“We stand united with the people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists, from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris.” said Barack Obama, the former President of the United States in his State of the Union address, a few days after attacks in Paris that devastated the whole world. Since then, fair amount of solidarity has been demonstrated for the victims from various countries in the West. However, with closer scrutiny, it seems that no such solidarity is available for those enduring similar conditions in Pakistan.
On 16th February of this year, people visiting the holy Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar were completely oblivious to what awaited them. They thought what laid ahead would be simply the offering of their prayers and subsequent heading home. When the unforgettable for Pakistanis took place, the shrine bore witness to Sufi Dhamaal (ritual dance) where thousands of families had massed together. The day saw the white marble floor staining with blood. In the aftermath, one could easily notice the enormous pile of shoes and slippers heaped up, most belonging to the dead.
The reason for this: a suicide bomber blew himself up in the jam-packed locality at the Shrine of Shahbaz Kalandar in Sehwan, Pakistan. The bomber took the radical – but common among psychological warfare – step of blowing himself up after the grenade he threw failed to explode. Sufi rituals were taking place in the same vicinity of this catastrophe. Moreover, people belonging to various faiths and beliefs crowded this area. Owing to the fact that the area happens to be a leading attraction for devotees, the blast resulted in the injury and death of multitudinous number of people.
This attack is one of the deadliest Pakistan has witnessed in the last two years. Over the years, the citizens of Pakistan have withstood and suffered through a countless number of terror attacks. These attacks are not only on the individual people in the country, but also on the faith they belong to- the faith, according to these terrorizing groups, distorts the “real” Islam. With the resultant aggression being focused on the groups that don't subscribe to the dominant Sunni sect in Pakistan, countless innocent lives are taken away by those who deem themselves as the caretakers of Islam. In the previous two years, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (who has claimed responsibility for the Sehwan suicide bombing) has built a Khorasan Province surrounding the areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. These groups, along with those like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, are furthermore aided by local youth fascinated by the idea of purity of Islam and its defense, even if violent.
These perpetrators of terror believe that the certain Muslim population in Pakistan doesn’t adhere to the true essence of Islam. For them, the beliefs of this population characterize only a distortion of their religion that has taken place over centuries. Killing these innocent people is how these jihadists think they can attempt to “purify” the country, and eventually world.
People all around the globe fail to comprehend that those of Pakistan are in constant battle. Contrary to popular belief, Pakistanis citizens also face the threat of terrorism, probably much more than their Western counterparts. Many of their lives are marked by persistent fear. Wondering what the new day brings upon them. Schools, shrines, markets and many other places are targeted by the jihadists so as to kill larger number of people at once.
Pertaining to this event, there are a couple of news articles on the online media. These articles are, further, shared by a few thousand people on the Internet. Mainstream media as per its usual character has once again resorted to trivialize or ignore the issue. No humongous headlines. No front page reports in newspapers. No specialized hash-tags on Twitter and Instagram. No celebrities showing solidarity with the victims in Pakistan.
It might be said that comparisons of sufferings are distasteful; however, they often display the sad reality of discrimination that continues between attitudes and behavior toward Western countries and those in Third World. When terror attacks devastated the city of Paris, sympathy found its way from all over the world. Monuments all around the world were lit up with the colors of the French flag. Facebook had special filters and safety checks for its users to show support and let their friends and families know they’re safe and sound respectively. But when this particular attack in Pakistan took place, there were none of these features made available by social media. There were no striking demonstrations of support toward the miserable lives affected by the cause that haunts everyone globally.
Religion and nationality are certainly two of the significant factors that determine how the media decides to broadcast its news. Media and governments around the world generally refrain from discussing terrorism until it actually affects their citizens and their country. Pakistan, for many around the globe, is not just a terror-infected country. The widespread assumption is that it is also an origin point and a hotbed of terrorism. This, for obvious reasons, eliminates Pakistan and its individual citizens as candidates for sympathy and solidarity.
If any other country around the world witnessed a terror attack of the same intensity on a religious shrine – or any other place in the region, for that matter – the world would have been in an uproar by now. Prominent politicians and influential personalities from popular culture would respond instantly. Leading newspaper companies and media houses would splash their headlines with tragic tones. Social media would have been erupting ground for the support toward the families of those who lost their loved ones, and the loved ones would be commemorated for going through such darkness. Such behavior shall be justified, of course. The only criticism here is that of selective outrage.
28336 Pakistanis have lost their lives to the demon that is terrorism (both civilians and security personnel). Their lives are snatched away from them by the madmen of violence to inflict terror and fear amongst them. While the world is battling global terrorism, it conveniently obliterates the catastrophe that is a trepidation in Pakistan. Pakistan's trouble with terrorism shouldn't be ignored by the world. Rather, it must be taken upon by other powerful states to aid them- who have made Pakistan and other comparatively weaker countries pawns in their political games, only building alliances when required for their interest.
For those who follow the line of reasoning this article does, it seems almost a trivial claim that solidarity for the victims of terrorism shouldn’t be determined by their national identity. Western media pleads for both empathy and sympathy when attacks dawn them, but they won’t extend the same acknowledgment when the victims of ISIL or any other terrorist outfit are creating chaos in a Muslim-majority country.
Many throughout the world believe that terrorist corps such as ISIL have initiated a war against the West. The idea of “clash of civilizations” among many academicians and political analysts also promotes this assumption. The fact that a large part of victims of terrorist groups are Muslims is one of the challenging hypotheses for the notion that fringe and fundamentalist terror groups fighting in the name of Islam are authentically Islamic. It also is a definite proof against the false belief that the West is the only victim of terrorism.
Accepting the charge of banality, it must be reiterated that all human life is equally important. The value of human life shouldn’t depend on racial, social, religious or political affiliations. Similarly, our response to such calamities shouldn't be premised upon such categorizations that implicitly endorse discrimination. It is a proud fact that we are all Paris and Belgium. But it is a tragedy that we are not Pakistan.
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