The rising militancy in my country, Pakistan has put the lives of citizens at serious risk. More than 50,000 people have been killed in the terrorist attacks, destroying tens of thousands of families. Multiple terrorist groups are involved in this, posing a risk to ethnic and religious minorities in Pakistan, promoting sectarian violence, and destroying the infrastructure and peace of the country.
On 24 September an extremist attack on a church in Pakistan killed around 100 people and left many injured. I was in New York that day, invited to receive an award at the National Endowment For Democracy. The 68th session of the UN General Assembly was due to start two days later. I wondered what to do. The obvious answer was to protest against the brutality – in front of the UN building.
Together, the Pakistani diaspora in the USA, along with concerned civil society, organised a protest in front of the United Nations, to ask Pakistan’s representatives at the UN to take action to safeguard the lives of minorities in Pakistan. We also wanted the Pakistani state to prosecute Taliban and other militant groups, by putting them on trial instead of negotiating with them.
Addressing the crowd, I said: “We consider Militants as violent criminals and their attacks as a heinous crime against humanity. They have made Pakistan an unsafe place, not only for minorities but for every other common citizen. Negotiation with them will mean giving impunity to them for their crimes. They should be legally prosecuted for the killings of thousands of citizens and for damaging state infrastructures and institutions. The state should not indulge in negotiation with Taliban, negotiation will strengthen the militants, they will use it as an opportunity to expand.”
Nafeesa Mushtaq, a young human rights activist and Atlas Corps Fellow strongly condemned the terrorist attack on Church and emphasized the need to ensure minorities rights in Pakistan. She urged the Pakistani state should hold the people responsible for the attack accountable. Sheikh Mansoor Ahmad, who is the General Secretary of the Human Rights Cell of Pakistan People’s Party was also present at the demonstration. He condemned the incident and asked for protection of religious minorities in Pakistan.
Khadija Ali, who is the founder of a youth-led initiative in Pakistan for promoting pluralistic discourse, condemned the attacks by saying, “At this point condemning ‘acts’ of terrorism is not enough. It is time we condemn this ‘ideology’ altogether. The ideology that treats people who deviate from a particular school of thought as ‘different’ or ‘other’ and are therefore being wiped out, this needs to be condemned altogether.”