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Opinion

May 16, 2015

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A distant dream

Things are getting better in Pakistan, we are told. The number of terrorist incidents has been reduced. Mega projects in big cities will facilitate thousands of people get about their business faster and at a reduced cost. Solar power is no longer something to wonder at; it is very real and gaining ground as a solution to our perennial electricity problems. The Chinese have decided to invest a lot of money here and allowed us to reject imperial requests for military help.
The sun isn’t shining just yet but some rays are definitely piercing the fog. For the optimists amongst us, these are reasons enough to hope for a better, quieter and safer future. For the most part, it does look like things have taken a turn for the better despite the occasional incident.
But this is only part of the picture. Pakistan is not composed of only the big cities where terrorism happens or of the people who use the metro bus. Several million lives have slipped through the cracks, either forgotten or ignored.
There are the children who are abused and traumatised but are too afraid to speak up. There are the women who are raped, beaten and killed but their cries for help fall on deaf ears. There are the poor and the displaced who stand by roadsides with empty pockets and empty stomachs waiting for help that never arrives. There are those who languish in prisons and those who are killed for airing views that ‘hurt public sentiment’.
And there are the minorities of this country that are being systematically targeted while at the same time being told that their plight has nothing to do with their religion and everything to do with the overall destabilisation in the country.
For these people, there is no ray of sunshine. Things are taking a very, very long time to change and meanwhile more people keep losing their future to the violence that permeates the very air we breathe. Pakistan falls woefully behind when it comes to human rights and protection for its weaker

citizens, those who suffer the most and are least heard. The attack on the Ismaili minority this week goes to show just how very long we need to go before things become better for everyone, even those whose lives have fallen through the cracks and been forgotten.
The minorities of this country exist in a perpetual fear that makes them some of the most docile and law-abiding citizens around. When one is always afraid of being targeted either by the law, by rampaging mobs, by some religious zealot or by random terrorist groups looking to make a statement, one learns to toe the line in every sense of the word.
There is no proselytising and no public debates. Members of minorities live their lives quietly and usually do their best not to attract attention to themselves lest it bring problems and threats not just for themselves but for their loved ones.
Yet that is not enough to satisfy those bent on eradicating them. No matter how good a citizen, a person from a minority community may get attacked anyway simply because their very presence is now considered an affront to ‘public sentiment’.
The delayed responses by those in power are often too little too late. They carry little conviction and have lost whatever sense of empathy they used to evoke from having been spoken too often and being followed up by too little action.
The sun may shine bright on Pakistan once more in the near future but it probably will not reach those lives that are stuffed in cracks and forgotten.
The writer is a businessstudies graduate from southern Punjab.
Email: asna.ali90@ gmail.com

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