Angry rebuttals from certain media quarters and accusations of unpatriotic and traitorous behavior towards the civil society have flooded the newspapers and television screens following the protests against Sabeen Mehmood’s murder. The narrative onslaught accuses Pakistan’s civil society of furthering Pakistan’s enemies’ agenda – some making out the enemies to be the Baloch, others India and RAW.

The most unfortunate aspect of this maligning and neutralizing campaign is that those accusing the civil society activists have long been known as the establishment’s, or rather the deep state’s, spokespersons. It is true that many in the civil society angrily voiced what they honestly thought, and accused the deep state of carrying out Sabeen’s murder for providing a forum to discuss Balochistan’s problems, where the Baloch activists’ opinions could also be heard. Admitted, the civil society does not have proof to back up its accusations, a matter DG ISPR Gen Asim Bajwa reacted to and tweeted about.

But isn’t the first step in obtaining justice to voice one’s suspicions? Even the registration of FIR includes any suspicions the complainant may have. How does the civil society’s voicing of its suspicions become treason and working for the cause of enemies? These suspicions may be well founded or not, but the basis for the suspicions is abound. But instead of trying to smother voices with threats, the deep state (or the not so deep state) needs to now ponder why elements in the deep state are accused so frequently of crimes it insists it has not committed.

Pakistanis have suffered tremendously, for decades now, from the unraveling of their social fabric carried out through insidious ideologies and the ham-fisted attempts at importing, devising and enforcing said ideologies through both state and non state actors. However, it seemed that we had turned a corner on the 16th of December 2014 when nearly 130 of our innocent children were mowed down, becoming ‘collateral damage’ to the state’s policies, in retired general Asad Durrani’s words (the chief spook and architect of deep state policies in his time). One thought, post Dec 16, Pakistanis had decided they did not want to pay such a price anymore. Even Mr. Imran Khan was brought around to casting aside his ‘brothers’ and calling them terrorists.

But the current onslaught on human rights activists does not seem to indicate a change of heart at every level. What is needed is not calling people traitors if they believe they are under attack by the deep state, but an honest probe into who is murdering those that dare to speak up, and accountability of the culprits. I know that Sabeen was under threat for many years, and for reasons other than Balochistan. But investigations, not media trials, should resolve the matter. And an honest dialogue is needed in this country to start a truth and reconciliation process. The state needs to stop treating the people like stupid donkeys. Calling them traitors is not constructive – people say things when they believe they have reasons to say them.

We also know for a fact that elements within at least one of the premier intelligence agencies of this country have their priorities entirely screwed up. What is it they hope to gain by harassing citizens working for the social good of others? One knows for a fact they come snooping if someone is working on the environment, gender rights, digital rights, religious rights, education rights or any such matter. Why are these areas threatening to the state? We know they come harassing and harming if the funding is foreign. Isn’t their funding foreign too? Isn’t the religious right’s funding foreign? Aren’t many of the state’s own development and infrastructure projects funded by foreign governments and citizens? Aren’t even the foreign reserves of the country bolstered from ‘loaned’ monies from terrorism exporting regimes?

And clearly, some of the foreign funded state activities have harmed Pakistan and Pakistanis, ostensibly more than women working on gender rights and the environment. What makes the foreign funds used to sustain the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan more halal than funds working to make freedom of speech more secure?

It is not a joke when the police and all other civilian investigation agencies throw up their hands when they get the first whiff of the deep state being involved in any crime. It is a fact that some intelligence agencies appear to be answerable or accountable to no one. This is a terrible fact that bolsters citizens’ suspicions against their own state. And this needs to change.

Perhaps an NRO needs to be drawn up to enable a truth and reconciliation process to begin. We have bled and suffered enough. This needs to stop and we need to become a nation, evolve from the savages killing the other for their freedom of conscience or belief or speech. The state needs to come closer to the people and begin the process of building trust and healing of wounds - and build a future where we work together, not against each other destroying ourselves completely in the process.