D-Chowk is the protest spot of Islamabad. It looks like a place where the earth has churned up concrete barriers and barbed wires. On one of the barriers, someone had graffitid: ‘Stop Shia genocide’. A few days later, it was black charcoaled, later it faded and the graffiti was visible again. Then it was white-outed, and that faded too. Eventually, some zealot, after obvious concerted effort, scraped it out altogether.
This is the capital, so the schema behind supporting the continuation of Shia genocide is a bit benign. Not the case with Taftan.
In Taftan on June 8, 2014, terrorists, suicide vests and all, blew themselves up in a hotel where Shia pilgrims were staying. Some of those who survived were sprayed with bullets. The final death toll was 30, including women and children. This national tragedy was morphed in the tiny tickers on news channels because of the Karachi airport attack. There are those in the media too whiting out the graffiti.
How do genocides begin? The first stage is a systematic dehumanisation of the target group.
In a report on hate speech on the internet, local advocacy organisation Bytes for All revealed that the group against which there was the highest quantity of hate speech recorded were the Shias. Our internet is again a milder form, reflecting our biases; the real hate speech happens through loudspeakers in mosques and in the pamphlets that are distributed after sermons that essentially glorify a certain mainstream brand of Islam and demonise the rest. Shias have always been easy targets.
The Hazara Shias have been particularly vulnerable because they are also an ethnic minority with easily distinguishable features and are relatively isolated. They also have few friends in high places. With a faith that is built on the reverence of those who faced persecution with moral courage, Shias are the least deserving of victimisation. Not that anyone ever is. Almost to their disadvantage, they are forced to practice the patience and fortitude only some of the greatest examples of Islamic history have had to face. They should not have to face this also because we are living 1,400 years from that persecution and also because the state has a constitution that is supposed to protect its citizens from genocide.
Terrorism is, unfortunately, a reality that anyone in this age needs to accept. The problem, however, comes from the numbness of our hearts as we turn off our inner humanity and tune into exclusivism and superiority. This mentality, now growing, helps create an aura of tacit approval for those carrying out these acts. Others, more mentally deranged, create their own franchise of terror in support of their ideology through arms. The government seemingly has no resources to contain terror, which is a product of incompetence and misplaced priorities. This has astounding and tragic implications in terms of lives lost, but it is not deliberate. What is unforgiveable, however, is their lack of leadership, lack of decisiveness and ineptness in the art of a counter sermon. However, they are not alone in supporting the pogrom.
The opposition, instead of providing the uniform voice that holds the spirit of the nation together, has instead dangerously ventured into narcissism on turbo. The ‘we-would-be-in-power-only-if’ narrative is both inconsequential and completely ignorant of the survival tools the country needs. The cure for less democracy is more democracy, and democracy does not just mean win, it also means synergise.
No one from the top party leaderships has condemned the Taftan tragedy with the fervour needed. Politicians, too, white out the graffiti. Jaishul Islam, a banned outfit, gloriously claimed responsibility for the attack in Taftan. Someday this group will take over a piece of our country, graffiti with the blood of minorities on its walls, which will be a pro-genocide message, some of the current prime time television evangelicals will have deputy positions in that political formation, women will stay indoors and come out in chadors (coverings) only to be shot in the head, girl children will stay home and boy children will take up jihad.
What seemed like Fox News dystopia for Pakistan is now a growing reality.