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And Then They Came For Our Children...

21/12/2014 8:36 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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If you live in Pakistan, the chances that you have locked your emotions in a box and thrown the key away are significantly high. It may have been a conscious decision or may have just happened over time without you even realising it. You see, when you deal with double-digit death tolls and images of severed limbs and heads on a regular basis, not feeling or having to talk about them makes living easier. Though, every once in a while, something strikes too close to home and you are left wondering how you would have reacted if the doctor shot in front of his son's eyes was your own father. Or if it was your brother's disappearance that you had been protesting for years without anyone paying heed. You shudder at the thought and say a silent prayer for them being just that... thoughts.

That luxury was taken from us on 16th December 2014. When seven men massacred 132 children in a school in Peshawar on a sunny winter morning, there was no looking away. Those barbarians may have unleashed the monstrosities under false illusions of paradise, but they showed a nation of over 180 million people what hell looked like.

As the death toll on news websites climbed from 4 to 86 to over a 100, the country stared at their screens in silence. Stunned. Paralysed. Broken. The official death toll was finally closed off at 148. But a part of all of us died with them.

Three days have passed since that heinous morning. Most of us have tried everything from prayers and vigils to emotionally loaded words and silent tears in order to numb the pain. None of it has really helped. None of it really will.

Less than 48 hours later, an anti-terrorism court has granted bail to one of the key suspects in the 2008 Mumbai attack. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has lifted the moratorium on death penalty to instil fear in those who are willing to blow themselves up as the ultimate expression of devotion. 'Precise' airstrikes, whose targets, accuracy and collateral damage will only be presented to us through a veil of numbers have been resumed by the army once again.

The state seems to have jolted into action. But most of these actions are driven by emotion rather than reason. Fortunately or unfortunately, emotions have a shelf life--pain fades away and anger turns to acceptance.

Instead of knee-jerk jingoistic reactions, what is needed is a blanket security policy that guarantees equal protection for everyone regardless of their religious, ethnic, political and social backgrounds. A systematic flushing of the toxic mindset that breeds hatred and intolerance in well-known seminaries is the need of the hour. And most importantly, there is a drastic need for the courts of law to punish criminals on the basis of what they have done rather than who they have targeted.

The solutions are not new or groundbreaking. They have been staring us in the face for years now. But instead of facing the ugly truth, we chose to tiptoe around the issues. Had we gotten our hands dirty when they came for our Hindus, Shias, Christians and Ahmedis, today they would not have been soaked in our own children's blood. Had we raised a voice when humanity was being paraded naked in villages or burning in a brick kiln in Lahore, we would not have been screaming alone today.

But instead of looking the monsters in the eye and calling them out for what they really were, we let them into our mosques, our markets and our homes. It was only a matter of time before they came for our children too. And now in their tiny coffins, lie their dead bodies and our dead souls.

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