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It could’ve been us

What is most shocking is the fact that it could have easily been us instead of them, our school instead of theirs

It could’ve been us

It is quite baffling how the people in our city can change in the blink of an eye. Just a mere 12 hours before the horrendous Peshawar attack, many Lahoris were out at the Charing Cross listening to Imran Khan’s speech. One day we stand divided arguing over political preferences and the next the entire country unites in solidarity against a common enemy.

The way the people in this country turn against each other, and join together are both very fascinating phenomena. One minute we are insulting people who do not agree with our political and religious views, the next we’ll be out in the streets holding hands, united despite our political differences.

Moreover, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram saw a sudden influx of profile pictures going black and status updates becoming sorrowful as we condemned the attack.

While many of us sit and watch the news, we cannot help but feel useless being able to do nothing. As the bereaved families in Peshawar mourn, we sit in our warm and cozy houses and wonder if it could happen to us.

Those children were quite like me and you, they had Facebook accounts where they would regularly post on their friends’ walls, they sat in classrooms and attended lectures from qualified teachers, and they hung out with their friends on weekends just like you and me. Perhaps, what is most shocking is the fact that it could have easily been us instead of them, our school instead of theirs.

There has also been a sudden increase in candlelight vigils, duas and protests by students and the general public alike. I don’t think in any of the nights since the attack, has the Liberty market roundabout been empty. But does any of this change anything?

It only provides us a certain sense of relief, maybe; or helps us sleep better at night in our safe havens.

While it is a nice change to see people so motivated and united, the real question is perhaps, how long this will last. How long will it take to lull ourselves into a state of denial so that we can return to our daily activities without much worry.

Another important coincidence to note is how two of the darkest days in Pakistan’s history coincide on the same date — just 43 years apart. Not many remembered, in the early hours of Dec 16, when the news of the horrific attack on Army Public School in Peshawar had not reached us yet, that it was the very same day when we lost our counterpart “East Pakistan”.

As I left for school that morning, not knowing the atrocities that would unfold just a few hours later, I remembered what I had read in history books of the sadness of losing East Pakistan in 1971. All those years ago, we lost a part of our country. Today, we are losing our people.

All these events have instilled in us a deep sadness that is not likely to leave us soon. But we must start to think about the future and how we can prevent anything like this from happening again.

Minahil Tariq

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The author is a freelance contributor who writes about music, theatre, and other events taking place in Lahore.

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