Pakistan’s bomb fatigue has set in

Karachi residents are left wondering about the stability of their city after the Pakistani Taliban destroy a police fac

I first reached the bomb site as the day began to break over Karachi. Just hours earlier, a truck carrying 1000kg of explosives had destroyed almost a whole city block.

The work of the Pakistani Taliban.

The scene was a gruesome reminder that Pakistan teeters on the edge of collapse, perhaps saved only by the extraordinary resilience of its citizens.

Resilience that seems to be turning to acceptance. Acceptance that bombings are now part of the country’s every day.

My driver Maqbool actually heard the blast. Chain smoking and without a hint of nervousness, he tells me what happened.

“The noise was like a thunderbolt going off inside my head. I was asleep kilometres away from the site, but I heard it. I thought the bomb had gone off in my street. I ran outside and only saw others as confused as me,” he recalled.

“In the end it’s only God that decides who lives and who dies. We live our lives and put our faith in God. It was not my turn to die last night.”

His words were echoed by many of the people I spoke to at the site.

Shifting expectations

One thing has struck me. In four years of covering Pakistan for Al Jazeera, I have noticed a change in peoples’ attitude. It’s a sense of weariness at yet another bomb, yet another devastating attack.

Bomb fatigue has set in.

My friends across the country no longer race to their TV screens when news breaks. They no longer sit glued to their televisions, on the edge of their seats as they watch transfixed and in fear.

I don’t know if you can call it a normal part of Pakistani life. How could such tragedy and death ever be normal?

But it’s a part of the routine here, and there is a sense that bombs occur, and that life continues despite them.

Clearly those who were caught up in the blast and who survived are scarred for life. But for others, well, like I said, it feels like a sense of fatigue has set in.

It was perhaps best illustrated by one reporter who was at the site, surveying the scene. Her words were stark.

“And here we go again …” she muttered to no one in particular.

I know reporters are a cynical bunch, yet her words were not cynical, but weary.

Looking ahead

Walking in the streets around the blast site, you can see small children playing in the wreckage.

You have to wonder about the effect a sustained campaign of violence will have on their generation. What effect will it have on the nation’s psyche?

Pakistan had been relatively quiet over the last three months. I say “relatively” since we just witnessed the most devastating floods in the country’s history – a tragedy of a different kind. 

That led many to wonder whether the Pakistani Taliban were becoming a spent force. It seems that question has now been answered – in a deadly way.

I hope Pakistan never gets used to living with the fear of bombs. No one wants to live in fear, but surely no one wants to live with the numbness that comes with having no fear.

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