A little-noticed antidote to terror

In a country noted for terrorist attacks, Pakistanis show an unusually hopeful response to the Easter bombing of a children’s playground.

AP Photo
Members of a Pakistani civil society group in Karachi light candles during a vigil for the victims of Sunday's suicide bombing in a Lahore playground.

The tragedy of another terrorist bombing has struck Pakistan, following recent attacks in Brussels, Paris, and San Bernardino. The string of assaults may seem endless, inuring many to hopelessness. Yet the better course is to notice how local people respond to an attack. Sometimes an outpouring of support for victims can overwhelm the fear the attacks are intended to incite. 

Take Pakistan’s response to a suicide bombing in a park full of women and children on Easter Sunday in the city of Lahore. The attack, which killed more than 70, was claimed by a Taliban splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. The group said it was targeting Christians during their holiday, but most of the victims were actually Muslims. That didn’t really matter to many Pakistanis. Thousands lined up to donate blood. The Uber-like car service Careem offered free rides to those responding to the crisis. People across the South Asian nation offered food and water to survivors.

Even in Pakistan’s neighbor archrival India, the most popular Twitter hashtag after the bombing was #PrayForLahore. In the West, Christian leaders called for love to conquer fear.

The responses by Pakistanis showed an eagerness to restore the norm, which is that Muslims and the country’s minority Christians get along just fine in daily life. In fact, most Pakistanis clearly defy the extremist and violent fringe of Islamists. Instead, they follow these words of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the country’s founder, from a 1947 speech: “We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”

In recent years, Pakistan’s military has largely turned against Taliban groups, forcing them to attack softer targets like a children’s playground. Yet as one Pakistan daily newspaper stated after the March 27 attack: “the Lahore bombing shows that military action alone will not be enough to tackle a crisis that needs an overhaul of society.”

If the response of Pakistanis to this attack means anything, it is that this country may have enough hope, unity, and purpose to triumph over the peddlers of hate. This can help the rest of the world be more alert and less apathetic to such bombings.

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