There was another terror attack in Pakistan. The gods have forgotten to reshuffle our fate; week after week we are brought from a crawl to a standstill. This was possibly a suicide blast in Shikarpur, Sindh, a place that is known more for Sufi Islam, a softer Islam, not the kind that is available more commonly the world over now. As many as 60 Shia worshipers were killed.
So, this attack, in addition to being strange and misplaced, was also met by three different kinds of responses. The first was the automatic outpouring of awestruck wonder about how inhuman this act is for Muslims to commit. It is, in fact, a group called Jundullah with ties to Islamic State (IS) that has claimed responsibility. They very much claim to be Muslim. Expressing surprise over their religion is neither going to dent their version of the faith nor help the grieving community come to grips. The second were the condemnations and the “strong” condemnations that read like the teleprompter at a funeral service. They come from our leadership and the opposition, all who wanted dialogue with these very terrorists. Well, this is anything but a conversation. This is a war that has been going on for decades, one that we have only now begun to look in the eye and that too with a squint.
I say this because there was an opportunity to show some serious resolve to fight militancy by the government yet the right has taken over the narrative again so swiftly under the Charlie Hebdo garb. The protests against the insult to the Prophet (PBUH) was said to have 10 times more numbers than those against the barbaric murders of 132 children in Peshawar, all Muslim. It is not just the narrative the right has taken from the government; it is also their authenticity. While the country rots in a power and fuel crisis, the right and its banned terrorist outfits are developing offshoots of health and rescue agencies. They are shifting legitimacy squarely into their own hands and weakening the writ of the state.
Then, third, there is the rage. Rage at the relentlessness of sectarian militancy in Pakistan and at those who have been incapable of containing it. Rage at the hate speech pamphlets common as autumn leaves that scatter through Sunni mosques. Rage at the fact that some of the dead were little children. Rage at the liberal PPP that did nothing to curb the growing extremism in its province. Rage at the Prime Minster (PM) for calling for a report to gather dust at the same desk that reports of other incompetence lie. Rage at the right once more launching a strike to claim the narrative. Rage at not having less catastrophic issues to deal with, like how to educate our out of school children. Rage at hundreds of shoes outside the mosque in Shikarpur that did not have feet to walk them; they remained there, bloodied.
Yet, no matter how much the rage, regardless of it being the most appropriate of the three responses, there is no connection to a solution. Just like there is no connection to fighting terror by equipping teachers in Peshawar with firearms. Just like there is no connection to reforming madrassas (seminaries) by regulating their curriculum. The solution has the following characteristics: it is evasive, it is long term and it is not in the hands of one person or party. This requires a series of blood transfusions, not just a brain transplant. It is important that the body that planted the poison into Pakistan undertake a large role in undoing it. The army must re-programme its ideology and root out the extremism it has so conveniently used to its advantage. Experts say that is like asking the cat to guard the milk. Still, there is no moving ahead in what is Pakistan’s last secular institute to undo its bad strategies.
For 2,000 years, until the 19th century, the medical practice of bloodletting got patients treated by drawing their blood. This aimed to have humours remain in balance. If this were true of countries, Pakistan has hardly any tears or blood left; anaemic and cyanosed, it has given more than its share to this ancient practice that modern medicine has rejected: the blood of its weakest and most vulnerable.
“Our target was the Shia community. They are our enemies,” said Fahad Marwat, a Jundullah spokesperson, after owning up to the Shikarpur attack. He did not care to elaborate. Approximately 4,000 Pakistanis have been killed in the Shia/Sunni conflict in the past 30 years. The cold bloodedness with which our religious curriculum in mosques and madrassas inculcates hate can only guarantee more bloodletting, and that too all in vain.