It feels like I’m doing these posts almost every week. Just a few days ago this happened and then yesterday a tragedy of another kind back in Pakistan. Tourists were targeted and killed in an area thought to be much safer than the rest, and known to be one of the most beautiful in the country. My heart goes out to those that lost their loved ones. It is heartbreakingly sad. This attack reminded me what is even more disturbing. How accustomed we from Pakistan have become to such tragedies. Back in Pakistan since 2001, some estimates suggest that over 35000 people have died in terrorist attacks of different natures. These have happened in all types of places from shopping markets, mosques, schools, buses, airports, even hospitals. The Pakistan I left behind when I moved to the States has completely changed now.
Just the other day a friend of mine who is going to be visiting Pakistan later this year, asked me if I feel scared while I’m there, specially now that I have a baby. And it went straight to my heart, because of course I get scared, but then, I have been scared since I moved away. Because in the seven years that I have lived here in the States, security situations in Pakistan have gotten worse every passing day. I have been scared for my family and loved ones who live there through it all.
Sadly, I am also familiar with the feeling of it becoming so normal that you hear the news about an attack, you ask where it happened, the casualties, make sure you don’t have any loved ones close to that, and then you go on doing what you were doing. That is how often these attacks take place. My family lived just a couple of miles away from the attempted assassination on Benazir Bhutto in Karachi that killed more than a hundred people. My mom and sister were having coffee in Islamabad where just outside Salman Taseer wasassassinated by his own security guard. They heard it all, hid under tables as it happened outside. Writing these things, just reminds me again how panicked I can get if I let my mind go down this path. Of course I am scared.
But there life goes on, and what looks so scary from here is just every day life there. The endless security checks on the roads, outside shopping malls, offices etc. is just daily business. Of course, there are those sudden moments of gripping fear, when you’re at an airport surrounded by people, or in blocked traffic with endless cars all around, or you’re in a shop and there are people everywhere, and suddenly you glance around, at the faces around you and fear that one of them could be them. Some times you just cant stand there anymore, and as fast as possible, you try to put as much distance between yourself and anyone that looks suspicious, other times you tell yourself if it is going to happen there isn’t much you can do, that our lives are predetermined and you try to ignore these dark fears.
In Pakistan, to survive, sometimes you just leave it to Allah. You decide that you cant stop living, you cant stop going to work or school, you cant stop shopping, you cant stop going out, you cant stop hanging out with your friends. You cant put your lives on hold, because of this fear. Because to do that, would mean that these deranged people would win, and Pakistanis wont let them. So everyday they will pick up the pieces of their broken hearts, take a deep breath, hide their deepest fears, put on their brave face, and step out. EVERY SINGLE DAY.
It is scary, to have the ones you love the most, so close to horrific tragedies like these. It is scary when you visit them with your baby, but millions of babies and kids will spend each day of their lives there. Human life is precious, whether it is theirs or ours. I wont stop going back to see my family, my husband’s family, because they live there, and a piece of our heart is with them even when we are safe oceans away. I wont stop going to Pakistan, because millions there deserve a better/safer world too and I will believe and hope alongside them. Hope for a better peaceful day for Pakistan and the rest of the world.
But at the same time I have come to realize something. I will continue to pray that each one of us, in the words we say, in the things we pass on to our kids, in how we try to empathize and understand will try to break this cycle of violence. That those in power, will try to figure out another way to deal with this violence. Because is there really an end to this, this killing on both sides? Our kids deserve better. Let us all figure out another way. There has to be, this has to stop.
Thanks for reading.