By Abdulla Wasti
I shall refrain from talking about how devastated or heartbroken I feel after the tragedy that took place in Peshawar on Tuesday. Mainly because it is a futile exercise as I am struggling to find the words to express what I am feeling. I will also refrain from delving into the details and statistics, because our sensationalist media has done a perfectly good job in that regard. Therefore, it is enough to say that this was Taliban’s deadliest attack to date. However, there are a number of questions that continue to badger me and a lot of other people. Why wasn’t a blowback of this sort expected as a result of the ongoing operation? Should the school have been identified as a potential target? Wasn’t the recent Wagah Border incident a sign of other things to come?
It should come as no surprise that the TTP opted for a soft target, as the recent Wagah Border tragedy was. But perhaps, the incident wasn’t alarming enough for the government to take serious measures and beef up security around potential targets. What followed was the usual lip service, as all the leaders condemned the attack and vowed to remain strong and fight terrorism in the country. As has happened in the past, the incident was consigned to oblivion and things soon returned to how they were.
In the wake of the deadliest ever attack by the TTP, the usual routine is once again starting to unfold. Many of us would like to believe that this is a tragedy that the nation will never forget and will wake us up from our sleep of ignorance; Sadly, I feel this is not going to happen. What we are going to witness – in fact have already started to witness – is party politics being played over the deaths of these children. Soon the blame game shall commence, where the centre points fingers at the provincial government for being complacent. On the other hand, the provincial government shall counter that with claims that the federal government has failed to build sufficient capacity and provide funds. Furthermore, we would be naïve to expect these political parties to come together and bring about a major shift in the government’s approach towards militancy in the aftermath of such an event. A committee on terror plans is expected to meet today with the hope of formulating a better policy to tackle this issue. However, a number of party members remain skeptical with regards to achieving anything substantial from this meeting. And rightly so, as a number of people in the committee appear to be Taliban apologists. Moreover, judging by how it took the Federal Cabinet almost three years to approve the draft bill of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), swift action would be an unrealistic expectation. Nevertheless, we can expect the government to take desperate actions without thinking them through. And the government has delivered by lifting the moratorium on execution. While many have lauded this step and believe that it will send the Taliban a strong message, they are gravely mistaken. Supporters of this action fail to take into account that allowing capital punishment for terrorists will ignite a chain reaction which could result in the possible abuse of this punishment, especially with regards to those convicted under the blasphemy law. Besides, this will not deter the terrorists, as we will be assisting them on their supposed ‘journey to heaven’.
The only glimmer of hope amidst all that has happened in the past few days is the fact that the enlightened members of our society have actually taken an initiative this time around, and have not limited their efforts to just social media activism. It was heartening to see scores of people coming out all over the country, especially the protest that took place outside the Lal Masjid last night. That was an example of a concrete step taken by individuals of our society to root out hate mongers and Taliban apologists that live among us. We as a society have to make sure that religious clerics do not abuse the platform they have been provided with. Be it a mosque or a madrassah, it is imperative that the narrative is changed in order to prevent further radicalization of our society. It is high time we realize that we are also responsible for the death of those innocent children, and have an integral role to play in this war.
While there is consensus on the fact that the operation is necessary against the TTP, what we need to realize is that this is only a short term solution. We might be able to significantly reduce their operational capacity with the use of force, but for how long? We are at war against an ideology, an ideology that is widespread and has many sympathizers and adherents. This operation alone is not a solution, as this would continue the never-ending cycle of collateral damage, which has now come to a child for a child. We are groveling in the mess we created ourselves, and there is no way out unless we wage an ideological war. That requires a long term strategy to be implemented, and that would be too much to ask of our leaders. We can, however, count on them to do one thing they do best: to condemn whatever comes their way. There is no quick fix to any of this; Prayers, condemnations and vigils might soothe our conscience, but there is actual dirty work to be done here. But the fact of the matter is that, this tragedy too will be buried under the pile of countless others, and no number of ‘wake up calls’ will be enough as our leaders will continue to press the snooze button.