This year, as has become the norm in Pakistan, the looming spectre of terrorist attacks on Majalis and Ashura processions hung heavy in the air
This year, as has become the norm in Pakistan, the looming spectre of terrorist attacks on Majalis and Ashura processions hung heavy in the air. In Lahore, 46 processions of mourners went through the city on Yaum-e-Ashur. For their part, the CCPO of Lahore and the Punjab Home Minister beefed up security for the occasion, in fear of sectarian attacks on these processions. In Bahawalnagar, a terrorist attack killed three mourners and injured around 50. Punjab Home Minister Raja Basharat has said that the man who hurled a grenade into the procession in Bahawalnagar has been taken into custody. He had said prior to the holiday that 2 suspected terrorists had been arrested for planning an attack.
There is an eerie dearth of reporting regarding sectarian attacks, or incidents at Ashura processions this year, perhaps owing to the idea that covering such events gives credence to their narratives and encourages such behaviour. Or perhaps, on a deeper level, it is simply easier to deal with militant groups without public accountability or through due process. Every year, Shia Muslims fear performing this tenet of their religion. And we contend with the images of a minority afraid to exist in the open, juxtaposed against images of children, being made to participate in potentially traumatic rites, at an age where they cannot consent to participate in them. Coming as it does in August this year, and on the heels of Indepence Day, the silence around this Moharram is all the more chilling. It begs the question of how many of our freedoms still remain: the freedom to access accurate information that affects our lives, the freedom to practice our religions and, most importantly, the freedom to speak and be heard.