‘Another terrorist attack in Peshawar,’ said the newscaster in an overly alarming tone while the breaking news kept flashing with perfect suspense-thriller sound effects. Perhaps another blast, I assumed, and flipped the channel. An hour later I accidently switched to another news channel which was bombarding my TV screen with the same news but with deafening sound effects. My instinct reaction was to change the channel, once again.
Did they say Peshawar Airport?
I stood froze.
“Terrorists… Rocket launchers… Peshawar airport…”
Hurriedly picking up my cell-phone, I started dialling my uncle’s number. I just read his Facebook status – he was flying to Peshawar today. My heart was throbbing. I could not breathe without my lungs severely cramp my chest. Why would not he answer my phone? My brain was numb. I could not even bring myself to imagine what might have happened. Hands shaking, eyes pinned to the TV screen, lips reciting some Quranic verses and ears super-glued with the mobile – I was terrorized. My calls went unanswered for hours. Was it time to believe the unbelievable? I leaned on my sofa with a pale face and flipped open the laptop.
“Flight to Peshawar Delayed – VIP Lounge, Lahore Airport” – my uncle checked in.
Phew! I could breathe again.
Terrorism in all its forms is atrocious and hateful. It dreads humans of all colour, creed and ethnicity. It scares you to death. It drains out all the energy and leaves you paralysed. But can one be immune to terrorism? I now ask myself every now and then.
It is not just this one incident. Times are gone when a gunshot had the ability to shake our souls. Believe it or not, we are somehow immune to terrorism. Part of me wants to blame the news media for spicing up their content and adding dramatic effects which reverse any genuine human reaction to these atrocious acts. But would I be more remorse if the same news was broken without dramatic sound effects? I fail to answer.
Just spare a minute and think. If you are not one of the terrorists, you are the victim. All I have ever learned is that victims who are immune to suffering are doomed to failure.
Perhaps we do not have many options to choose from. Dreaded or immune, this country is our home. It provides us shelter. We deal with terror in our own way – we overlook it, we condemn it, we blame and we move on with our routine.
Last week I crossed paths with a Karachite. He was visiting Lahore for business. As a typical Lahori, I could not stop myself from lauding the supremacy of my city. I love Lahore. I was born here. I was raised here. It means the world to me. My business counterpart looked at me and smiled: “I cannot stay in Lahore for more than a week. I love Karachi the way you love Lahore.”
“But how could you even live in Karachi?” I regretted the minute I uttered those words.
A British friend hesitantly supported my statement claiming he would willingly travel to Karachi. He was scared to death. As the discussion prevailed I noticed a defensive tone in my Karachite business friend.
“So should we all flee? Are you suggesting that I leave Karachi and shift to Islamabad? Wake up to a curfew because another scholar has decided to keep innocent students as hostages. That is when you would expect me to flee to America – the land where anyone would enter my children’s school and open fire at them. Where do I go next? Please tell me.”
There was deafening silence in the room.
We are a nation dealing with our own miseries. We meet foreigners and all we keep worrying what they might think of us as Pakistanis. We are being judged all the time. We, as a nation, need to be sensitized. We need to feel the misery more intensely because only we have the ability to understand our realities. Feel the terror, own the pain and cry for change – because if immunity is our fate, we are doomed to fail.
P.S. This article can also be read at: http://blogs.thenews.com.pk/blogs/2012/12/if-we-stay-numb-well-be-doomed/