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In Pakistan, mixed reactions to Obama's speech on Newtown tragedy

In Pakistan's largest city, citizens respond to Obama's display of emotion while speaking about the Newtown shooting.

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A school bus takes students to Newtown High School for the first time since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook, which took the live of 20 students and 6 adults. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

KARACHI, Pakistan— After President Barack Obama spoke from the White House about the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., most Pakistanis expressed only outrage.

In the hours following the speech, a photograph of the US Commander in Chief wiping a tear from the corner of his eye had been transformed into various memes reprimanding him for crying over the loss of American lives, while ignoring that the drone program he supported has killed more people in Pakistan.  

Outside the Karachi Press Club, families who had lost loved ones because of drone strikes waited for the media to gather, holding signs condemning Obama for sympathizing with the deaths of American children, but not with the deaths of their own.

After an opinion piece by George Monbiot was published in Pakistan's most circulated English daily, the anger reached new levels. Across social media platforms, a single quote from the piece was circulated: "If the victims of Mr Obama’s drone strikes are mentioned by the state at all, they are discussed in terms which suggest that they are less than human." 

Hussain Mazhar, a university student in Karachi, said he doesn't believe there will ever be tears from the US president over the loss of Pakistani lives. "Do you think Obama has any idea what it feels like to be a sovereign country that is consistently living in fear of its children losing their lives?" he said. 

Others agreed with Mazhar's thoughts. Karim Hussein, an intern at a Pakistani bank, said that for Obama it has become too easy to pretend that Pakistani children aren't actually human beings. He pointed to Monbiot's piece, which referenced drone operators thinking of their targets as "bug splats" instead of human beings.

"When this is the kind of thing someone thinks about people, he too is a murderer. In my head, there is nothing different about what they're doing than what Lanza did," said Hussein.  

Television pundits, too, lambasted the US president. "It's not just in Pakistan," said a popular radio host. "Yemen, Somalia and various other countries that are facing US oppression too are losing children. Where are their vigils? Where are their tears?"

He paused for a second, before adding that the irony he saw was that while everyone in Pakistan waited for the US president to acknowledge his hypocrisy, no one was ready to admit the hypocrisy within Pakistan. 

"Drones aren't the only ones killing people in Pakistan," the radio host, Ajmal Shobi, continued. "What about the militants that continue to kill school children within Pakistan? What about the attacks that occur almost every day when girls go to school in some areas. We need to realize that our children are dying for a variety of other reasons." 

Shobi wasn't the only one attempting to reconcile the anger Pakistani citizens feel about the deaths caused by militants inside Pakistan. In a recent opinion piece, Dawn deputy editor Shyema Sajjad wrote:

"Last year, militants attacked a school bus on the Kohat road in the suburbs of Peshawar. Four children and the driver of the bus were killed and 14 other children were injured. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan had claimed responsibility for the attack and said it wanted to punish families of the children for organising anti-Taliban militias. Thus, revenge was carried out by targeting innocent young children. We didn’t see anyone arrested for that attack either or the several similar ones that followed."

Sharjeel Memom and Zulfikar Abdul, two carpenters in Karachi's Saddar district, said the blame for drone killings lies not with Obama but with the Pakistani government.

"They can stop the drones, they can stop the militants," said Memon. "Instead they do neither. And for some reason, we have no recourse but to get angry at whomever's most convenient."

Abdul nodded slowly. "In many cases, this is why we hate the US." 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/121219/pakistan-mixed-reactions-obamas-speech-newtown-tragedy-sandy-hook