Another day, another bomb blast. Whether it is men of the security forces or innocent citizens going about their daily routines, for the second day in a row they are called upon to offer the ultimate sacrifice. From explosives in van at the parade ground inside the Bannu cantonment to a suicide bomber in a main bazaar in Rawalpindi, nothing is secure. Inside the GHQ or just outside it. A naval surveillance aircraft or an FC bus. Nothing is safe. Terror reigns in Pakistan.
Acts of individual bravery reveal heroes among us and we pay homage to the likes of Aitzaz Hassan or Chaudhry Aslam, who have stood out as symbols of courage to remind us that we may still be alive. But then the news hits us.
Day after day. Until there is no sense of surprise or shock any more. Just horror. And a deep, dark grief. In the pit of the stomach. A gripping, aching sense of despair that seems to squeeze the breath out of our lungs. We are lurching, it seems, without any sense of direction or control, from one devastating incident to another. Trapped by our own duplicity and lies in inconsistency, indecision and inaction.
Crush them, they scream! Negotiate with them, they urge. Nobody does anything. The juggernaut hurtles towards the inevitable. As winter gives way to spring and the snow recedes, so does any hope of peace. It was always a false hope. Decisions had been made long ago. There are only puppets here. Jumping and prancing on television talk shows to keep us engaged in meaningless debate.
“Destroy them,” they cry. “They are barbarians!”
Puppet masters hold the strings. Driving the debate to ever more simplistic polar extremes. The thirty second sound-bites that are the lifeblood of television news scream ever louder. Deeper intellectual debate is boring and unnecessary. We all know our positions and our prejudices are the truth. Our minds are closed and we have chosen sides. The chasm is deep and it is wide.
“Bomb them to hell,” they demand, “like they blew up our people.”
Everyone has an agenda but it is a secret, not for public consumption. We are too stupid. We wouldn’t understand. Allies are also enemies. Enemies are also assets. In the cloak and dagger world of agencies and intelligence, lies are the truth and the truth can be all lies.
Is the US an ally? Watch what the interior minister said recently. Are the Taliban an enemy? Watch what the BBC has to say about the ISI’s support for them? There is no clarity. Both are friends, both are not. We want to have our cake and eat it. Militants fight our proxy wars. The US gives us a billion or two each year. Both are friends, both are not…
In the midst of all the duplicity and lies, the narrative of peace hangs its head in defeat. The vultures have won. It is a matter of time now that the violence will spread. Many more will have to die. The puppet masters want more blood.
In the meantime, we have numbers. 13 dead. 8 kilograms of explosive. 7:45 in the morning. 16 injured. 3rd bombing in a week. Numbers. To numb us. To distract us from the pain. They do their job. Numb-ers.