One week of watching our news channels, peppered with social media debates and comment sections, and you’re absolutely gutted by the intolerance that has seeped into the nation’s psyche. It’s the realization that nothing is going to destroy this country more than the fear of the ‘other’, whoever that might be – neighbor, teacher, poet. We’d already made a 101 things taboo, reducing any chance of having healthy conversations but now a slight difference of opinion can put you on a hitlist. On the other hand the list of people that are safe in this ‘land of the pure’ is getting shorter every passing day. Everyone is branded with one label or another, because it’s easier to attack a label than a human being. Blasphemer, Ahmedi, Shia, Sunni, Liberal, Secular, Atheist and it just goes on.

A few years ago, we feared suicide bombers sent into cities by the Taliban. Now we fear being attacked or shot down in the street, because we said the wrong things, spoke out for the wrong cause, asked the wrong question or merely thought the wrong thought. We’re suffocating a whole generation, taking away their right to not only speak but think freely. Forget conversations, this is the era of hate speech and insensitive vitriol. But for once, this problem has a solution from the bottom up; we don’t need our political and religious leadership to tell us to be kind to each other, to respect each other’s civil liberties, to listen to what the other person has to say and to stand up for each other refusing to pay heed to labels that are being thrown out there.

If we can share videos and make statements about how Donald Trump is a racist and bigot and get all riled up, we can do it on the home ground as well. We made noise when Khawaja Asif used derogatory language on the Parliament floor for a female parliamentarian, we can surely do the same and do it louder when a politician or journalist or an imam in a masjid resorts to hate speech for anyone or any community. We can refuse to stay quiet when our fellow Pakistanis are being slaughtered in broad daylight, no matter what caste or creed or political affiliation. We need to own up to our identity as Pakistanis, and stop being a part of the ‘silent’ majority. I truly believe that this is not beyond us, if we can make videos of teachers talking about secularism then we can most certainly make videos of, and hold accountable, people that are turning our country into a hostile environment safe for no one. If we can put pressure on the government to change the selection committee of the Pakistan Cricket Board we can definitely tell the people in Parliament and on our TV sets that pitting us against each other will not get them votes anymore, that they will be called out for their dangerous tactics and held accountable for what words they irresponsibly utter in the guise of emotion.

This isn’t a fight for utopia, this isn’t even a fight for an ideology anymore. This is a fight to protect our civil rights, our rights as human beings to think, live and speak freely without it being a threat to our lives.