The recent collision between Israel and Gaza has struck a nerve in various parts of the world, causing people far and wide to religiously follow the crisis. They are eager to know every tragic detail of a war that has turned into a vicious cycle of repeated mistakes and mounting grievances. Nowadays, Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds are being inundated with horrifying images of weeping Palestinian families embracing a deceased child, parent or friend. We are aware that the world is becoming a hurtful place. The rising death toll in Gaza is devastating. The unresolvable differences between Israel and Gaza are infuriating. However, it is easy to lose sight of predicaments at home while intensely focusing on controversial disputes abroad.
Pakistan, for instance, is grappling with sectarian violence, limited electricity, belligerent political gangs and inadequate governance. Militants are besieging the country’s foundation and infrastructure. Many Pakistanis are grieving over the loss of innocent lives in Gaza, and rightfully so. Yet, it is important to remember the murderous rampages and human rights violations being perpetrated within our own borders. It is essential to mourn for our own men, women, children and soldiers who are dying in multitudes.
On July 28, 2014, two minors and one woman were killed after their house was set on fire by an angry mob. The mob was initially pursuing a man who was accused of sharing a blasphemous picture, but managed to douse another house in flames during their fit of rage.
On June 8, 2014, 10 militants infiltrated Jinnah International Airport with the intent to create havoc. Several people were killed on site, including security personnel who gave their lives to defend the bustling terminal. Another unpleasant recollection from that restless night was the government owned channel, PTV, airing footage of PM Nawaz Sharif’s Metro train project while news was breaking about the attack on Jinnah International Airport on other channels. PTV’s blatant disregard for the turmoil at the Karachi airport plays a role in signifying the government’s indifferent approach to tackling the widespread militant activity in Pakistan. In addition to mismanaging the armed extremist groups, the current government, which is also the supposed exemplar of a budding democracy, has succeeded in conducting poorly orchestrated negotiations with a group of people who are least interested in our country’s welfare.
On April 3, 2014, the government announced the release of 16 TTP prisoners in an attempt to encourage peace talks with the militant group. Another 100 prisoners on the Taliban’s list were being prepared for release in the following days. This is an appalling example of a productive negotiation process. Even though the government is trying to boost reconciliation efforts, it should have also asked for the return of kidnapped civilians in exchange for the discharged Taliban prisoners. Negotiations should not be focused on constantly giving without receiving any concessions in return, which is how the government seems to be proceeding with its diplomatic efforts.
These are just a few examples of the local concerns that need to be addressed on an immediate basis. Our PM recently announced his solidarity with the Palestinians, gallantly proclaiming that he is “saddened and disappointed to note the silence of the international community.” He also added that, “The world must stop Israel from this naked and brutal aggression.” It would make more sense if he voiced a similar degree of fury against the radical militants who are threatening and killing individuals in a country he was elected to lead. It is easy to use external struggles as a scapegoat to distract us from the rampant mayhem at home. The fact of the matter is that our government has been unable to protect us, the Taliban are still a threat, minority communities are still abused and electricity prices are still doubling. Enraged social media updates centered on Gaza and Israel are expected to trend. However, we are Pakistanis at the end of the day. Our country needs an equal amount of attention and devotion, if not more.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2014.
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