Perspective - Forum

Who feels safe in Pakistan?

Updated Jun 22, 2016 07:02pm

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Illustration by Zehra Nawab
Illustration by Zehra Nawab

“In the land of the pure, only the dead are safe.” This was going to be the entirety of my article, an offering at the altar of self-loathing, a slap in the face of the hopeful, and an expression of sheer disdain for the “500-word minimum” editorial brief. It would haunt your dreams, this searing sentence. It would force you to introspect and examine. It would wrap your makai in a warm protective embrace once this issue makes it to the kabari-waala.

But then I recalled the corpse-eating cannibals of Bhakkar and realised that the dead weren’t actually safe. Not really.

The next option was to write something like: “Only those who make others unsafe are safe”, which would then lead into a lament about how terrorists walk free and without a care. But then I thought about Osama and all the other Al-Qaeda terrorists who were either killed or "guantamoed" while in Pakistan. Local mass murderers haven’t fared too much better, what with Malik Ishaq and many of his ilk having accidentally, tragically cut off their heads while combing their hair. So that was out too, as are the Taliban. But wait! That only applies to the ‘bad’ Taliban of the TTP, right? The ‘Good’, ‘fair’ and ‘Just OK’ Taliban can still run around safely, right?

Also read: Republic of fear—Bigotry and blasphemy in Pakistan

That’s not really true either, not after Mullah Mansour. Look, it doesn’t matter what side of the border the missile was fired from. The point is he was in Pakistan and he wasn’t safe. Not even a little bit. Hell, he even reportedly went to Iran for medical treatment, which also points to how unsafe our hospitals are.

We can rule out Prime Ministers – both former and serving – and of course ministers and governors and even dictators flying in C-130s. The same applies to other government officials, police and military personnel – all of whom have been, and continue to be, targeted. Even our nuclear weapons seem to need more security than they actually provide.

But it is nevertheless true that you get more unsafe the closer you get to the margins of society. Minorities are generally more unsafe than the majority, and even within the majority you have to adjust for variation. Women are more unsafe than men and, proportionally speaking, transgender people are utterly unprotected. Geographical location and income also matters: a resident of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is more likely to die in a terror attack than a resident of Sindh, for example. A man driving a bike is more in danger of police extortion, accidents and highway robbers than the man driving a Prado, and so on. Conversely, the Prado owner is more likely to be kidnapped for ransom, so that does even the scales somewhat. Suffice it to say that while we are all unsafe, some are more unsafe than others.


Zarrar Khuhro is a journalist and co-host of the TV talk show, *Zara Hut Kay. He tweets @ZarrarKhuhro*