Written before the May 2013 elections.
In Rawalpindi and Islamabad, where I live and work, I see Karachi in blaring breaking news on television sets. I read about this city bleeding, some 1,500 kilometers away.
But when I look around me, I see an election campaign roaring in the twin cities and I feel embarrassed and ashamed. It is like the distance between our cities is more than geographical; is so large that it muddles comprehension and fails to elicit empathy.
Peshawar, not more than 200 kilometres to the west, is a mere dateline for us, it seems. Next to the city’s name, a photo of a little girl, her head bowed on a bed in a hospital ward. Nine killed, the headline reads. I stare at it. And that is it.
The sounds that reach my ears are not the sounds the girl in the photo from Peshawar might have heard and might never forget. The explosion, ears ringing, the muted silence before realization sets in, panicked footsteps, shrieks of pain, death. I hear songs playing on the TV outside the newsroom. Campaign ads. A cheerful tune promotes one political party, a crescendo announces a leader and a famous Urdu poem of resistance is used by another contender. It is not so even on the ground.
We are fortunate in the twin cities and perhaps indifferent. But until when?
So here is a recap, in case you might not have noticed: Thursday, Karachi, 5 killed. Friday, Karachi, 11 killed, 45 injured. Saturday, Karachi, 6 killed. Sunday, several cities of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 9 killed, around 50 injured. Monday, Peshawar, 9 killed, over 60 injured.
Forty people died and over 150 were injured in attacks, most of which directly targeted political parties for their ideology, just in the space of five days, from April 25 to April 29.
I believe a lot of people waste their time reading this space. I would like them to go back and find headlines upon headlines, stories upon stories, of people who have been killed in bomb blasts and suicide attacks and in drone strikes and in sectarian violence. Read and think. Is this really what we want?
The citizens of Pakistan have a chance to elect their representatives based on the performance of the people who are contesting these elections. Instead, our collective failure in social action and policymaking to stand up to militant aggression, our apathy towards the lives of fellow citizens, our desensitized selves and, most of all, fear might keep us from doing that.
Before this week, I was not going to vote in these elections. But now I might go after all, just to let the Taliban, who have claimed responsibility for some of these attacks, and other undemocratic forces know that at least I am not going to be deterred by their violence and that the innocents who lost their lives during the past week ‘s attacks did not die in vain.