Living in fear of ourselves

Published: December 16, 2012
The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune

The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune

What puzzles more is not the consistent targeting of ordinary people in Pakistan but the fact that the government does not do anything about it. We are seeing a surge in killings, the victims usually being innocent people killed because of their faith, ethnic background, nationality, ideas or even their employment. These are not high-profile cases. In most instances, these are people only trying to live an honest life within their limited means. These are the ordinary people of Pakistan.

Ideally by now we should have tracked down those who initiate such attacks and brought them to justice. Instead, in the silence that follows, these attackers are given opportunities to kill again. And they do so with impunity. The government issues statements and sets up committees, which end up doing nothing. Rehman Malik comes on TV. That’s about it.

It is not just members of the minority communities or different sects that are attacked. Settlers in Balochistan, many of them teachers, lawyers and doctors, are targeted. Soldiers and members of aman (peace) lashkars, working women, NGO staffers, foreigners, even children are not spared. Almost all are innocent. Despite the massive funding that our law enforcement agencies, including what our multiple intelligence agencies receive under one guise or another, we are unable to nab those responsible. Ideally, we should be taking action to prevent such killings. Instead, we are left to lick our wounds.

We can’t even blame the law enforcers entirely. When our military bases are attacked with such precision and consistency, the conclusion that a layman can draw quite satisfactorily is that the state is helpless and, possibly, clueless. In response to the systematic attacks and harassment, many are now making the move out of Pakistan. Many who can afford to migrate or are eligible to do so are happy to make the move legally. Others who do not have the credentials do this illegally. And yet, most of them remain in the country, fearful of what will happen next. In many instances, it is the talented young men and women of the middle class who are leaving our shores.

Amongst the less privileged, there are tragic tales of members of the Shia Hazara community dying in a bid to make it to the shores of Australia as their rickety boats capsize. Hundreds more end up at detention centres there. Many of these will be sent back despite their protests.

We find Ahmadis detained at centres in Thailand as they escape death threats back home. Hindus try and migrate to India while the Christians look towards some Western countries for help. But for how long can we continue in this state of affairs? How long can people be attacked and killed at will by a handful of extremists while the silent majority looks the other way? Many in the silent majority say it’s all a big conspiracy. One remembers the words of President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf who famously stated that women get raped so they can migrate to Canada.

Pakistan is a country of contradictions. On the one hand, it has hosted and continues to host one of the largest refugee populations in the world: the Afghans who entered the country in droves after the 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. Many have gone back, others have not. At the same time, that traditional hospitality does not extend to our own people.

How do we move ahead? First of all, there should be a change in mindsets. Our silent majority needs to be woken from its slumber. If these killings continue, very soon they will be next in line. They have to understand that the talented middle class is the country’s real asset. Second, we need a unified strategy on dealing with extremism. This means that all parts of the government should be in agreement on not supporting such outfits and not protecting them. Also, it is only the local police that can track down these killers. But they need the backing and the push of the state to do so. Groups that kill our own citizens cannot be our strategic assets.

Finally, we need to punish those we catch. That means due legal process that is not delayed or distorted and that there is quick and effective dispensation of justice. We cannot let them off. They will only go and cause more mayhem. In this, all pillars of the state have to be in agreement. Till then, we will continue to be held hostage by these few people who have taken it upon themselves to make our lives hell so that they can go to heaven in the hereafter.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • abu-uzhur
    Dec 17, 2012 - 1:27AM

    @Kamal Siddiqui Sahib

    You have given a compact account of the civil war going on both out in the society
    and in our minds You have identified an alaming aspect of the situation . When decimation of our state and society is on ” the silent majority looks the other way”. They are guilty of a suicidal moral complacency. They need to keep by their bedside the following poem by Martin Neimoller on what Nazis did to the German
    society, and the role of the silent majority in bringing it about .

    First they came for the Communists
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn’t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me,
    and by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me.


