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When Will Ordinary Pakistanis Stand Up for Their Neighbors?

Nineteen-year-old Ghulam Mustafa was executed on remote stretch of a mountain highway outside Gilgit in Pakistan, when 40 heavily armed men, clad in camouflage fatigues, stopped a convoy of buses and ordered all Shiite passengers to identify themselves. Ghulam was Sunni. He said to the men, “Why are you doing this? Why do you want to kill these people? Islam doesn’t allow the killing of innocent people.”

Because of this boldness the men ordered Ghulam to stand with the Shiites, who were led to a ditch by the side of the road and executed in a burst of gunfire. One of the gunmen walked back over to the survivors. “Do you know why we killed these people? We killed them because they are deceiving us. They are not Muslims. They say they are Muslims, but they are infidels.”

Ghulam paid the ultimate price for his bravery. His story isn’t the kind you usually hear from Pakistan, but it is the kind of story that gives hope that Pakistan might one day emerge from the sickening cycle of terror that is consuming parts of the country.

There are many Pakistanis like Ghulam who hate the terrorists who kill Shiites in cold blood, but they don’t have the organization or the support that the bad guys have. The wanna-be good guys are forced to live in fear and confusion, worried that at any moment the state will come down on the side of violence. If they stand up to protect their neighbors, regardless of religion or gender or ethnicity, their bravery could earn them a fate like Ghulam’s. These are the Pakistanis who believe their country can live up to the vision of its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and emerge from sickening violence to become one of the world’s success stories.

One day, perhaps.

[Image: Getty/AFP]

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