You Are a Terrorist – Go Hang Yourself!

Written by Taha Zaheer

It was just another morning some two years ago. I had taken the regular number from the bus stop and was planning the day at office. A bus full of passengers, hustling for a livelihood, going about their business, and then suddenly the scene changed when a few assailants got on the bus. There were three, probably four of them, and had covered both doors, each brandishing his firearm, not even caring to hide their faces. This was my first ever experience of getting mugged.

Today, when I look back recalling the event it all seems so abnormal to me – a man with a gun standing right in front of me, depriving me of all my valuables! Not for once, as I recall, had I thought of my family or my religion, the everyday life, or the opportunities I would miss if my assailant took my life. It all ended in a little more than five minutes. Such is the mind’s incapacitation that everything else becomes secondary and the body starts acting like a robot, in complete subordination. People may have different experiences when it comes to situations like the one described but this is exactly what I saw two dozen people around me doing.

The memory of the incident had long since been forgotten, when I heard about the tragedy which took place in Safoora. A bus full of lively human beings was moving towards its destination when the passengers got looted; this time, of the most valuable possession that anyone can ever possess – one’s life! Humanity was murdered that day. I am quite sure the ones in the bus would have had the same feeling of incapacitation; the sound of the bullets may have brought them thoughts of their loved ones, caused them panic and fear of the inevitable but whether they would have remembered about their religious obligations, their sect, is highly improbable.

The comparison is not to deprive the Ismaili community of their tragedy or to ignore the threat minorities in Pakistan have lately been facing. The point being presented here is, what actually happens in the moment of utter panic, the inertia, the incapacity of the human mind to react. For argument’s sake, one can say how achievable it would have been for sixty individuals to overpower three or four gunmen. Lives would undeniably have been lost but the toll would not be so high. But then it’s only professional training that enables a person to react in such a manner.

The outpouring of grief and condemnation of the incident from every quarter of the country was unanimous. Every sane human being, regardless of his or her religious belief, was united in their censure of the incident. No bandanas or buntings from other sects were displayed, no fatwas were cherished or any sweets distributed, and yet some social media experts started targeting particular sects, presuming them to celebrate the ghastly event. The gunmen in a moment had killed 45 innocent people! And at a time when the family members were still busy in identifying their loved ones, the bus still dripping with blood, even before the arrival of the officials at the crime scene, the social media experts had already unearthed it all.

While the public was in mourning, feeling the pain of 45 families, being gripped by the same fear of terrorism, and also feeling remorse at not being able to do anything about the situation, these social media warriors would further antagonise and will make one feel as if the culprit. For a moment, the thought that I should step out and hand myself in to the law enforcing agencies, also crossed my mind, as the social media warriors had already declared me a culprit.

It is time indeed, to address the grave problem of perception creation and mind control by these social media activists. They have caused enough disparity and confusion amongst the unsuspecting lot, who frequent these social media sites to get instant information and news.
The liberties and lengths some go to in the name of freedom of speech must be checked. Freedom of speech is a big responsibility and one must not abuse it. To be honest, the kind of independence Pakistani mainstream media and social media exhibit is even more than compared to progressive and liberal regimes.

Meanwhile when the Ismaili brothers held a strong human chain, preventing even the media in glorifying their grief, their social media accounts calling for calm and coexistence, the keyboard warriors were busy spreading anger and hate. From tweets to status updates, condemning and bashing Pakistan, to calling out for persecution of one large sect and even abusing the Imam-e-Kaba, all went on. The four gunmen had imposed terror by way of their guns, whereas the social media warriors had an even more deadly weapon – the keyboard! The terror, the discrimination, the hate spread by these individuals is even more far reaching and damaging then what has transpired. Yes, it is about time we bring some strong controls, impose restrictions, and start persecuting those who are spreading this kind of terror. As it is, abundance of one thing leads to abuse and those who abuse are eventually deprived of the privilege.

The tragedy in Karachi was a failure of security apparatus and the institutions admitted it but yet there were those who for no reason were creating divide; blaming, instigating, so that the tragedy could be split into some sort of major catastrophe.

The Pen is said to be mightier than the Gun and can inflict more damage. The very Pen is now being used by those who wish to see this country in chaos. The implications have already started becoming obvious and counter narrative is losing ground, since logic is always calm and doesn’t shout. It seems like some grand scheme is being executed and the abettors are none other than these social media warriors, most of whom have little or no knowledge of the reality on ground. Expecting these keyboard warriors to understand the situation is perhaps madness, so a better way around is to put a leash on the cyber world, once and for all. The Cyber Bill that we shelved earlier is now needed more than ever. Maybe not in its present form, but we can tailor it; modify it, to suit all stakeholders. However, it needs to be done before it is too late, before this self-perpetuating hatred causes irreversible damage.

About the author

Taha Zaheer

Taha Zaheer holds a Masters in International Relations and currently serves as Digital Marketer for a B2B portal. He loves to commentate on current affairs. He can be reached at taha.z@stratagem.pk and tweets @TahaZaheer

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