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Attacking our way of life

Attacking our way of life

Amidst the mayhem gripping Pakistan today, there is also a deafening silence pervading the corridors of power and the ranks of the opposition on the prevailing security situation. That silence, too, is being heard now. Pakistan is at war, and this is a war that is being fought as much in our cities as on the frontlines in Fata.

Wednesday’s attack on a Peshawar market, selling mostly women’s merchandise, is an attack on our way of life more than anything else. It is not a statement of the Taliban’s anti-Americanism as Hillary Clinton lands in Pakistan, nor is it a sign of their hatred against the Pakistan Army, which is carrying out a military operation in South Waziristan. It is aimed at women, as you see that a big number of those killed in Peshawar are women shoppers; shoppers that the Taliban want confined within the four walls of their homes. It is an attack on our way of life as we have lived it in Pakistan.

But back to the silence first: President Zardari met Mian Nawaz Sharif over dinner in the security of the presidency on Monday, and the two leaders did not even utter a word of concern about what the people are having to go through in wartime. Islamabad is a city very much under siege; Lahore and Peshawar are no different. And if you ask parents with school-going children in Karachi, they will tell you the situation in the Sindh capital is no less alarming.

Bickering aside, what Mr Sharif told Mr Zardari at their meeting, that the people were becoming acutely aware of the lack of governance, would have made more sense if he had also said the same thing addressing the chief minister of Punjab. The lack of governance and security failures in that province where his own party rules the roost is equally appalling. This is just bad politics at a time when the people need to see their leaders showing more concern about the challenges staring them in the face.

Opening after a week of closure, many private schools in our cities have installed CCTVs, deployed snipers, and placed sandbags around their buildings as local police patrol the areas during school hours. A sense of fear grips parents dropping off their children at school; not a day goes by without terrorists trying to attack security forces’ personnel, amidst reports that all vital installations, media organs, and educational institutions are in the bull’s eye as far as extremist militants’ top targets are concerned.

Schools offering co-education have received threats from terrorists, which have to be taken seriously because of the history of attacks on and threats against schools and colleges in Swat, Peshawar, and across Fata. In Lahore, the Punjab government keeps shutting down schools which in the government’s view have not made adequate security arrangements. In Karachi, many schools ignored the government’s directive to reopen on Monday, choosing instead to wait until they have the security cover in place that they feel they need under the circumstances.

This, while there is little sense of newsworthiness attached to what’s happening in our cities, even when buildings and installations are not being attacked or security personnel made hostage. The media must share some blame for this state of apathy. Why is the war on terror, which has now come to our doorstep, not the primary concern of the prime time talk shows?

Instead, popular hosts keep inviting politicians to wash their dirty linen in public. Is it not the people’s war that is being fought today? Won’t the people of Pakistan be the biggest losers if we fail to win this war that is aimed at annihilating our diverse cultural norms and the social value system?

Yet, it’s just the number of casualties every day that now seem only to casually make the headlines; the media’s mainstay remains internecine party politics which seem to have little to do with the bigger reality marred by fear and depression gripping the whole nation. There are thousands more families that have been displaced by the ongoing military action in South Waziristan, and nobody talks about them. Millions of parents with school-going children have lost their sleep, and there’s little mention of the fear gripping the people in the face of the threat posed to everyday life in our cities.

The failings are staggering, and dangerously enough, they will be seen by many as the failure of democracy yet again. We are at war, finally seeking freedom from the forces of regression and a medieval, extremist way of thinking, and there is enough freedom of speech in this country to voice disgust and repulsion against this mindset, if only one would. The obtaining security situation has left no one untouched. Yet, surprisingly nobody comes forward to voice that sentiment of the silent majority.

The people want to go back to their mundane routines. Youngsters want to go out to the parks, to the beach, to bowl, to eat out. Women want to go shopping unescorted, and men want to go about their daily chores without worrying about families left at home. This is not happening anymore. People look tired and depressed; while many count their blessings that they are safe, some have had close encounters with terrorism; relatives, friends and acquaintances have been killed and injured, or had to leave their homes.

There’s little sense of an imminent end to the mayhem rattling the people’s minds. The citizens want their sense of security restored. They look to their leaders in askance for at least some soothsaying at this time of uncertainty and turmoil. What they get to hear instead is bickering and mudslinging.

Both the government and the opposition leaders need to come out to voice the people’s concerns and give them hope. They need to own the war being fought against the anti-people forces in Fata, and in our cities – as Wednesday’s attack on a women’s market makes amply clear.

