Oh, Peshawar!


A city that was once considered the classiest winter capital of Afghanistan has now become a hub of deep violence and despair. Suicide bombings, gun violence, and mass killings has become the norm, and yet the brave civilians of Peshawar still manage to carry on and enjoy their lives, while the fear of death lingers all around them.

However, the most recent of the horrid attacks occurred today, Saturday December 15, 2012 at around 9 pm, and that too at the Bacha Khan International Airport, which is located in the heart of Peshawar, approximately 180 km from Islamabad. It is reported that, so far, five people – five innocent civilians – have been killed and over 25 or so injured by the rocket jackets at the airport, as well as the surrounding areas in Khyber-Pashtunkhwa. It appears that not only one or two, but three rockets were fired at the Bacha Khan International Airport. Unfortunately, the location from where they were fired is unknown, but it wouldn’t take a genius to know that the rockets most likely were fired by the Taliban, and that too from within the tribal areas adjoining Peshawar City.

It’s extremely distressing having to wake up to this news on the timeline of my Twitter, for almost every single person, Pashtun or non-Pashtun, tweeted about this tragic incident and expressed their sad thoughts and well wishes for the innocent civilians, who have died and/or are struggling to survive, due to the substantial injuries inflicted upon them. It is even further distressing to know that most of the victims included children, women and senior citizens, where almost all of them suffered bullet injuries; and some of the injured are in critical condition.

This, of course, wasn’t the first of massive attacks by the Taliban and other Islamist militia within the region, for they routinely carry out attacks in Peshawar, most notably against government security forces. And because Peshawar is located on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal region, which is the major sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, it has witnessed many bomb attacks and shootings in recent years. Yet, this attack on the Bacha Khan International Airport was the first of its kind, for many residents admitted it was the first time such a large attack had occurred on the airport.

It’s just so heart-wrenching having to read about this on the news time and time again and not being able to do anything about it. And I hate this feeling of helplessness; this feeling that more and more innocent people will die in the coming days, months, years, and no one will bother to do anything to stop it. And this violence and turmoil is not only within Peshawar City, but all over Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where young girls and women are also shot and killed for going to school, or trying to make a positive difference.

I was having a conversation about this with a close friend yesterday and she told me that in 20 years, everything will get better. Yet, as much as I wish I could be as optimistic as her, I couldn’t bring myself to agree, considering that the scale of violence keeps getting worse, day by day. The fact that one could lose their lives and the lives of their loved ones, at any moment in time, is the most disturbing thing of all.

It’s easy for us to say that we should just pray for the safety of those that are suffering, but to me, that sounds too easy; too simplistic. Some serious action needs to be taken to stop these inhumane atrocities against our people. We really need to stand up for ourselves and stop relying on others – or outside forces – to help us; to save us. But it’s easy to say this, knowing that it will fall upon deaf ears. I guess I’m just tired of constantly being bombarded with people telling me that we should have hope, or that we should pray for those that are suffering, while not bothering to do anything about it ourselves. But, then again, I can’t blame them, for what can they do? The ones that are trying to bring change in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa barely survive anyway; they get shot and murdered as soon as they are discovered.

It seems to me that we, Pashtuns, have too much personal insecurity in that, as of now, our society is too focused on purifying and dictating ways of what they see as the “correct” or “proper” way of life. However, that’s not how it should be, for in order for us to flourish, we need to allow each individual, group or person, a space and freedom to define and provide better alternatives, hence allowing not only one school of thought to flourish, but rather many other school of thoughts. Simply enforcing or allowing only one group to flourish is undermining those that could provide better, more progressive, ideas. And we, as a supposedly homogeneous group, should have the capability to judge for ourselves what is right or wrong, without resorting to violence, killings, or mayhem.

But I can’t help wonder if that’s possible; whether it will ever be possible. Only time will tell.

5 responses to “Oh, Peshawar!

