Smash. Screams. Silence... Ignore it, it's Pakistan

They thrashed the waiter and left the restaurant in pieces. Why? Because they could.

Hussain Nadim January 20, 2013
Six men reasonably well dressed, stormed into a restaurant and started beating the life out of the waiters that were serving at the time.

They started smashing crockery and throwing chairs around without any regard for the dozens of customers dining in - including females sitting in the café who screamed helplessly as the intensity of the attack grew. 

Within minutes the public rushed out, and the entire restaurant was covered in broken glass. The attackers conveniently stepped out, in no rush at all and got into their cars and left.

No, this is not a scene from a tribal area in Pakistan, nor is it from any other lawless region of Pakistan.

No, these attackers a were not part of a terrorist or a militant group either.

This barbaric event that I witnessed with my very own eyes recently happened at Urban Lounge, a restaurant and hookah bar, in the posh F8 area of Islamabad!

Dare I add that this area is meant to be a red zone- supposedly a friendly and safe area for foreigners?

I was told that a conflict had erupted between the restaurant staff and a few 'powerful' teenage customers an hour before I had arrived with my friends. According to the waiters, who I later asked, the customers involved in this incident were doing illegal drugs inside the restaurant, due to which they were asked to leave by the restaurant staff.

The customers who had political connections threatened the restaurant staff with dire consequences, and later sent in men to dismantle the entire restaurant for not being permitted to carry out illegal activities inside a family restaurant.

The audacity of a few men to just barge into a restaurant and beat up waiters, destroying the place while they were at it, at peak dinner hour reveals how little respect they have  for  the law or even humanity as a whole.

This is surprising in an educated city like Islamabad.

It tore my heart to witness such sheer barbarism from my own people against their own people.

However, there are two things that seriously bother me:

First, while we tend to blame the militants, and terrorists for destroying the peace of Pakistan, we all, yes I do mean we all, have become in essence highly intolerant people, waiting for any opportunity to erupt. And no, it's not the drones, or the war on terror that has radicalised us; it is our upbringing in a society where calls for toppling over the democratic government, vigilantism, discrimination against the poor, minorities, and those who do not agree with us has been systematically ingrained in our minds through our curriculum and media.

In other words, we have reached that point of extremism that all we need is a trigger, and our actions turn from non violent radicalisation to violent radicalisation. The Shahzeb Khan murder is case in point.

We can also observe this during minor car accidents, sporting events at universities, and schools over the pettiest of issues.

Who can deny it? We just need a reason to jump out, roll up our sleeves and confront people with absolutely zero tolerance.

Second, the more disturbing aspect of this event that I witnessed, is the idea of how safe we really are, and if we are really doing anything to curb this threat? While the Pakistan Army and the law enforcement agencies are spending billions of dollars in trying to secure the lawless regions of Pakistan, the situation in Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad isn't any better.

The ability of these attackers to barge into a restaurant without any fear forces me to imagine a possibility of how easy it would be for a militant group to storm in literally anywhere they please; it would be as easy as pie for them to attack with lethal weapons, kill hundreds of civilians and hold the entire area hostage.

Are the law enforcement agencies fighting the root causes of the cancer of extremism, or are they just treating cancer with Panadol?

All those politicians and whosoever claim that this 'war' is not our war need to wake up and smell the coffee!

This is very much our war, and it is not only against Taliban; it is against the extremist that hides inside each one of us.

Much as we would like to believe it, no military action, or covert operation can win this war.

This is a battle against radicalisation and can only be won through an effective de-radicalisation strategy that includes, first, ending the bias and prejudice that is instilled in all of us through the media and household discussions. We need to be educated with critical and analytical thinking tools.

Thus, teach your children tolerance and patience rather than how to fire a gun; educate them by making them believe that a smile is more powerful than a bullet.

It may be a small step, but it is a step, no doubt.

And Rome wasn't built in a day.

Read more by Hussain here or follow him on Twitter @HNadim87
Hussain Nadim A faculty member teaching political science and international relations at NUST Business School and Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.