70 lives in Quetta

How will I react when something tragic happens back home in Pakistan? Will I feel the pain or will I be able to brush it aside and move on? I had this in the back of my mind when I moved to the U.S. It was almost like I was preparing myself for the inevitable. Every other day, I found myself saying a little prayer for peace. But it had to happen.

I woke up in the middle of the night and checked my family phone chat. There was a killing in Quetta. They took the body to the hospital and carnage struck. 15 dead, I was told initially. The number kept increasing.

70 lives. The end.

The civilian and military leadership is repeating the usual VMS exercise: visits, meetings, and statements. We will not spare the terrorists. We say this every single time.  The same things that were said for Lahore and Peshawar. I have lost count.

The Indians are behind this we are told. Okay. Then? What are we supposed to do with this information? “The Indians did this” has become an escape route. It’s almost as if our state apparatus expends every ounce of its energy on proving this causality. In all of this, why are we failing to stop these acts?

There’s a clear shift in our war against violent extremism. Public spaces are the new battle ground. Peshawar, Lahore, and Quetta – these are three glaring examples of this shift. The state and its functionaries are not the only ones in danger. It’s the society that is getting targeted with greater impunity. It is more open, everyone is more vulnerable, and people are being forced to sacrifice when they don’t really want to. Those who died are martyrs in the national narrative but they never asked for it. They were forced to become martyrs because of our inaction and stupidity.

I feel numb and I am ashamed of this. This is not how I should be reacting to the loss of 70 lives. Will it take a personal loss for my reaction to be more vocal, more action-oriented? I will continue saying that silent prayer for peace.

Featured image: https://specialnewsonline.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/pakistan-flag.jpg

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