Streets in the capital are deserted after a wave of attacks across the country.
|All educational institutions across Pakistan were closed [EPA]|
I went to the Islamic university in Islamabad on Tuesday after news of the double bombing there broke.
I did my job, I reported the scene and I spoke to witnesses. It was a bloody and murderous attack.
But as we were preparing to leave, something happened which has had me thinking for the past few days.
A young man, dressed in black, approached, extended his hand and gave the customary greeting “Assalamu alaikum”. I returned his welcome and shook his hand. But in an instant his mood changed and he started blaming me and “my people” for the bombing.
Those around tried to calm him down, but he was loud and insistent. He thought I was an American. I was dressed in a black jacket, blue shirt and chinos. It was, for want of a better phrase, a very American “preppy” look.
The man, I know his name but I won’t give it here, believed that Pakistan’s problems, the difficulties it was experiencing, could be laid at the door of outside influences.
He said: “This is all your fault, all your bloody fault.” pointing his finger at me angrily.
“You Americans, you are sitting there, you are doing this.”
The situation was about to get ugly and those around him and me tried to calm him down. Someone told him I was Scottish, that guests should not be treated like this, and I was there to tell his story. On a busy campus where a bomb had just exploded, I was a different face and he needed to express his anger.
I’m told American correspondents don’t travel to certain stories because they know they will be singled out. It’s dangerous. They would be putting their safety at risk.
We felt the man had a point and we wanted him to tell us how he felt.
“First of all the biggest thing is that all the security forces have already failed”
He pointed out Pakistan was a government run by another government, doing the bidding, leaving the people with no voice and no influence.
He was angry with me, and angry with America.
“Yes I’m angry at the government too. Everyone is angry. I’m not alone.”
In those emotion-filled minutes after the blast, he wanted someone to blame.
He needed someone to explain why a university, which specialised in teaching Islam and the Quran, had become a target in an undeclared war between the Pakistani establishment and the Taliban.
“First of all the biggest thing is that all the security forces have already failed,” he said.
“The terrorists that came to destroy a peaceful place of learning bribed their way through. This is a failure of policy that they couldn’t stop them. They crossed all the checkpoints where good people are stopped and terrorists bribe their way through. That’s why people are angry.”
And in this brief snapshot, there is a warning. That for some in Pakistan, a Western face is the face of the enemy. That the policies of governments past and present cannot be separated from an individual, the guilt is collective.
There are those who argued with the man, but the arguments of reason faded out and all that was left was the angry voice of someone who felt betrayed, abandoned and ignored.