Just as guns were blazing between the security forces and the militants at the Quaid-e-Azam International Airport, Karachi, and the military had surrounded the scene of terror in an unprecedented show of force, thousands of kilometers away, in Taftan, a district on Pakistan’s border of Iran, 30 shiite pilgrims were killed in a suicide attack, as they returned from Ziyaraat.

According to a news item, which got swept away amidst all the reporting about the Karachi airport attack and the Musharraf ECL order, a suicide bomber entered Al-Murtaza Hotel and detonated explosives strapped to his body in the midst of Shiite pilgrims, who were staying in the hotel for the night, awaiting buses for their respective hometowns. Soon thereafter, a spokesperson from the banned Jaish-ul-Islam, calling from an “undisclosed” location, claimed responsibility for the barbarianism. And the following day, Iran closed the border (Zero Point gate), which was a major route for Shiite pilgrims to visit the Ziyaraat.

A few days later, the same week, Handrey Masih, an MPA affiliated with the National Party, who was elected on a reserved seat for minorities, was shot and killed by his own personal guard, outside his residence in Quetta. The impetus behind his murder, apparently, was simply the fact that he was a religious minority.

Violence in Pakistan is tied to no rhyme or reason. It is tied to no ideology, except that of indiscriminate hatred. Handrey Masih died for the crime of being a non-muslim. The pilgrims in Taftan were killed for being a minority within Islam. The people in Karachi were killed for no reason at all, except for the crime of living in a country where violence is the means and result of most disputes and differences. Our Courts are aflush with cases of family feuds, marriage problems, and land disputes, all being settled through the barrel of violence. Just two weeks ago, a woman was killed outside the Lahore High Court, by her own family members, for marrying out of choice. A month before that, a lawyer was gunned down in Multan for advocating cases that some people found offensive. A few weeks before that, a young man threw acid on a woman who refused to return his advances of a perverse love. In any other society, these points of contention would have resulted in dialogue, discussion, and discourse that culminated in some form of concern over the issues involved. But not in Pakistan.

In this land, violence is our only answer to the inexhaustible variety of life.

Our culture and our laws seem to have become tolerant of a rising level of violence that ignores the collective frailty of human life. It ignores the undeniable truth of history that violence breeds violence. That repression breeds retaliation. And that oppression breeds hatred.

Alongside this violence of individuals, which is barbaric and bloody, there is also the more passive, yet perverse, violence of our institutions. Unaccompanied by the sound of a bullet or a bomb, our State structure, as well as the judicial system, continues to show a certain indifference and inaction towards the slow decay of the society. The State’s inability to arrest all the culprits of violence, and the Court’s willingness to release the few suspects that State agencies dare to apprehend, both cause just as much harm to the project of peace, as does a suicide jacket or an AK-47.

When a rampant philosophy of violence, undeterred by the institutional framework, teaches men to view shades of humanity as insurmountable differences, which must be eliminated instead of being accepted or resolved, we learn to confront each other, not as fellow human beings, but as enemies. Enemies who we must be conquered and subjugated, instead of being befriended and embraced. We learn to see each other as living in a common place, but not connected in a common goal. Sharing a common name, but not a common purpose. Existing in a common time, but not in common suffering.

Breaking out of this endless circle of violence is a shared responsibility between all citizens and institutions of Pakistan. The color of our skins, the choice of our faith, the morality of our being, and the goals of our lives may be different from one another, but the future of our children is the same. Our individual biases, personal fears, and subjective hatred, all flow into that collective national stream, out of which the generations to come will fill their chalices.

As Robert Kennedy once famously said, “Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land.” The solution does not lie in any one legislation, or policy, or judicial dicta. It does not lie in any one institution or arm of the State. This rupture in our national fabric, this wound in our collective souls, will only begin to heal once we learn to see each other as fellow human beings, who need neither be conquered nor converted. That despite differences in our individual ideologies, we are all part of the same human struggle.

One in which our only chance of success is to work in harmony… together.

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School.

saad@post.harvard.edu

@Ch_SaadRasool