I grew up in Pakistan. I suppose many of you who read this know that. Some of you who read this may have even been there with me (and might question the term ‘grew up’, but we’ll set that aside for a moment).
So when I read this Tweet a couple of days ago:
— Inspector Gadget (@InspGadgetBlogs) December 16, 2014
it was a heart-stopping moment. And some of you will have shared that same feeling when you first heard snippets of news. Was it going to be somewhere I knew? Were people I knew and loved going to be caught up in this? Was this, again, going to rival the levels of pain and turmoil I’d previously experienced following other terrorist attacks in the homeland of my childhood? Well, the answer to the first two questions was no – I know Peshawar, and have visited more than once, but the school wasn’t one I’d ever heard of and, to the best of my knowledge, no-one I know was directly involved. Yet while the initial fear subsided, and there was a sense of relief, still my heart aches for a land I love. What I’m going through is not so much a tsunami of emotion (I’ve been there before), this time is more like simply treading water in an expansive sea, shrouded in darkness. It’s wearying, when a country you love is constantly under attack. And yes, it is constant. The Western media don’t portray it all the time – it simply doesn’t interest enough people a sufficient amount to make it newsworthy.
It’s easy, of course, to simply leap to the same conclusions – that this act was the work of monsters attacking a school out of a desire to quash education. Or that it was a meaningless, barbaric, heartless act. But I wonder if that’s an overly simplistic view. I wonder if that’s just the temptation of the West to distance themselves (ourselves…) from it all.
One thing I’ve read more than once is this idea that children should be able to feel safe in school. They shouldn’t feel at risk from attack. And of course I agree with that. But what about the children of the Taliban, who are bombed in their own homes? Shouldn’t they also feel safe there? Some have been reporting that the Taliban have done this as revenge for the loss of their own children. And while we might not applaud revenge, we generally understand it.
I’ve heard comments about ‘innocent children’, but what about the children of terrorists? Are they somehow less innocent? Is the child of a murderer guilty of murder? The child of a philanderer guilty of sexual immorality? The child of a rapist? The child of a thief? I know I’m on thin ice, here, but when a house is destroyed and the family of a terrorist is wiped out, we talk about collateral damage. When a drone strike drifts into a wedding celebration, or a ‘targeted’ attack turns out to be not quite so targeted, we excuse it.
What’s more, one of the reasons these kids were killed in their school is because they’re our allies. They probably didn’t ask to align themselves with the West. But they’re aligned with the Pakistan military, and the Pakistan military has aligned itself, at least to a large extent, with the West. When we ask countries on the front line to take sides with us, this is the kind of thing it can lead to. Of course, mercifully, it’s rarely on anything like this scale.
I’m not on the side of terrorists, but I am on the side of peace. And peace has got to involve more than one side. Watching what’s going on in Pakistan is like watching a family I love tearing itself to pieces. It hurts. And I wish I could be part of the solution. I’ll be praying, and I’d ask you to do the same.
Flip, I don’t know. Head’s full of thoughts. Feel free to come to my rescue here. Or just shout at me. Please bear in mind that this is only one aspect of what I’m thinking.