It is our 9/11. It’s an attack on Pakistan’s future, its young sons and daughters.
The mass murder at Peshawar’s Army Public School and College is a manifestation of the most barbaric face of the Taliban insurgency which has been plaguing the country for more than a decade.
Peshawarites are no strangers to grief and mourning. But never has the city witnessed something of this magnitude in its 2,500-year-old history.
Nothing could also be more telling and symbolic than the selection of December 16 – the day when Pakistan lost its eastern wing – by the Taliban for this dastardly act.
This macabre violence is a wakeup call for all Pakistanis. We, as a nation, must do away with conspiracy theories and unfounded notions about the killers in our midst. Regardless of how much pain and trauma it has inflicted on our bruised national psyche, this attack should not shock us.
The Taliban never hid their intentions to push our nation into the dark ages. If anything, their animosity towards education has been perhaps the most consistent aspect of their campaign in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and its adjoining tribal areas.
The Taliban have destroyed hundreds of schools across the province, particularly in Swat. They tried to kill Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, when she stood up for her right to learn.
“They target schools because no educated mother will allow her son to become a suicide bomber,” Malala told The Express Tribune in 2011 while explaining the Taliban’s hatred for education.
December 16, 2014 must be our 9/11. Pakistan’s government, its security apparatus and its people must change their views about terrorism the same way the United States and the rest of the world did after the attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif aptly termed it a ‘decisive moment’ while talking to reporters in Peshawar. Now is the time to say ‘enough is enough’, and do away with notions of good and bad Taliban.
The results of investigations, the fixing of responsibility, whether there was a security lapse, things like these will come later. Right now, though, our political leaders need to shun petty politics, put their differences aside, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the parents of the children who lost their lives in this attack and back our armed forces in this war against terrorists hidden in our midst.
The leadership of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has shown maturity in the wake of this tragedy. Its decision to postpone its protests against the federal government is a welcome step. Unity is the only way to defeat terrorism. All of us must be mindful that we cannot play politics over this menace.
Peshawar has seen enough death and destruction, be it the bomb attack on the Meena Bazaar in 2009 or the suicide attack on the All Saints Church in 2013. But Tuesday’s attack on the Army Public School and College will have no parallel in history. With this tragedy, the time has come for us to stop this fire before it engulfs our entire country.
Will we stop spinning conspiracy theories about terrorists? Will we still harbour so-called ‘good’ Taliban? We, as a nation, must rethink our answer to these questions. The state must also take a deep look at its responsibility to protect its citizens and revise its strategy to safeguard them accordingly.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2014.