    • Hello, Anon. Thank you for your comment. As “Anonymous” so kindly clarified, when I said “capital” of Afghanistan, I actually meant WINTER capital, which is not meant to be read in the literal meaning of the word. What I meant to say was that Peshawar was seen as the place where people would come to spend their winters, since it was much more milder compared to the other places within the Pakhtun region. And, this happens even till this very day. I hope it’s clearer now. 🙂

  1. Thanks for writing this up for the people for whom Peshawar is in their heart. Though I agree & share your general sentiments on this sad incident but have a comment on the opening para of this article.

    You are calling the people of Peshawar as ‘Brave Civilian’ as ‘they are still managing to carry on and enjoying their lives, while the fear of death lingers all around them’. To me this is not bravery but exactly the reason due to which people of Peshawar specifically and Pukhtuns generally suffers. Brave people are those who can buy peace for themselves in these times of Wars in which Pukhtuns failed miserably. They cannot take themselves out of these constant sufferings. Any brave nation would have not manage to carry on with their normal lives in the face of such bloodshed of their race.

    For a comparison, let me tell you that the brave people in Pakistan are the citizens of Lahore. I still remember, that after two big bomb blasts in Lahore (One in Moon Market and the other in Data Darbar), people of Lahore came out to the streets in protest. Here are just two news item from the past i am pasting here (http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010%5C07%5C03%5Cstory_3-7-2010_pg13_9) & (http://www.geo.tv/12-8-2009/54341.htm). To me this is called bravery.

    You may have heard these words of Ghani Khan ‘Chey Behissa Sham Rokeegam….When oblivious, I vanish’. We Pukhtuns have become oblivious of our own sufferings and so we are vanishing and vanishing does not mean that we are managing & enjoying our lives. If Pukhtuns want to become brave, they have to follow the brave people of Lahore when they came out to streets in protests against those two terror attacks.

    I don’t know of any such big protest in Peshawar or any other Pukhtun area against suicide attacks or bomb blasts ( Please note I am talking about protests against Bomb Blasts & Suicide attacks). This shows the lack of Bravery on the part of Pukhtuns which can be termeds as “Bey Hissey” as Ghani Khan may have liked to call it.

    Some people also termed this ‘managing lives in these troubled times’ of pukhtuns as their Resilience. They are also wrong.

    Thanks again for writing this up


    • Dear Saleem wrora,

      Thank you so much for dropping by and for leaving an incredibly thought-provoking comment. I feel like I’ve learned much from your post and I am very grateful to you for that. I also thought I knew what bravery meant prior to your comment, but apparently my perception of it was a bit skewed. I believed that in order to be brave, one would have to be courageous to ‘put up’ with the violence and turmoil around them, while finding meaningful ways survive. But now I’ve come to realize that in order to be considered brave, one would have to do MORE than that; much, much more, for action speaks much louder than words. And until and unless we don’t take action against all these atrocities against us, we will never be able to rid ourselves of these forces that are trying to control and oppress us, and hence we will never move forward/progress.

      I agree with you that we, Pashtuns, have become totally and completely oblivious to our sufferings. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to believe that we’ve even ACCEPTED these sufferings and rather than do something about it, we just sit there and take it, because it’s become like the norm; it’s accepted, and that is extremely troublesome. And it is this acceptance that is poisonous and is further hindering development and pushing us deeper and deeper into oblivion and obscurity, making any hopes of progression bleak and impossible.

      As for a revolt, you are right to say that what the people in Lahore did was indeed brave. I actually LONG for the day when Pashtuns would take to the streets and protest and create some sort of a revolt to fight against their oppressors, but I can’t help but wonder if that is even possible, since we’ve become so accustomed to ‘outside forces’ coming to our rescue, without us doing much to help make things better for ourselves BY ourselves! I actually wrote a bit about this whole ‘revolt’ thing in another article not too long ago; you can read it here and perhaps share some of your thoughts: https://sesapzai.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/dont-be-an-advocate-of-a-cause-youre-not-willing-to-sacrifice-your-comfort-for/

      Khushaal ow baryale wossey! Korr de waddan 🙂

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