Are some lives dearer than others?

Published: December 2, 2015
The writer is a journalist with over 30 years of experience

The writer is a journalist with over 30 years of experience

If the world bypasses December 16 without remembering the 141 massacred in Peshawar a year ago, never mind. Instead, let the whole of Pakistan stand together to showcase solidarity-in-grief. While Europe and America continue to mourn the 130 victims of the three-week-old Paris tragedy, stationing their television crews to cover the carnage and it aftermath ceaselessly and often focusing on stories that have gone cold, Peshawar remains a mere dot on their radar screens. Even President Obama recently drove straight from Paris’s Orly Airport to the famed French concert hall, the Bataclan, to pay tribute to those killed. For Peshawar martyrs? Just a passing reference in his State of the Union address to Congress last January.

Pakistan has been in the firing line of terrorists for over a decade. Several thousands have perished and yet the West has not taken note. Watching the West go into overdrive against the terrorists who killed French citizens, my mind kept reeling back to December 16, when seven gunmen belonging to the Tehreek-i-Talban Pakistan entered the Army Public School to shoot, burn and butcher 132 schoolchildren, ranging in age between eight and 18 years. The militants, all of whom were foreign nationals, one Chechen, three Arabs and two Afghans, entered the school, turning it into a killing field, slaughtering indiscriminately the staff and children.

Imagine the suffering of parents, brothers, sisters and relatives whose wounds will open up once again when they observe the one-year barsi of their loved ones, so cold-bloodedly murdered at the hands of these terrorists? Will the world remember them? No. Will President Obama recall Peshawar when he takes up the podium once again in January to address Congress? No! But, he’ll certainly dwell at length on Paris!

So this brings me to the conclusion that some lives are dearer than others. Only one journalist has had the courage to point out the difference between how Europe and America reacted to the French tragedy compared to terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world. Aryn Baker is TIME’s Africa correspondent. She has also been the magazine’s Pakistan-Afghanistan correspondent. Her column’s headline in TIME is an eye-opener: “Beirut wonders if some terror attacks mean more than others”. Baker begins by saying that more than 40 died in Beirut in an Islamic State (IS) terror attack a day before the Paris strikes, but Lebanese victims haven’t received the same attention. “I’m not much of a mathematician, but back when I was a correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the middle 2000s, I tried to make sense of the barrage of terror attacks by developing my own little algorithm. I called it Taliban math. The first suicide bombing — in a market, in a capital city, in a school — was international news. In order for the next bombing to make a story, the number of dead had to be exponentially higher. I tried to pin down a ratio: how many Pakistani or Afghan dead would it take to generate the same newsworthiness as the death of an American?”

Baker says that she thought about the terror attacks that unfurled both in Beirut, where she was based from 2010 to 2014, and Paris, where she lived in the late 1990s. “The Beirut bombings, on November 12, killed 43. A pair of motorcycle-mounted suicide bombers left a further 200 injured.” While it was a news item and was cited as the worst bombing since Beirut’s civil war ended in 1990, geopolitics also came into play. The attack was claimed by the IS, but since it took place in a neighbourhood that was a stronghold of Hezbollah, which is fighting in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad, with backing from Iran, the international coverage didn’t care to consider reporting the tragedy in depth, she writes.

The Paris victims were named, their brief biographies sketched out by the media to give the tragedy a human touch. The disparity of news coverage between the Beirut and Paris attacks, one day apart, and claimed by the same terror group, is striking. Geopolitics always rears its ugly head. “Until there is some recognition that an Isis attack or al Qaeda attack on one country is an attack on all, terrorism will be everybody’s problem — a problem that won’t be solved,” concludes Baker.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd,  2015.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Gubol
    Dec 3, 2015 - 12:32AM

    Why would Obama talk about APS tragedy? it is fully Pakistan’s own creation. As Americans kept saying, when you keep snakes in your backyard, they will bite you some dayRecommend

  • Simla
    Dec 3, 2015 - 1:44AM

    There is a difference. France never reared snakes in her backyard with a hope that these snakes will only bite the neighbours. In Pakistan’s case some of these snakes turned on their master. Plain and simple. I wonder why Pakistani Journalists fail to understand this simple truth. Recommend

  • Allah Hafiz
    Dec 3, 2015 - 1:55AM

    Fact is…

    Muslim killing muslims in syria and pakistan….

    While in Paris its muslim killing french of……….Recommend

  • usman778
    Dec 3, 2015 - 6:06AM

    Simla, You have an overly simplistic understanding of South Asia and overly rose-tinted impression of India. Get more knowledge.Recommend

  • Skywalker
    Dec 3, 2015 - 8:54AM

    Thanks for speaking truth.

    Pls enlighten us with the knowledge you are bestowed with. Do not forget to include verifiable facts.Recommend

  • Dec 3, 2015 - 9:08AM

    @Gubol: .
    Hillary said that? Hmm…She also voted for the Iraq War. That destabilized the
    Middle East. She said she made a ‘Mistake’. She also backed Obama on
    Trans Pacific Trade agreement, then she backed out. After it was signed.
    Said she made a ‘Mistake’…Hmm. Lets see how many more ‘Mistakes’ come to light.
    Now that is bound to,…..make you Hindus very unhappy.Recommend

  • S
    Dec 3, 2015 - 10:49AM

    You can’t be more wrong. Pakistan certainly supported Afghan Taliban post Soviet era (as we had no choice) but TTP was not created by Pakistan. It was formed in reaction to Pakistan’s operation in FATA against militants that started around 2002. So before you think we deserve it, think again.
    If we use your logic then perhaps France deserves it too as they were carrying out military operations against IS and Paris attacks were in response to that.
    As for Dec 16, it was our loss and our pain. Pakistanis are not looking towards the world to share their grief. You and the rest of the world can continue their selective humanity. Recommend

  • observer
    Dec 3, 2015 - 6:25PM

    The militants, all of whom were foreign nationals,


    all the Militants/ Terrorists involved in APS were foreign nationals


    Who were the 4 guys hanged for APS?

  • stevenson
    Dec 3, 2015 - 9:09PM

    @Gubol and Simla: Wasn’t it former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who confirmed that India uses Afghanistan as a base to carry out cross border trouble in Pakistan? This has been going on for decades that India has been using its puppet Afghanistan to create cross border trouble in Pakistani cities. Tell me when will the snakes come back to bite India by your logic? I think you know that the situation is far more complex with the APS killers who were controlled from Afghanistan and the attack was carried out by foreigners. The Taleban are the left over freedom fighters from the same Mujahideen used by the West to evict the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. After the West left, many of these fighters stayed behind and created more mischief that India exploits. The last two years finally marks the drop in violence and the defeat of these foreign funded cowards. Shameful that people from India are allowed to post such hate on this site.Recommend

  • Akshay
    Dec 4, 2015 - 6:56PM

    The difference here is that one Louvre Museum in Paris itself gets 25 times more visitors than entire Pakistan does in a year. When people visit a place they absorb the essence of it & carry a part of it back with them. They relate to place & people much better than a far-off land that they know nothing about (& don’t hold in much high esteem either). This is why Paris is mourned a lot more than PeshawarRecommend

  • Zafar
    Dec 4, 2015 - 7:19PM

    It’s not the West’s job to worry about others. They worry about their own people, we do not worry about our own let alone others.Recommend

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