Ending our never-ending suffering

One month ago, Pakistan saw its deadliest terrorist attack in Peshawar at the Army Public School (APS), where more than 130 children were shot dead by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). There was an outpouring of grief and anger after the APS attack that we have never witnessed before, despite the fact that terrorism has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Pakistanis over the last decade. Our government responded by lifting the moratorium on the death penalty, and our parliament quickly sanctioned military courts. Hanging terrorists, or speedy trials, will not serve any purpose unless there is clarity on our state’s policies vis-à-vis militant outfits.

According to a report published in the Express Tribune: “Pakistan has decided to ban the Haqqani Network, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and 10 more organisations.” If this is true, then it is indeed a huge paradigm shift and there is still hope for the country’s future. We always hear how brave and resilient we are as a nation. Maybe we are, but would it have mattered even if we were not? We would still have to face terrorist attacks. We would still have to send our children to schools, despite real fears. We would still have to carry on with our lives even though there is depression and dread all around us. It is high time our state dealt with the menace of terrorism — crushing it once and for all, so that we do not need to be brave any more, so that we can openly howl in anguish and not be labelled cowards, so that we can live in peace. Pakistan and Pakistanis have suffered enough. We should not be expected to put up a brave front every time there is a terrorist attack. Bravery and/or resilience do not mean we should continue to suffer endlessly.

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif visited APS Peshawar when it reopened on January 12. In its editorial (‘Monumental courage’, January 13, 2015), Dawn noted: “The horror these premises saw was too much, and took place too recently; too many spoke silently by their absence. Those who had to make such a difficult decision can be offered only the empathy of a nation in mourning, for perhaps there was never really a choice when it came to reopening the school.”

The images of students entering the school and parents seeing them off pulled at everyone’s heartstrings. Nobody could hold back their tears after seeing those scenes on their television screens. As Dawn quoted Pakistan-born British author Nadeem Aslam’s hauntingly apt words in the same editorial: “Pakistan produces people of extraordinary bravery. But no nation should ever require its citizens to be that brave.”

Today (January 16), to mark the one-month anniversary of the Peshawar massacre, Pakistani civil society will hold protests against terrorism in the country’s major cities, as well as in some other countries around the world. As a nation, we must resolve to eliminate terrorism from every part of our country. As a nation, we must put pressure on the government and the military to take proper action against all terrorist outfits and not take unjust shortcuts like military courts. An end to terrorism and religious extremism is the only way we can survive as a country, and as a nation.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


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