The killing of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister Bashir Bilour is another wake-up call for the people and an eye-opener for political leaders and policymakers to look into the eyes of the scourge confronting Pakistan.From Benazir Bhutto to Bashir Bilour, each terror attack drew widespread condemnations besides generating heated debates on media, but the net result always proved a naught because soon enough, public outrage dissipated and policymakers, both civvies and khakis, returned to their old jobs. The assassination of Bashir Bilour is fresh and, of course, will take a few more days to vanish from public memory.
Prior to this tragic event, the last one that brought about universal outrage was the attack on Malala Yousufzai on October 10, which was claimed by the Taliban. With the exception of a few Taliban apologists, almost all political parties expressed shock over the dastardly act and it also drew a few words of condemnation from Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The attempt to kill the 15-year-old schoolgirl, the level of public anger and the reaction from the country’s powerful army were all taken as pointers to across-the-board action against the militants. However, expectations soon died down amidst excuses from political and military leadership alike and Malala’s name became restricted to being discussed in seminars and conferences.
She is a closed chapter because since the attack on her, the emboldened Taliban staged even more audacious acts of terror, including a complex one on the Peshawar airport and then topped that off with the killing of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s senior minister.
The persistent inaction on the part of the elected government, political leadership and security agencies, for whatever reason, is highly demoralising and demotivating for society because it tells ordinary people that the political and military leadership is succumbing to the pressure being put by the militants.
It is people like Bashir Bilour, Benazir Bhutto, Malala Yousufzai, Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti who challenge the extremist ideology and all — except Malala — were knocked out one by one, while all the pillars of the state silently stood by and did nothing.
Imagine how a 15-year-old schoolgirl could have harmed armed-to-the-teeth militants. She was attacked because she was emerging as a symbol of courage for the rest of society and was openly challenging the Taliban mindset based on utter disregard for human rights and discriminatory treatment of women. The same was the case with Bashir Bilour who had made it a habit to reach the spot of each terrorist attack and openly challenge and condemn the perpetrators by calling them ‘cowards’, which he did to boost public morale.
If Bashir Bilour wished, he could have buried his head in the sand like his fellow politicians and saved his skin — and most probably his life as well. However, he chose to face the threat head on for the sake of the coming generations and finally sacrificed his life.
After surviving two botched attempts on his life, Bashir Bilour’s well-wishers used to advise him to be careful. And he would reply: “Da Gor Shpa Pa Kor Na Shee Ratle (The night destined to be in the grave can’t be the one spent at home)”. His views about the Taliban violence were very clear. “This is our war. We need to own it.” And whenever asked about talks with the militants, he never said ‘no’ — but argued that talks would be held only when the other side agrees to accept the Constitution.
For all those who claim to be defenders of the country’s sovereignty and the Constitution but hesitate to issue even a few words of condemnation against those brutally killing innocent citizens, Bilour’s sacrifice must become a wake-up call. As rightly mentioned by ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan during his December 25 press briefing, this is the war for Pakistan’s very existence and this is no time for politicking. The options are clear for the security establishment and political leadership: face the threat head on or continue to close eyes and wait till no one is left to speak at all.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2012.