Murtaza Razvi is Editor, Magazines, of Dawn.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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97 Responses to “Attacking our way of life”

  1. Ahmed says:

    Can someone tell me what is meant by the pakistani way of life?

    I was always under the impression that Pakistan was founded as an Islamic republic, created for the preservation of rights and justice for its inhabitants, which can only truly come about through the Shariah. But what went wrong?, have any of the leaders truly worked towards this?. Today decades on we find them calling for democracy, a secular state which promises it’s people to be the solution of their troubles. Pakistan has no one to blame but itself for the situation it finds itself in, it has sold the verses of Allah for a miserable gain, it’s leaders continue to dupe the nation one after another while they build their palaces from blood stained dollars. As for the modern day Pakistani, the perception of Islam is cloudy and a distorted one, only an extreme interpretation by which the western media has succeeded in freeing them from the slavery of Allah to the slavery of nationalism and democracy. I fear that the country my parents are from will be one day be lost to western values.

  2. NK says:

    What way of life are we talking about. I think our only way of life is corruption.

  3. Farooq says:

    The questions im asking myself, but cant dare ask anyone else.

    If taliban were our friends for a decade how come they became terrorists now?

    When we need security, how come political parties are free to roam Karachi with AK47 ?

    When every innocent soul is trembling, how can we allow Rehman malik speak words of steel and hide back to his fortress?

    If Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Hafiz saeed, Syed Salahuddin, Maulana Abdul Aziz are all pious muslims how come Hakimullah Mehsud a bad guy?

    why cant we stop this nostalgic act of double confirming with an illiterate mullah on tv whether it is haram or halal?

    How come Iran sent its revolutionary guard 7KM inside balochistan and we complain about fool proof security?

    We cant take drone strikes, yes it is illegal but why cant out government ask the Americans to vacate our base instead of condemning every time innocent women and children die?

    We call kashmiri’s who call for freedom mujahid, but baloch who do the same are terrorists.

    we call china and saudis our skin thick friends, why cant we think they never helped us in any war, forget whether it is right or wrong. But friends are supposed to help am i right?

    It is high time everyone think honest from the heart, without getting over emotional. Isn’t it time to prove our duty for Jinnah’s pakistan? We cant afford to make any mistake this time of our history, to believe in ourselves and to prove the whole world that there is a silent majority who are just like any other father, mother, brother sister anywhere in the world. Pakistan Zindabad.

  4. Rizwanul Huda says:

    The present situation in Pakistan is the result of almost 30 years of nurturing these elements. It’s like Frankenstien that we were trying to create to fight our enemy which has finally turned into a monster. This people has started killing without distinguishing between friend and foe.
    It’s the time for each of us to realize that our enemy is within us. Our extreme ideology which is based on hatred and destruction is the real root cause of this problem. Although the number of this die hard extremist is low but they have a long list of their sympathizer including general public who suppot them on the name of Islam. In Paksitan 50% of the people support Paksitan Army action in Waziristan and the other half still think that it’s not our war and we should have dialogue with the terrorist who are bent upon destroying anything which is from the civilized society including schools. Just by pointing fingers towards others wont solve the problem. We must realize that something has gone wrong in our society. We must differentiate between our friend and enemy. We must think in a human way. However, it seems that we are too busy in discussing NRO and KLB while there is suicide bombing almost every day all over Pakistan targetting innocent civilian including women and children. Please wake up before the bomber reaches your door step.

  5. GHAZAN KHAN says:

    To eliminate terrorists is not a difficult task for the powerful army of Pakistan it needs only political will of the government. The present government of Asif Zardari seems determined to root out terrorism and therefore success has been achieved in Malakand and Swat. Inroads are also being made in South Waziristan and hopefully the terrorists will be defeated and eliminated from there too. After Waziristan operation they should also start operation against various extremist Islamic groups. These groups are more dangerous then the Pakhtoon Taliban

    These groups are involved in giving shelters, protection and support to these terrorists. One of the terrorists involved in attack on Manawa police center addmitted in public that he was residing with these groups.

  6. Maheen Ghani says:

    Pakistan should get rid these extremists now. They are destroying the peace of our motherland. Its a high time for our leadership to take immediate and effective measures against these terrorists. And bring tranquility , peace and harmony to the nation.

  7. Inday Nava says:

    I agree. The silence is deafening. Amidst all the recent bombings (Peshawar, Pindi and Lahore) not to mention those in previous weeks and months the world is waiting for the Pakistani leadership to say something. The interview with one doctor in Peshawar seemed to suggest that the Pakistani’s are used to terrorist attacks or such violence. As an outsider (who feels like an insider having lived in Islamabad for almost a year and having gone back a few times) I feel that the Pakistani’s are sitting back and just watching everything happen. But I think that is not the real picture. I see fright, despair, confusion in the faces of those captured by news camera’s. Please tell me the Pakistani’s are NOT surrendering their beautiful country to this kind of philosophy? Please my Pakistani friends do something, save your country. I am fearful when I return in a few years I won’t have the same beautiful place that I left in 2005.