  • gp65
    Dec 17, 2012 - 1:59AM

    “Groups that kill our own citizens cannot be our strategic assets”

    Ah but you see, the groups that kill your own (TTP is not the one that is considered a strategic asset. It is the group that kils innocent people in other countries (India, Afghanistan) which are considered strategic assets by your establishment. Problem is the infrastructure that suports one group also supports the other group.. Unless you decide to act against groups that kill any innocent person – Pakistani Indian, Afgan or American – you will not be able to control this problem.


  • Great Thinker
    Dec 17, 2012 - 6:01AM

    Initially, I started reading Pakistani newspapers, just for fun. I wanted to understand the views of the intellectuals, the columnists, ordinary people etc. So I read Editorials, Columns, the Letters section etc. Some of the perceptions that Pakistani’s have, on a similar event were quite amazing, some awful. There was an Islamic tinge to almost everything. There is an undertone of “Hate India” in most of the articles from the newspapers.
    The root-cause of your maladies is this “Hate India” at any cost syndrome. Your army is brain-washed into thinking that you must destroy India, your education system teaches children that India is the enemy and is the root of all bad that has happened to Pakistan. The army strategises based on this syndrome. Afghanistan was no more a strategic depth, with a more larger objective of waging a war with India and defeating India. Afghanistan simply provided land when needed. This paved the way of supporting the Americans against Russians. Enemy’s Enemy is my friend. This made you cede a part of Kashmir to win China over. The Army has a strangle hold on the Civil society and hogs resources so that it gets the money to buy toys for wars. You have supported terrorists , again with the aim of destroying India ultimately.
    See, what has happened in the process. Your country has been reduced to half, you are lagging behind in almost all the indices. Nobody wants to talk or deal with Pakistan except on terrorism. Pakistani’s want to leave Pakistan because you are living in fear of yourselves.
    Now analyze rationally. Has India ever attacked you. Has India started any wars with you.
    Remove this root cause of Hate India. You need not hate India to survive.


  • Zalim singh
    Dec 17, 2012 - 8:20AM

    “Pakistan is a country of contradictions. On the one hand, it has hosted and continues to host one of the largest refugee populations in the world: the Afghans who entered the country in droves after the 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan”.

    I do not agree with this. These refugees were willingly accepted because Pakistan wants to show the world that there was grave danger from Soviet forces which captured Afghanistan, where there was none. The soviet troops were there on request from Afghan president.

    Also Pakistan received billions (if not trillions) in aid for them. This money was diverted somewhere else.


  • Feroz
    Dec 17, 2012 - 10:59AM

    The apathy of the majority to the wanton death and destruction around confounds not just you but everyone. The fatalistic attitude to tyranny and bloodshed means that the suffering and violence can only get worse. Most of the chest beating and recrimination happen in the Media and nowhere else. There are thousands protesting in the streets about some crappy cartoon painted by a third rate artist abroad but no one to protest the death of thousands of brothers, sisters and neighbors. It will make a fascinating study for Psychiatrists and Psychoanalysts doing research on Mental Health issues.


  • Sukaina
    Dec 17, 2012 - 12:03PM

    But the police WORKS for the state, Mr.Siddiqi. What do u mean by “they need to be backed by the state?” You don’t need the state to remind you or push you to track killers. It’s their job and they better not forget that.


  • wonderer
    Dec 17, 2012 - 12:10PM

    This brilliant article, and many obviously sensible comments, not for lack of anything on part of the writers, seem like starting to dig a well when the house has started to burn in many places. Will anything change in the foreseeable future? Get ready to soon see a large number of important Pakistanis, rushing to the nearest airport, well in time to catch the last flight of the last remaining international airline!

    Zarra Sochiye!


  • Kashif
    Dec 17, 2012 - 12:36PM

    I found nothing new in this article!. Being a editor please come up with some innovative ideas with certain references to mesmerize the readers.


  • ahmed41
    Dec 17, 2012 - 5:18PM

    @Zalim singh:

    That’s right . Refuges were encouraged to cross over from Afghanistan. Their presence was a huge propaganda advantage to Pakistan , Saudi Arabia and the WEST

    It brought in millions of DOLLARS in foreign aid .

