Another day, another massacre: target, our children. This is the sad reality of Pakistan, a country gone so wrong that to put it on the right course of history (if we can collectively figure out the right course) seems to be a task beyond human capabilities.
This time the same perpetrators–those who claim to know the mind of God and can only enforce their version of religion through violence–targeted women and children at a park. I could call them cowards, but that would be stating the obvious and I am also tired of such labels. There is a limit to what one can accept as normal, and killing children in the name of any God, no matter how holy, can never be right!
We have been here before: last time they came and killed our children, we resolved to send them a message. We announced an end to such cruelties and enacted laws, laws that would not only permit our armed forces to pursue and destroy these terrorists but would also allow the nation to prosecute all forms of hate speech. We have failed in implementing those laws. In the end, laws are useless without implementation and without the popular will behind them.
While our children were being killed, the followers of a religious political party were busy destroying our capital to protest the legal execution of a murderer. It seems our mullahs and their acolytes are far too busy defending the murderers and have no time for the innocents killed in the name of their religion.
Yes, the Taliban need to be defeated! But more importantly, we need to defeat and wipe out all traces of fascist thought, hate speech, and acts pf epistemic and material violence. For far too long we have allowed these merchants of death and hatred to define our public discourse! It is time we took the public sphere back and mounted our collective acts of rhetorical and semiotic interdiction. We all have to speak up and condemn all such acts, all statements that scapegoat people, that pit one group against other. We need to hold our so-called religious scholars accountable when they maintain their troubling silence when our children are being killed. We need to make Pakistan a dangerously hostile place for all Taliban sympathizers.
Yes, today we cry for our children and for the innocent killed in Lahore, but let our tomorrow be full of hope and resolve. This fight is for our future, for the sustenance of a nation that can tolerate difference and where all citizens feel safe and protected. We need to work together for a Pakistan where no one lives in fear, and where the purpose of the law is to protect and nourish life and where religion serves as a solace and not as weapon to destroy life!
How would we do that? Hard question to answer. Against such forces of hate we all feel powerless, weak, and ineffective. We feel weak because we have internalized thinking individually, in isolation. If we all stand together and mount our semiotic and material resistance, the one would become many and many is the thing that these monsters cannot face!
So, let us put aside our political, cultural and religious differences. Let us make it our mission to voice our opinions whenever anyone tries to frame one group as unwanted to posit any novel ideas of religion that exclude some people from the promise of our nation. Yes, we need to work in our own spheres, in solidarity, but persistently and sincerely. We need to hold our journalists, our leaders, our military commanders accountable: we need to remind them that they serve us, that we are the people and that without us there would be no country for them to govern!
Here are some of the things we can do:
- If there is a civil society protest in your city, join it. Add your body and your voice to it.
- Write: blogs, articles, tweets, Facebook posts! Words matter!
- Report all acts of semiotic and material violence.
- Question the mullahs and their ilk. Ask them what their plans are for the future.
- Help the weak amongst you.
- Do not think of anyone as less Pakistani than you because of their gender, religion, ethnicity, or region.
- Absolutely always challenge any narratives sympathetic to the Taliban and their like. Yes, they are angry and probably disenchanted, but does that give them the right to kill our children?
Yes, we mourn today, for the loss is great and the wounds deep. But we are a resilient nation. We have been here before. We have been tested time and time again. And yet, despite these atrocities, average citizens of Pakistan wake up every day, go to work, love their children, take care of their parents, and love their neighbors. This love and respect for each other is the glue that binds us; this is the mortar that holds the edifice of our nation together. So, let us live through this and remember that from now on every inch of the public sphere is at stake and we cannot concede it to these merchants of death without a fight.
In the end, we only live once. Let us live with honor and let us live to create a better future for our children!