Pakistan seems to have taken the center stage  for all the wrong reasons. From murder resulting from hate speech by a pseudo religious scholar on national television to the murder in cold blood of over 130 children in  Peshawar, international attention retains ever present focus on its blasphemy laws, Hudood laws and honor killings. It doesn’t just end there, the manner of those murders is as horrific as it can ever be for the generations to come and will haunt all those who have witnessed and read about it.

The culture of extra judicial  public killings, mob violence, burning humans alive, beating people to death are all those crimes and murders that have been conducted in broad day light where people and police were present. What’s more disturbing, in some cases people were comfortable filming  the incidents on their mobile phone, taking pictures and later posting it on social media but not once any of those or the silent viewers have come forward to help the victims. In other cases, there is sheer denial of the cause of problem or apologetic explanations.  The commonly observed actions and inactions in all those incidents that is worse than the killing itself is the silence of masses. These are all classic signs of terrorism including human rights’ violations, massacre of minorities, children in a school in Peshawar. We all shake our heads quietly, post sad memes, offer prayers for the victims but it's time more was done about it.

Tolerating intolerant behavior, staying quiet watching atrocities and justifying actions for religious, cultural or any other reasons... terrorism seems to have deeply infiltrated and homesteaded right into the social structure of Pakistan in the form of active and passive terrorism. The country has been struggling with it for years now and it seems to have kept growing over the years. Majority of everyday news is covered with reporting some form of terrorism in more than one part of the country.

Wherever terrorism spreads, and again, I am including human rights violation in terrorism, the government and civil society get together and find a root cause of the problem before looking for the solution. In Pakistan’s case the root cause is very obvious yet ignored or in most cases denied which in itself is a form of passive terrorism.

Passive terrorism is a newly emerged term and hasn’t been widely discussed enough to be a part of the dictionary. However I define it as an “inert or quiescent behavior towards terrorism; an inaction, non-reaction, non-participation, non-involvement in countering terrorism. Passive terrorism describes a behavior of general public or government which silently allows the spread or promotion of terrorism by turning a blind eye or tolerating terrorism. Passive terrorism prevails when there is no deliberate effort or decision to either counter it or to raise voice against it.”  

In an analysis of active or passive terrorism prevalence, it won’t be incorrect to assert that both have the same cause.  It could be religious pride or ego, fear of retaliation by formidable religious mafia, frustration due to law and order situation, social-economic problems or just an indifferent behavior towards what happens around everyone. Whatever the reason but it has resulted in the condition Pakistan is in right now and we are all guilty of it.

The truth of the matter is, Pakistan as a nation has been desensitized to these crimes.  We hear, we see, we express our sadness and we move on considering it as an everyday routine or, we see mobs gather and start smashing and burning things, houses or people. If something happens that is bigger than a double murder, we find someone to blame. It’s always either India, America and if that doesn’t work then we have our centuries’ old friends, Jews to the rescue.  It’s a double edged-sword. We don’t just blame others, we also deny that the problem exists within or we get upset if terrorists claim to belong to the religion we share and come up with the excuses to satisfy ourselves that they are not following the “correct” form of the religion. But we never take out time to raise our voice against the violence committed against other Pakistanis. Our grief is also sectarian and sexist.

The recent incident of Peshawar massacre has brought a strong wave of rage to the mourning nation, some even demanded public executions of the terrorists. Military came into action promptly and the government seems to be very active as well. All the sit-ins and political protests have been called off in the interest of the nation and a small number of civil society members are working very hard to raise awareness and trying to get things straight . Could we all hope that this will eventually turn into something revolutionary? Well of course we can, that’s all we have been doing since past six decades but it hasn’t changed.

Why? Because we observe three days of mourning and on the fourth day, we move on and don’t look back. Things get brushed under the rug.

Pakistan has all the classic signs of (active and) passive terrorism. Professor Daniel L. Byman, in his article “Passive Sponsorship of Terrorism” (Survival 2005), explains the phenomenon as

“It is not when the regime makes a deliberate decision to provide assistance, though it includes situations where individuals are assisting terrorists without their government's permission. A regime is guilty of passive sponsorship if it knowingly allows a terrorist group to raise money, enjoy a sanctuary, recruit, or otherwise flourish but does not directly aid the group itself. Passive support has the following characteristics:

The regime in question itself does not provide assistance but knowingly allows other actors in the country to aid a terrorist group;

The regime has the capacity to stop this assistance or has chosen not to develop this capacity, and

Often passive support is given by political parties, wealthy merchants, or other actors in society that have no formal affiliation with the government.

The definition applies as much to the political regime as it does to the social one. Being part of the social system each and every one is responsible for passively supporting terrorism by either the outsiders or inside elements. As we see in our society as well, very few openly support “terrorism” and find some insane justification for it. There is only a fraction of people who would openly condemn it or do speak about it. Even the very vocal religious and political leaders either only condemn the act itself or express grief over the loss but no one openly condemns the Taliban or mob killers such as one popular face these days: Molvi Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid.

This passive support can be even more lethal than active support. Pakistani government has been the topic of international discussion for harboring many high profile militant leaders such as Osama Bin Laden. There are justifications issued in favor of terrorist activities, tolerance exhibited towards controversial Islamic laws - such as famous “killer law”; the blasphemy law and its effects on minorities. We turn a blind eye towards the massacre of Shiites of Hazara and mob violence against Christian community or an Ahmadi household.

How do we fix it? Well, it only takes one person to raise the first voice the rest is just to follow and keep moving. Growing up in school we were taught a story Unity is strength. Lucky for us it’s available online. It’s about an old man on his death bed and his sons who always fight and bicker with each other. The old man taught them a lesson by giving them a bunch of sticks and asks them to break the bundle. None of the sons could and that’s how old man explained that together you are an unbreakable bundle of sticks and scattered just waiting to be broken with little pressure.

Pakistan now is like that old man on his death bed and Pakistanis are the kids. Perhaps it’s time we all go back and visit our childhood story and learn how to get together and work together as Pakistanis not Muslims, Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus or even nonreligious or atheists. Call it wishful thinking but it’s the need of the hour to work together, give each other respect, and stand for every Pakistanis life, liberty and humanity and tackle the problems one by one.

Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association) Communications Manager and a human rights activist