Can Terrorism be Attributed to Socioeconomic Divide?

by Waleed Ali Khan

Light entered through the window besides the office, illuminating the “paan stains” on the walls of the police station.  Three prisoners, who lay on the hard, hot ground, stared right through me. Was I supposed to feel sorry for them or angry at them? What crimes were they in for? Did they, like many poor Pakistanis, fall victim to a rich person’s crime or negligence? All I could see were numb faces; numb by ridiculed of the police officers and by the people who walk past their invisible existence. As I was about to file my report, an old man walked in, claiming that someone had stolen his rikshaw* parts. The young policeman looked at him with anger and suspicion. “Why did you leave your rikshaw* unattended?” he asked. As the old man mumbled a response, he stood up and shouted “You careless man! What do you expect us to do? Take care of your things! Come back later you mad man!”. He then looked at my worried face, smiled, and said “How can I help you sir?”

At TEDxLahore, Asher Hassan spoke about how socioeconomic divide is plaguing the Pakistani society . As laws of nature hold true for the rich and the poor alike, consequences are to be expected. One of these could be the birth of terrorist acts.

Terrorism is a phenomenon that cannot be attributed to one factor. As mentioned in one of my posts, ideology is one of the primary factors. But where do terrorist organization recruits come from? Why do they feel the need to find their so-called  “ultimate glory”? The answer could lie in the socioeconomic divide that you, I and our society have created.

The truth is that we no longer feel any empathy with the poor of Pakistan. We are locked up in our airconditioned, generator-driven rooms and yet think our lives are miserable due to power cuts. We stare right through our servants as they bring us tea, with wrinkles on our foreheads as they block our view of the television. Use of common courtesy, such as thanking them, asking them for their opinion, or giving them a smile, would mean that you are not “sahab” enough and that you don’t know how to live like a “respectable”  person.

The poor of Pakistan is left with a diminished self-esteem as it carries on with its day-to-day tasks with no feeling dignity. These people cry for attention, but with no avail. Their thoughts, opinions or life goals are not important to no one but themselves. The only way they get attention is by generating fear. Terrorism appears to be a way for them to feel empowered. For a moment, the tables turn, and they hold a leash to society. With the lack of a will to live and the promise of paradise, their decision does not seem unimaginable.

With the recent floods in Pakistan, they are desperate for your attention once again. Please do not disappoint them. If not for them, do it for your future generations. The elimination of this socioeconomic apartheid is the only way to a safe and happy Pakistan.