Are all Pakistanis equal?

Lahore, once again, has seen immense violence on its streets. I landed in this most iconic of Pakistani cities in the

    Lahore, once again, has seen immense violence on its streets.

    I landed in this most iconic of Pakistani cities in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

    At first light, I visited the site of one of the mosques attacked a day earlier.

    Having covered countless blasts in the country, I was prepared to hear the heart-wrenching tales of those who survived, of those who buried their dead, of mothers in shock.

    Pakistanis are a by-and-large honest and open bunch, ready to share grief. But standing outside of the mosque, I was met with stunted emotion.

    You could see it in the eyes of the young men who stood outside - eyes reddened with grief, yet no one would talk to me to tell me their story.

    This attack on a minority community has left them reeling. They were already scared - having received threats from the Pakistani Taliban.

    Those threats, It would seem, have come true. The fear the attacks have created has put this community under pressure.

    We were told to stop filming, to please leave the area, to stop bearing witness to tragedy.

    One man simply said "leave us alone".

    The Ahmadis have long been persecuted for their religious beliefs. They say they are Muslims but they insist Prophet Muhammad was not the last prophet. Muslim scholars say this belief puts them out of the fold of Islam.

    Despite that, they have flourished in Pakistan and are represented in all walks of life.

    Those that died in Friday's attack included journalists, lawyers, businessmen and bureaucrats.

    As a fellow colleague pointed out to me at the scene: "Unless you ask, who can tell who is Ahmadi, Shia, Sunni? We are all Pakistani now. The ones responsible for this aren't."

    But minorities in Pakistan may be getting the feeling that they are not accepted by all Pakistanis. And they don't like it.

    In the end I walked away from the Ahmadi mosque.

    As I did, I saw black-clad young men with heavy hearts walk with tears swelling in their eyes.

    They did not want to talk, and you could tell they felt alone in the country of their birth.

    "We are Pakistanis and this is what they do to us," was the only comment I could solicit.

    It got me thinking. If nothing else, Pakistan must rally around its minority communities. If it remains silent, then there can only be one victor - those who believe Pakistan is a monolithic state.

    That would be a shame.

    The rights of minorities are graphically illustrated in the flag of the country. The white bar on the side represents them. If the flag goes all green then it is Pakistan that will further suffer.

    Politicians and the Pakistani establishment have clamoured to condemn the attack, but condemning is a huge leap from protecting.

    Just speaking to people on the streets of Lahore, you get the feeling that protection - regardless of belief - is what all Pakistanis want.


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