  8. maryam says:

    they are targeting schools now what next?God help us!

  9. Ibrahim says:

    Good article.

    And I completely agree with Sheriff’s comment below. But I guess the main problem is, the majority are ignorant, illiterate to identify the reality.

  10. Maheen Ghani says:

    Many of our Pakistani brothers and sisters die, to be more exact killed in the bomb blasts, suicide attacks and other terrorist activities. But we are doing?? just sitting in our air conditioned drawing rooms, showing our sorrow for them..:( But its not enough. We need to realise the importance of national unity which is lacking in our society.

  11. Bilal Malik says:

    you have talked of silence and carelessness of politicians. While this is true, there is another group of leaders whose silence is a real problem. They are religious leaders – ulema and mullahs. They have not spoken againt these terrorists and this very relevent since they control the minds and souls of common people through their Friday khutbas. I think it is almost criminal to stay silents in trying times like these. Those ulemas who do not speak out, should be held accountable

  12. yasir tanveer says:

    According to me we must realise the basis of this problem. Once again after this attack a phone call appears telling that talibaan have done this attack. I wonder that we believe on the sayings of our corrupt leadership. I ask all of u a single, simple question that if i say that our leadership is not sincere with us, does it surprise u?? obviously not, because all of us know examples like NRO etc etc which gives clear understanding that these rulers r not sincere with us. After knowng all this would you still believe on their saying that taliban is doing that??? I think we must realize our real enemy. I think the problem started when US starts interfering in our issues. So the real solution lies in keeping US out of it.

  13. Wigi says:

    Simply put, Abbas Ali (posting on October 29th, 2009 at 9:34) has summarized it in totality … and Ballu (posting on October 31st, 2009 at 4:32) digs it a little deeper.

    The fire that Burns Pakistan now, was actually lit by PAKISTAN (& Pakistanis) to burn a neighbor which was apparently striding much faster on the road to development… is it a fire of jealousy which went out of control??

    If given total freedom to Pakistan (i.e without remote control from US and other powers of the world), Pakistan might become be the most dreaded nation and hub of all Islamic extremists … and that’s the truth.

  14. Mohammad Rafiq says:

    Dear friends,

    We are hell bent to blame Taliban without looking into the root cause. In India, Muslims are the one who are most backward even though lot of facilities are given by the government. In other parts of the world also, the case is same. Why why why ?

    If anybody can answer this, then that is the root cause of terrorism.

  15. Reality Check says:

    And what is the author doing? Sitting happily at home writing articles, pointing at what the government should and should not do.

    I am tired of even reasonable ‘English speaking’ people and papers putting all the expectations and all the blame on government. Zardari this. Government that.

    And if it not the government, then it must be a ‘foreign hand’.

    Pakistan is in disarray because for too long its people have decided to look the other way.

    I can say that the author has never done an hour of community service.

  16. Mary says:

    I am American, and all of us are so saddened by the intentional killing of so many innocent people. Pakistan is a leader, showing the world that they will not tolerate extremism, and are in a sense, “protecting” the world from fundamentalism and radicals. The good people In Pakistan are forging a new beginning for their country, and will no doubt be successful. You have earned our respect around the world with your sacrifices, and we praise you for your good hearts and brave spirits, that will make you the clear winner in this fight against terrorism. Bless the good people of Pakistan!

  17. Taj Mohammad says:

    I suspect the future of Pakistan is at stake in the wake of present crisis. Instead of using only force to eliminate terrorism, they must try to go to root of the present situation. It is not a big problem and can be solved if the government of Pakistan takes sensible steps and the world should come forward to assist Pakistan at this critical time otherwise I suspect Pakistan is going to see a civil war.

  18. george says:

    Purush says: It is indeed sad that the people are going through such a torturous existence in Pakistan and all this for no fault of theirs.
    My friend Politicians world over are the same. They care two hoots for general public. They are interested in the votes and thereafter in notes……

    purush, you must be from india. Not everywhere politicians are as crooks as they are in India. UK politicians, at least some of them are, dishonest and were caught. Some resigned, some have been told that they will never get a ticket again and all the parties got together to stop the loop holes. Now in India lalu and his friends from all parties do not care if some of them are corrupt. The same people become minister and rob the people. Corruption is so rampant in India and here in London, there is no corruption, not at least in the daily lives of common people.

