even to observe one of the most holy days on the Islamic calendar without being stalked relentlessly by death.

Why, we must ask, are we so helpless against the forces that carry out such attacks? Why have the culprits not been apprehended despite the presence of a vast security and intelligence network? Even after the hundreds of sectarian deaths that have taken place over the last decade there is a lack of clarity as to precisely who is responsible. We must also ask why there has not been a louder outcry: from civil society groups, from the media, from political parties and from clerics. After all, the persons carrying out such attacks cannot claim to be Muslims, to be members of a religion that preaches peace and tolerance. They must then be openly condemned as the murderers they are, to restore to our nation the harmony it so badly needs.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.

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