Pakistan’s message in blood to terrorism

Alwaght- The word, blood has come to evoke gory images of violence, brutality and terrorism. Yet, blood has other connotations as well. It is also associated with family and bondage. Blood means death but it also means life.

On Sunday, blood in Pakistan stood for both death and life as Pakistanis used their own blood to write a message to the terrorists killing in the name of Islam; that true Muslims give life and refrain from killing.

Rejecting the Taliban’s targeting of the Christian minority group in Pakistan, many Pakistani Muslims and Christians rushed to hospitals following the Easter attack to donate blood for the victims. Now Muslim blood is running through Christians’ veins and vice versa. This has shown their resolve to unite in the face of extremism, Humanity, triumphs.

This Easter was rather gloomy in Pakistan. It began as a day of festivity, a national holiday and ended in mourning. Christians and Muslims headed to a neighborhood park in Lahore to enjoy the day. Some ended up covered in their own blood, some in the blood of others. A blast tore through the park, killing Christians and Muslims.

The majority of the victims were Muslims and most of them were women and children as the explosion struck near a children’s playground. However, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat ul Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the massacre saying it was targeting “Christians who were celebrating Easter.” This intentional targeting highlights the sectarian nature of such terrorist groups which operate on fanaticism.

Yet, this radicalism is not representative of all of Pakistan nor does it reflect the only attitude toward Christians in the terrorism-stricken country. After the attack took place, scores of people offered their blood for the victims, and support for their families.

A picture circulated on social media showed dozens of people crowding a hospital hallway to donate their blood. “You can kill Lahoris but you can never defeat them. People donating blood,” a twitter post captioned the photo.

The turnout was so large that hospitals and blood banks had to announce that they had had enough blood in stock.

The fact remains, however, that a wave of extremism has swept across the country and sectarian attacks against minority groups are on the rise.

An Islamabad-based think tank, The Jinnah Institute, called the violence “some of the worst mob attacks against minority communities in Pakistan.”

Christian neighborhoods in Punjab and Islamabad “have seen mass attacks fueled by hate speech. These attacks have led to widespread destruction of homes and properties,” he said.

These include two suicide attacks on two churches in 2015 that killed 15 worshippers and the burning of nearly 200 homes in the Joseph Colony in 2013. Both incidents were reported in Eastern Lahore where most of the country’s one percent Christian group is concentrated.

The Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan has targeted Christians for their alleged “blasphemy.” Violent groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba as well as ones under the umbrella of the Taliban militant movement, have united efforts against Christians despite their disputes. Sectarianism and intolerance are notable qualities of these organizations but this does not apply to non-Muslims. They even attack Muslims who don’t share their extremist views and target the Shiite Muslim community for being “infidels.”  In May 2015, six gunmen stopped a bus carrying Ismaili Shiite Muslims in Karachi and fired indiscriminately at the passengers killing at least 45.

Since Pakistan’s military stepped its assault operations on the Taliban’s tribal strongholds in North Waziristan, attacks have increased. At the same time, anti-terrorism sentiments have risen, giving way to awareness of the need for internal accord.

Defiance is in the air that is evident. Blood donation sends a clear message to  terrorism and its followers, a message written in blood—in the peaceful sense—that Pakistan must stand united against extremism.

By Al Waght