The barbaric terrorist attack in Lahore that killed more than 70 innocent people and injured more than 300, in a park, many of them being children belonging to the Christian community, should not only be condemned in the strongest possible words, but should also provide a point to ponder for the civil and military establishment of this country, to understand that terrorism has deep roots in our society and cannot be eradicated by select action only. We should stop wasting time dwelling in conspiracy theories and accept that we have been attacked repeatedly by an enemy from within. It’s time that we put an end to the ostrich approach of shying away from facts and thinking that terrorists are only in Fata, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Balochistan, or that they come from across our borders.
Whether it was the APS attack, Charsadda, or other attacks on civilians, we always had knee-jerk reactions instead of a well thought out rational response. There is, however, a need to revisit NAP and focus on the grey areas. The civil and military establishment should review both the short and long-term responses. What we are facing today, is the outcome of 35 years of indoctrination and cannot be overturned in a year’s time with an operation in selected parts of the country. The response to this situation should have both soft and hard components as well as short and long-term strategies. As an anthropologist, I believe that if we make concerted efforts, it will take at least a generation to reverse the change our society has undergone in the past 35 years. If we want to do it on an emergency basis, with full political and military will and commitment, even then, it will take at least a decade. However, no visible action can be seen. There should be a committed institutional approach towards putting our society on the right track since episodic actions, meetings and speeches on their own, cannot save us from further decay and chaos.
You don’t need to be a PhD in Conflict Studies to understand that what is happening in Pakistan today is the outcome of our failed policies of proxy and the so-called ‘strategic depth’. The sooner we realise and make sure that our territory should not be used against any country, the better it will be for improving our internal situation. Our civil and military establishment should focus on countering the enemy from within, with short and long-term sustainable measures. Implementation of all aspects of NAP across the board, without any discrimination, should be ensured. Strict action should be taken against terrorists and organisations supporting terrorism in the name of religion, across the country. No sacred sanctuaries should be spared where these hate mongers are brainwashing innocent children, to use them as suicide bombers.
No one can deny the fact that in Pakistan, terrorism is closely linked with religious extremism, which was promoted under state patronage over the years. The state should do away with pressure from the extremists and ensure relevant changes in the curriculum to remove all hate material, ensure a uniform curricula across the country, including Fata and religious seminaries across the country; all seminaries should be registered and brought into mainstream so that the children studying there can associate with the society. The curricula being taught in the religious seminaries should also include modern/current subjects, so that relevant and useful skills can be acquired to be able to get jobs in the market.
It is also crystal clear that the state was unable and is still unable to ensure all children their right to education, particularly in areas of Balochistan, Fata, K-P, Southern Punjab and parts of Sindh. This vacuum was filled by religious seminaries, with support from our friends from the Middle East and well in line with our proxy and strategic depth policy. Unfortunately, even today there is still no focus on investing in education in all the above mentioned areas, but particularly in Balochistan, Fata and southern Punjab. The federal government should immediately invest heavily in education in all these areas to fill the gap and ensure that the vacuum is not filled by the non-state actors. Practical steps should be taken for the implementation of Article 25A of the Constitution, whereby education has been made a fundamental right for children of five to sixteen years of age, to ensure that all children across Pakistan are in schools, receiving quality education that can help make them good and peaceful human beings who believe in co-existence and peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2016.
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