2014 has been a peculiar time for Pakistan. Looking back, there are a few victories we could cherish, but the tragedies outnumber the successes. This means we may celebrate the advent of 2015 but we may do so very quietly.
This year, very much like the ones before, Pakistan has been hostage to a manic-depressive cycle of emotions because every little success was punctuated by a series of humanitarian crimes. Juxtaposing forces of good and evil have been shifting towards the darker side and they continue to compete across society: they compete in the marketplace where the seller and the buyer attempt to out-swindle each other; and they also compete in the highest echelons of power where influence is more important to some than the people they have promised to protect and serve.
A review of what we have achieved and lost this year showcases the mind-boggling contrast of emotions Pakistan struggles to reconcile with.
First, a recap of the good news. Millions of people, especially women, marched onto the streets against corruption and in favor of electoral reform. Earlier, in 2013, Pakistan came out to vote like never before. An undeniable cause for celebration. But as we persisted for months on the streets to influence the current government, we lost sight of the menace that was gradually feeding into the core of our state – terrorism. We marched to rescue democracy but we failed to secure the very people we were going to establish democracy for.
Undoubtedly, the death of innocent children in Peshawar ten days ago was a devastating tragedy. But there was something more tragic than the Peshawar attack itself. It was the realization that lives lost earlier this year were not significant enough to unify the various political forces in our country; the realization that our leaders were putting things off until something really horrendous happened.
74 pilgrims died in Quetta. 30 people died during the attack on Jinnah Airport in Karachi. 60 more died in the attack at Wagah Border in Lahore. So the question is, what were these people to the forces that have now finally unified? And why was losing them not enough?
Amidst so much bloodshed, it’s difficult to use the word ‘good’, but here’s the good news: a tragedy that transcended all imaginable man-made divides has given us the strength to look above and beyond those divides. Unfortunately, this also shows how desensitized we were to the news of a ‘routine’ casualty. There should be no room for such indifference in the years ahead of us.
As we mourn the loss of life, we must not forget the atrocities committed against women. Farzana Iqbal was pregnant when she was stoned to death by her own brothers. This happened at the gates of the Lahore High Court and it happened in the name of honour. This too was terrorism. This too was cold blooded murder. This too should have evoked a collective response from our leaders. But it didn’t.
Also, in 2013, a fast bowler in the Pakistan Women’s Cricket Team, Halima Rafique, accused Maulvi Sultan Alam of sexual harassment. The board conducted a hearing that did not include Halima and acquitted Alam. The board also banned Halima from playing cricket for six months. In July this year Halima drank acid and killed herself. This too should have been investigated further. This too should have galvanized our leaders. But it didn’t.
And then, in typical fashion, after a long drought of unhappy days there was something to feel good about: a brave Pakistani girl won the Nobel peace prize. She gave immense hope and strength to the cause of education and women empowerment. But so many of us were so used to feeling so terribly unhappy, we couldn’t digest the hope Malala represented and in typical fashion the conspiracy theories spiralled out of control and a seventeen year old survivor of a terrorist attack suddenly became evil. Yes. Evil.
Beyond the peace prize, there were other less explicit positives we could have celebrated in Pakistan, but nothing that could compensate in anyway for the loss of innocent life. Even now, as I write this column, children in Tharparkar are dying from hunger – another insecurity our leaders fail to address. Why? Because there are no bombs or guns or militant organizations claiming responsibility. Because there is only the whispering death, quietly claiming fragile, innocent life.
Hence, when Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi shook hands for thirty seconds at the SAARC summit this year, we wanted to celebrate but we struggled. When Pakistan’s hockey team entered the Champions Trophy without a penny from the state they represented and defeated Netherlands after sixteen years, we wanted to celebrate but we struggled. When Pakistan’s cricket team captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, known for his modest strike rate, scored the fastest century in the history of test cricket, again, we wanted to celebrate, but we struggled.
And until we begin to feel secure in our homes again; until our basic human rights are understood and honored by the state; until we are truly free from terror and we gain access to justice, we will struggle.

The writer is a communications consultant based in Lahore.