I have been in Lahore for business since the beginning of July. The capital of culture, and the most happening city of Pakistan has been a target for bomb blasts and terrorist attacks since a few years. I was here in Lahore when the attacks at the tomb of Ali Hajveri and its adjoining Mosque occurred and have witnessed the first hand reaction of people since then. While there has been a spate of terrorist attacks in the city since the last few years, many of them high-profile in nature, I believe that the attack at the famous shrine has had quite an impact, given the fame and landmark status for the place.
The Root Cause
It is said that these attacks are the work of religious extremists, who wish to impose their brand of the faith by all means necessary. While I am not ruling this out, it should also be borne in mind that attacks of this type were almost non-existent before 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Did anyone ever hear about suicide bombings taking place inside Pakistan and that too on places of worship? True that there have been sectarian tensions and violence in the past, but gruesome and bloody to this extent? I think not. What we are experiencing is the fallout of the US military campaign in Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan, and Iraq. Prior to the events of 9/11 when no such operations were taking place, inside Pakistani territory suicide attacks against local targets were not there at all.
Fallout From Afghan War
In fact had it not been for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the resulting glorification of religious militancy to win recruits for fighting the war in that country, Pakistan would not have to deal with the problems that it is facing now. I believe that the root cause of the problem that we are facing goes back to the Soviet era days, when to meet the demands of the cold war, religious militants were recruited, groomed and deployed for fighting the Afghan war and after the conflict was over, they were left to their own devices. The fallout from the Afghan war has been all over Pakistan. I remember it all growing up in Karachi in the 80’s.
The Past is Past Us
But that was the past. Whatever the case may be, we cannot undo the past. We can sure learn from our previous mistakes, but as to their effect; you cannot undo the harm. This is natural law. What you sow, that you shall reap. And we are reaping the rewards of what was sown in our territory long time ago. But all this begs the question, what now? What is to be done now to make our society peaceful again? A society where intolerance is replaced by inclusiveness, and were people of diverse beliefs can live peacefully and coexist along their neighbours?
Time To Give Peace A Chance
Attainment of peace, I think it can happen. But only if we want to. Only if we make it happen. The details must come later, for now I will talk about the first step. First and foremost, we need to become peace seekers – for many of us are not. While we moan and complain about terrorist attacks inside Pakistani territory and cities, we turn a blind eye to the damage our own military campaign does or the US drones do to other people. If we wish to see peace in our cities and towns then we must long for it in all manners and also choose the same for our fellow human beings. We cannot achieve peace, if we wish it only for ourselves, but deny it to those who differ from us in any way whatsoever. We must denounce violence. If we aspire for peace, then peace is what we must advocate. Violence, whether from the insurgents, or from our own government or any foreign invader, should not be justified or be accepted in any form whatsoever. My conviction for peace originates from my strong belief in Islam and a careful study of its revelation, the Qur’an. My motivation for peace is religious, for I believe upon perusing sacred texts that violence and blood shed is not God’s method of resolving conflict. All of His messengers called themselves to be “Rasool un Ameen” (messengers of peace), and that Allah extinguishes the fire of war when people kindle it (Qur’an 5:64).
If the US and NATO led war in Afghanistan were to stop; the supporting campaign Pakistani military is engaged in at its north-western border were to halt; the route of diplomatic talks and negotiations were followed among all stakeholders in the conflict; then I can guarantee that the spate of violence that Pakistani cities have seen will end immediately.
End the blood shed by governments, and it shall be ended by the insurgents, for violence breeds violence. If we mourn our dear ones in urban centers, then there are also mothers in rural bordering areas, who have lost their near ones in drone attacks and government led operations.
Lives lost; at all sides is no one’s gain. An American mother’s love for her son on duty in Afghanistan is no less than a tribal mother’s affection for her son who has joined the militants. Love is the same, it is universal and knows no boundaries and transcends languages and cultures. It is because of war that mothers on both sides are loosing their sons. Such retaliatory warfare was not there when there was no US invasion.
Blessed Are The Peace Makers
After we have resolved to seek peace, the second step is for us to become peace makers. You seek peace for yourself, but peace is not easy to achieve. Like many other things in life, we have to work for peace. We need to speak about it, act it out in our daily conduct and most importantly believe in it ourselves. It is when people lose faith in peace that the trouble starts. So along with one’s belief in peace, comes his or her work for peace. We need to make a solid stand for peace in our own circles and surroundings. Work hard to end conflict by all means necessary.
The need of the hour is not to take sides or support military means, but to remain neutral and call for an immediate ceasefire on all sides. Let’s have dialogue among all stakeholders instead of blood shed.
War never gives solutions, but only adds problems. If we want peace, then we should seek it at all costs and most importantly turn to the source of peace, and pray for peace, for He is the giver of peace and enjoins peace for His servants.
The Choice is Our Own
Peace on earth and an end to war should be our supplication. We can have peace in our towns and cities? We can have an end to suicide bombings. But the first step is for you and I to internally, within ourselves become peaceseekers, and externally become peacemakers. Peace for all, whether friend or foe. This is the first step and the precondition to our betterment, for I believe that true saints, revered by many, also advocated the same message. So if you think that the bombing of Lahore’s famous landmark Data Darbar was too much, then you must reconsider your priorities and become a peace activist, for this is the message that is reaching out to you from the blood stained shrine. We can have peace, but we will have to work for it, and walk in the footsteps of God’s messengers. Let us be peaceseekers and peacemakers in the way of God.
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