    Now the same refuges are not wanted any more. Their presence has outlasted the initial euphoria of muslim ” brotherhood “


  • F
    Dec 17, 2012 - 5:20PM

    Despite great views, the author – like the silent majority, steps away away from addressing the root causes of perpetual instability and violence in Muslim societies, Pakistan included. What ails Muslim societies is their inability to separate state and politics. Politics and state are commanded with the principles of bigotry and supremacy at the core. The silent majority, the army and the “strategic” groups it controls are merely a manifestation of that belief system. The silent majority willingly donates, listens to divisive sermons, reads hate filled text books, and looks the other way when non- Muslims and Ahmedis are excluded and eliminated.


  • Subcontinental
    Dec 17, 2012 - 9:22PM

    kamal Saab, on the dot, as always. I admire your clarity. A journalist myself, I have always despaired about the inability of my fellow professionals to talk/write less and say more. You are one exception. Sharp, brief sentences that hide the grief and anxiety about one’s country. I wish your country takes advice of its best brains/hearts like you. Please, live long. I am sure within your lifetime, you will see a happy, safe, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan. A toast to that!


  • sabi
    Dec 17, 2012 - 10:48PM

    Right wingers say that they will give their lives to protect ammendments in constitution introduced by Bhutto and Zia.These ammendments provude right winger legal grounds to persecute,and kill others on difference of faith matters.These inhuman ammendments bind the hand of many sane exectives to protect minorities under the umbrela of law.This menace will will continue its upward journey as long as these barbaric ammendments remain.
    Excellant article kudos.


  • MSS
    Dec 17, 2012 - 11:41PM

    Somebody needs to put the country on its feet. For that to happen some extremely difficult decisions are required.
    1. Elect national government of unity lead by an honest and a fearless but a visionary and a charismatic leader. There are not many that fit this bill but consensus will be needed. Only well educated people without any blemish on their record should be allowed to contest elections. (I know it is almost impossible, but enable the ECP)
    2. Repeal the zina laws.
    3. Repeal the blasphemy laws.
    4. Enact legislation to outlaw religious discrimination.
    5. Set up courts to fast track terrorist cases. Give courts special powers.
    6. Do a complete and thorough appraisal of all security policies after bringing them under civilian control.
    7. Allow time limited special powers for police to tackle extremists. Deal with them in a firm manner. Policing should be closely monitored by a commission who will have control over them.
    8. Reduce the role of the armed forces in the running of the foreign policy.
    9. Most importantly, reassess relationship with India. Cooperate rather than compete with India in every field. This single change will bring about many other improvements in society automatically.
    10. Educate masses and manage some social engineering to create a sea change in the mindset of masses through media who should have a code of conduct and be unbiased.
    11. Spend a larger proportion of budget on education and slightly less on defence.
    12. Take steps to curb corruption.
    13. Accept reports published by international organisations as materially correct. Stop automatic rejection of every report. Nobody cooks figures to show Pakistan down. Use them for a reality check from time to time.
    14. Deal with Balouchistan problem in an endearing way not like a step-child.
    15. Imposition of an Arab identity on Pakistanis is not in Pakistan’s interest. Take positive steps to stay sub-continental. Have a true sense of belonging.
    The above list is a must do list to arrest the decline of Pakistan. Otherwise in the not too distant future the term Af-Pak will be used frequently to describe the economic status of the region.


  • Zainab
    Dec 19, 2012 - 4:23AM

    ‘Silent Majority’ is no more than a myth. Please wake up.


  • Dec 20, 2012 - 2:22PM

    Kamal Siddiqi Sb. well written piece but how do we change the mindsets? It only comes when one is growing up amongst or around the minorty segment. The government should allocate a certain quota of minroity seats at every school. When when grow along with people of different faiths its easier in understanding their perspectives and they are accepted as one of us. I went to St. Patricks High School and am proud of the fact that our group of friends consists of people from different ethnic back grounds and we dont ever treat anyone for this particular reason. Live and let live !


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