The state’s consistent retreat against religious extremists has emboldened them to persecute anyone they so desire. Be it security personnel or polio workers, schools or mosques, the Shiite Hazara community or Christians, everything and everyone is a target. The latest additions to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s long list of enemies are the peaceful Kalash tribe and Ismaili Muslims of the scenic Chitral valley. The TTP’s declaration of ‘jihad’ against these two minority groups comes as a surprise to only those who have still not understood the ideology that drives these militants. Both minority groups have been living in peace in the same region for decades. Their unique culture has been celebrated and even advertised by the country in order to attract tourists from all over the world. Unfortunately, the same uniqueness has now become a cause of concern for them, and the rest of us.

To expect the TTP to appreciate diversity is utter foolishness. Live and let live doesn’t bode well with them. Conform or die is the kind of stuff that really gets them going. What did the members of the Kalash or Ismaili communities exactly do to invite death threats? Nothing. It is not what they do, or don’t do, but who they are. In this case, their identity is their curse. But, they can save themselves from bombs and bullets that have been promised to them, if they simply do what is required of them. They can abandon their faith and lifestyle, and convert to the religion of those who have presented them with this ‘choice’. The gravest error we can make at this point is to think that the entire nation doesn’t face the same choice. We do. When they bomb cinemas, schools and kill polio workers, they are conveying what is expected of us. Don’t go to the movies, don’t educate the girls, and don’t vaccinate your children.

So, when the military leadership announces ceasefire, and Imran Khan and co lecture us on the need for peace through dialogue, one must ask them: Peace at what cost? Is the ceasefire for the sake of the Army or the common people? The Kalash and the Ismailis are our people. The ceasefire or the ‘peace process’ is doing nothing for them, or the rest of us. We have been left at the mercy of trigger-happy maniacs who operate with impunity, as our defenders and leaders watch with folded arms. Anyone who thinks that the militants will voluntarily stop short of establishing their ideal homogenous society is delusional. If the state has decided to abandon its people, it’s only a matter of time before the people abandon the state. Wake up, Prime Minister. It’s raining blood, and eventually, everyone will drown.