Was Quetta an ISIS job or a JuA job? Or was it a joint effort?
I found out about the Quetta bombing the way I do about most breaking news – through Facebook. My heart sank as I saw an article a friend had posted about a cameraman who worked for one of the same publications as I do. He was a father of four children and legal guardian to three others. On Tuesday, while filming a protest of lawyers outside a Quetta hospital he was killed in a suicide attack alongside 93 others. The attack – yet another in the violence-plagued south-western province of Balochistan – is said to have taken out an entire generation of Quetta’s lawyers. While I was writing this article, another attack, aimed at a judge’s cavalcade, injured 17 people.
As tends to happen in the aftermath of a violent attack in Pakistan – or sometimes even while the event is still unfolding – media pundits, armchair commentators and general observers on social media jump the gun and start asking all the wrong type of questions.
“Why hasn’t [insert just about any country/government/politician/world leader name] taken a stand against the perpetrators?”
“If this is not terrorism then what is?” they ask.
Or, my two favourites,
“Why won’t Facebook come out with an [insert flag colour scheme] filter for this specific tragedy?” and “why won’t mainstream media dedicate a day’s worth of coverage on this?”
By now we are all too familiar with the melodramatic lamenting that inevitably follows each crisis of the last decade as people try to cope through memes, articles, tweets and Facebook posts.
Truth be told, in Pakistan, the novelty of terrorist attacks remains. We do not tire of it nor does it tire of us. And so we continue to ask over and over again: How come the media goes to 24/7 coverage and the world lights up its landmarks when terrorists kill in Paris, Brussels, and Orlando but when terrorists kill in Beirut, Baghdad, and Quetta, the news is met with barely a raised eyebrow and rushed, regurgitated condolences offered by world leaders? Is it because the lives of the people of Pakistan matter less than the people of Paris?
A few years ago, Nour Kabbach, a Lebanese humanitarian aid worker, did service to the feeling of having one’s tragedy deemed ‘not good enough’ by world leaders’ and international media. Following the heavy bombardment of her home city in Aleppo, Syria, Kabbach posted to Facebook:
Kabbach’s words get at the heart of a popular, longstanding theory that white faces covered in blood are more newsworthy and attention-worthy than black or brown faces. It certainly is an attractive theory because a cursory Google search or some quick channel surfing pretty much confirms the theory’s viability. But that doesn’t change the fact that continuing to vent our frustrations over the lack of attention is a troubling and, ultimately, futile exercise that only winds up detracting from the sum equation of the tragedy: the lives lost, the livelihoods ended, the families and cities destroyed.
Essentially, our all-too-familiar pattern of theorising, speculating and postulating following a horrible tragedy is useless and serving. It does absolutely nothing to help those who are trying to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones nor does it help the victims still fighting for their lives.
Because we have rote memorised this familiar pattern, we know with measured certainty that in the upcoming days, possibly even weeks, the hash tags and solidarity posts will light up the darkened cyber pathways. But while our ‘thoughts and prayers’ will slowly flicker and burn out and we will all return to carrying on in a business-as-usual fashion, for Quetta the dust will have barely settled.
And the state of Pakistan and its hodgepodge of politicians and self-proclaimed experts will continue to confuse us in the aftermath of Quetta’s chaos.
So, while I understand, and to some extent, share the desire for global solidarity, the current dialogue is tired of detracting from the greater crisis looming large on the horizon of Pakistan.
We should not be asking why a newsroom, a couple hundred thousand miles away, is not covering our story. We should be asking why – despite an entire generation of defenders of the law being wiped out – the people we have voted in and entrusted with positions of power and authority continue to grandstand with their heads stuck in a place where the sun doesn’t shine.
Quetta, an already lawless wasteland, was turned into a literal definition of lawlessness in a matter of seconds. Forget changing your profile picture to a white candle flickering against a blackened background. It’s about ten years past the time to put out a call for a radical reconfiguration of Pakistan’s entire political and social structure.
How is that in the wake of such atrocity we have Islamists like Hafiz Saeed (who has a $10 million US bounty on his head) getting significant media coverage for propagating chaos in the form of statements pinning the attacks on India.
Even Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri has hinted at Indian involvement.
Never mind that shortly after the attack ISIS’ Amaq news agency took responsibility for the attacks as did Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan splinter group Jamaatul Ahrar.
While our leaders continue to confuse the easily confused masses, sending an already distraught nation on a goose chase towards the eastern border of Pakistan, the real issue that terrifies me to my bone marrow is how the state of Pakistan, despite having claimed success in its Operation Zarb-e-Azb, is still unaware when it comes to knowing who is who in the zoo of terrorist groups operating inside and around Pakistan.
Was Quetta an ISIS job or a JuA job? Or was it a joint effort?
I’m not a national security expert but I know that co-operations and allegiances are not uncommon between Islamist terrorist entities. For this reason, it is possible that the conflicting claims for responsibility actually indicate the existence of a formal alliance between the two terrorist organisations. Or maybe it’s not. Either way, I find it hard to care if some media outlet across the world is investing talk time towards my country when the people running my country aren’t even sure what’s going on in their own backyard.
Friend and fellow journalist Abdul Basit summed it up best on Facebook:
“The Quetta attack is a wake-up call and it asks for revisiting our entire approach to internal security and (to understanding) the linkages between the internal security with the regional and global geopolitics...Pakistan’s redundant approach to internal security rooted in the Cold War mind-set is not helping its cause. The world is changing rapidly and our political and military leadership need to show more flexibility in their decision-making, our diplomatic corpses have to be more imaginative and the civil society along with the intelligentsia and academia need to come up with local answers which can be used as antidote to violent extremism. This is a generational struggle.”
And so to Pakistanis I say, quit worrying about the international community’s response (or lack thereof). We have bigger, more urgent problems dealing with the convoluted and complex mess brewed up by our own people inside our own borders. And to Pakistan, I say this: you literally had one job.
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