  19. Nusrat Pasha says:

    We are guilty of disregarding the will of the founder of the nation, who had envisioned a strictly non-theocratic and Secular Pakistan. Dragging religion into politics has cost us heavily.

  20. jamil says:

    taliban are an active minority and i think they are a temporary phenomenon. what is going to really hamper the progress of pakistan is a silent majority having more or less same ideas as these people. it is going to take a very long time and a sincere effort to change these minds. question is are we and our leader ship capable of achieving that??

  21. M.Srinath says:

    My prayers are with the people of Pakistan. I sincerely hope that the civil society and the leadership will get their act together to keep the flame of liberalism burning. They owe it to their people.

  22. shubhro dutta says:

    I feel the army needs to act decisively with intent. They should not think of flushing out these terrorists out of Waziristan. In such a case the problem will only get exacerbated. At the moment I am not sure if 30,000 soldiers can counter 10,000 militants, when burdened with the obligation of keeping a low collateral damage. Pakistan is faced with a Hamletian dilemma, ” to be or not to be is the question”, and in such a situation, collateral damages in form of civilian casualty is bound to escalate. I know there are innocent lives at stake, but sometimes you must be prepared to suffer for the greater good.

    The second point is that due to these disturbances, your economy is in shambles. You need businesses to run, you need new investments to boost new ventures,to create new jobs, you need schools, road, health care system. Unfortunately none of these things are being addressed by the political class. Why aren’t youth forums marching the streets demanding jobs, better living conditions. Why has the Pakistani educated class abandoned the cause of the people and run away to greener pastures? Where are all the sons of the soil gone?

    You have to push your politicians to the wall to make them act, else they would simply keep you busy talking about the USA, India and Israel and the theory that the rest of the world is conspiring against you. This is a decisive moment in your history. Its a revolution in the making. Accept change because it is the only thing that is constant.


  23. Aqib says:

    The perception on islam changing because of these crimes committed in the name of religion. Let us stop finding solution through religion.

  24. Asif Iqbal says:

    Pakistan should get rid of these extremist elements in order to overcome current economic and social situations. Both Government and Opposition should transform our religious community to a secular one.

  25. Mohamed says:

    Those who live by the sword die by it. That’s unavoidable Pakistan could have chosen the path which should have solved the matter without a bloodshed but instead chose violence and now paying a heavy price.

  26. Nafees says:

    Our leaders are Living a luxuries life, their faces and body language just dont reveal the severity of the current situation in the country. I say to these leaders go and reach out to families who have lost their loved ones, expose yourself to the same level of danger that public is faced with. We are facing the biggest problem of this century, May Allah swt protect us from it and bring peace to Pakistan. This is only possible if our leaders and nation adopts Islam as a way of life. May Allah guide all of us. Ameen

  27. Hikmatullah says:

    It is a sad day for a great country. Pakistan has been bleeding ever since its creation. The politicians have misused the country and have sapped the wealth of the nation far too long. They are a total misfit. Only the army will set the course right. Democracy cannot work in Pakistan it will further divide the nation. First and foremost Pakistan must stop portraying itself as a beggar nation. People are highly talented and creative. Second the nation should free itself from the curse of class system they have unwittingly inherited. This is not helping the nation. The disparity between the filthy rich and the destituted poor is appalling. As long as these two curses are continued to ruin the nation, there will be such acts committed by people who are not satisfied with the way the nation is running.
    My suggestion is that the military should take back the control of the country and nationalise the assets and make an equitable distribution of wealth and opportunity across the varying classes of the society. This does not mean Pakistan should go communist or socialist. It can strike a golden mean between the two extremism of socialism and capitalism. Perhaps a full-fledged Islamic system that is based exclusively on enlightened moderation would solve much of the problem the country is facing.
    Playing to the tune of the American flute will not solve Pakistani problem. We should stop spilling innocent Pakistani blood for a 7.5 billion dollars.

  28. shumaila kausar says:

    im feeling so sad why we are so selfish and forget every thing and busy in our routine. we as a nation must need to prove ourselves we r not the afghanistan or iraq whoever interfare and we accept them.we are pakistani and we must take care our nation and our people plz Allah help us ur the only authority to solve our problem.

  29. shahzad says:

    Its the fault of the people themselves. Too much religion in every sphere of life creates the root of this problem. Lack of education and ignorance is another cause. Environment in the country is almost like dark ages where ignorant rules over the whole population.

  30. Mohd Aleem says:

    we need collective pray to us from terrorist and corrupt politicians.

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