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I’m sorry for the apologists; you know who you are. You’re the ones who, moments after the Sehwan blast, resorted to your false equivalence. You’re the ones who can’t even condemn mass murder without caveats and qualifications. You’re the ones who will say ‘yes murder is wrong, but so is dancing at shrines’, or (even better) ‘killing innocents is against Islam but so is what happens at Sehwan’. I’m sorry that your line of thinking is the first step towards enabling murder, that your opinions would be welcomed with a nod and a cadaver grin by Mullah Fazlullah and Abu-Bakr Baghdadi. I’m sorry that the words you speak are the air they breathe.

I’m sorry that you can quote scripture at will and yet have no understanding of the basic codes it preaches. I’m sorry that your righteousness trumps your humanity. I’m sorry that we share the same species.

It is in the shadow of our silence that evil thrives.

I’m sorry that we’re on our own, that ultimately it is our own fault if we die at the hands of terrorists. I’m sorry that the management of Sehwan Sharif didn’t provide for its own security as so many of us (perhaps rightly) believe it should have. I’m sorry that the government didn’t have the will or foresight to instal walk-in gates or even a room where female devotees could be searched. I’m sorry that we spell sacrifice with the torn limbs of our children. I’m sorry for all our martyrs, uniformed and otherwise, whose deaths were meant to be wake-up calls and in whose honour we hit the snooze button, roll over and go back to bed time and again. I’m sorry that once again we will beat our chests, rinse the blood off our hands, and repeat.

I’m sorry for the state too, with all its talking heads, branches, departments and boxes within boxes. I’m sorry that the slaughter of citizens forces our Great Leaders to trot out their easily recycled statements of condolence. I’m sorry that they have to take time out from their busy schedules to visit the broken and bereaved, to walk among the blood and the filth in their designer shoes. I’m sorry that they have to breathe the same air as the rest of us. I’m sorry that despite disappeared bloggers and banned Valentine’s Days we cannot stop the blood from flowing.

I’m sorry that the government can spend millions of rupees of our tax money on prime time ads proclaiming the innocence of the First Family (now 100pc Panama-free!) but cannot and will not spend even a portion of that money on prime time ads countering the terrorist narrative and teaching us serfs what to watch out for.

I’m sorry for the effort politicians have to put into their spin doctoring.

For Punjab’s law minister Rana Sanaullah claiming that the Lahore protesters had themselves to blame — had they not been on the streets they would still be alive, wouldn’t they? I’m sorry we don’t have the insight and wisdom of PTI’s Punjab MPA Dr Murad Raas, who linked the Lahore blast to a reference filed against Shahbaz Sharif. I’m sorry that both these shining stars of our political firmament are in good company, their views echoed and parroted by legions of loyal and unthinking followers. I’m sorry for them too; these sheep who kiss with such reverence the knife that slits their throats, who so love the blade that shears their skin.

I’m sorry for the living dead who shout of bias and conspiracy even as the remains of those slaughtered by monsters are thrown to the dogs.

I almost feel sorry for the terrorists who, broken backs and all, take such pains to claim responsibility and explain why they feel the need to slaughter the infidels who — in their eyes — comprise 99.99pc of Pakistan’s population. I’m sorry that despite their best efforts so many of us still don’t believe them, and probably never will.

But here’s what I’m not sorry for, and here’s what none of you should be sorry for either: for being loud and angry, for your outrage. Don’t be sorry for speaking up when someone in your presence, their eyes wild and blazing, tries to tell you that black is white and up is down and that the victims themselves are to blame. Because it is in the shadow of our silence that evil thrives, it is through our acquiescence that the incompetent and venal find their ways to the corridors of power. And if you do still remain silent, after all the horror and pain and loss, then the only ones you should be sorry for are yourselves.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2017

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