But who shall return us the children?

Published: December 20, 2014
The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer 

The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer saroop.ijaz@tribune.com.pk

Rudyard Kipling’s son had poor eyesight and on that account was disqualified from serving in the Army at the time of World War I. Kipling had brought himself up in grand notions of battle and valour and perhaps, sought to live them up vicariously by misrepresenting and then smuggling his young son into the Army so that he could fight the Great War. John, the younger Kipling, went missing in one of the earliest battles of the War, his body never to be found for as long as his father lived. Rudyard’s quest for secondhand glory had cost him his son. To want your child to live a glorious life is a universal instinct; death glorious or not isn’t. His catharsis (can there ever be one?) was perhaps to write “The Children”.

“THESE were our children who died for our lands: they were dear in our sight.

We have only the memory left of their home-treasured sayings and laughter.

The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another’s hereafter.

Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right.

But who shall return us the children?”

On Tuesday morning in Peshawar, many children would have asked not to go to school on pretexts, real and fake, the undetectable headache and other assorted excuses; this is what kids do. Many mothers would have taken the strong maternal, no-nonsense position and sent them to school; just like Kipling, sent them to battle, albeit a metaphorical one, to get them ready for life and the world. How would you react the next time your kid doesn’t want to go to school? What is the catharsis for those mothers, who did only what real love and affection demanded? What is our catharsis?

“At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences,

And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts that they bared for us,

The first felon-stroke of the sword he had longtime prepared for us —

Their bodies were all our defence while we wrought our defences.

But who shall return us the children?”

We do not know how to react to it yet. Anger, shock, horror, grief are all present and will be present for a while. However, for now, it is just numbness. Yet, we will have to reflect; anger at whom? The murderers? But we already knew of them as murderers, they have never left anything to doubt, they have never concealed their barbarism; the entire point of their medieval savagery is for it to be public. Is it that we expected them not to cross this red line? Yes, we expected rules of warfare to be applied to them, and not kill children. However, they have tried to kill children before. And we were not outraged. Malala and Kainat were shot by the same murderers and they gloated about it. Why did we not see the crossing of this Red line coming? We didn’t because we did not want to.

Our leaders cry for blood and revenge. Mian Nawaz Sharif is a man so accustomed to doing nothing, to merely surviving that he cannot summon himself to deliver strong words (only words) when our children are butchered. Mr Imran Khan cannot say words of condolences without bringing his petty quibbles of rigging and other imaginary tales.

What about Maulana Aziz? What about the local imam in the DHA mosque? What about madrassas reforms? What about the killers of Ahmadis and Shias? Both Mian Sahib and Mr Khan can gather crowds, as has been demonstrated amply. Why not use this political power to articulate a message of de-radicalisation? Why not ask for enforcement of hate speech laws, without any distinction? Can they channel their anger and the considerable support base to generate a conversation on the role of religion in matters of Statecraft?

Why cannot the Media cover the protests outside Lal Masjid? As a matter of fact, why cannot Mr Imran Khan do a sit-in outside the Lal Masjid or any large madrassas and demand their position on the Peshawar killing and for curriculum reform? Why cannot the prime minister order or Mr Imran Khan demand an audit of the major religious seminaries? Mr Imran Khan, is the cry for financial corruption limited to politicians? Mr Prime Minister says that there are no good Taliban or bad Taliban now. Very well, we believe you. Ask the GHQ to tell us that there will be no good or bad militants of any description; we owe it to our children. Failing that, can Mr Khan in his frenzied, thundering manner ask the GHQ to render the new doctrine and hold their word to the same standard as he does the government? Will the demand for a constitutional framework for Fata be put forward? Will hubs of sectarian hatred and violence in Punjab be touched? Instead of knee-jerk and cosmetic measures of executions, will the known patrons and teachers be restrained and investigated?

They can’t. They can’t because that is not good politics. They can’t, because both Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mr Imran Khan were beneficiaries of the rigged election of May 2013, with the murderers lending them a helping hand. When everyone else was picking up bodies during the election campaign, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mr Khan roared on, with the explicit support of the TTP. They thought it was smart politics not to exempt themselves from the offer of protection by the TTP. It worked, and here we have both of them as the first and second most powerful leaders of the country; however gentlemen, do reflect, if you can and ask yourselves, did your victory come at the cost of some of those young lives. Is there real, painful soul-searching going on at the GHQ?

“Our statecraft, our learning

Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning

Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour —

Nor since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her.

But who shall return us the children?”

No one can return us the children. Our powerful leaders cannot even mourn them.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2014.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (17)

  • RHS
    Dec 21, 2014 - 4:57AM

    Another superb article which is spot on. The 2013 elections were fixed but not necessarily against PTI and not at the ballot box. Great job Saroop..


  • Farrukh
    Dec 21, 2014 - 7:32AM

    Those are hard questions for IK and NS to answer. Because both of them tilted the balance their way in the 2013 elections through foul play. Closet Talibans like them are the biggest danger.


  • Anonymus
    Dec 21, 2014 - 7:53AM

    Very good Op-ed,
    when i am looking at my children tears come in my eyes that they are alive. Saroop, I am sorry to say but it will not stop unless mindset does not change. That change in mindset has to start in Lahore.


  • Avtar
    Dec 21, 2014 - 7:59AM

    As usual, you have hit the bull’s eye. Even the intellectuals’ and average Pakistanis wonder as to how long the rhetoric against terrorism by the establishment and the politicians last. Pretty soon the distinction between good and bad Taliban will return. People are used to it.
    It is high time to change the narrative against terrorism. But even the government controlled mosques won’t regurgitate anti-terrorism line. The Lal Masjid is a government mosque and its head, Mr Aziz, is on government payroll. Mr. Aziz has not said anything against the perpetrators of Peshawar tragedy.


  • MoRam
    Dec 21, 2014 - 10:55AM

    Self-reflection leading to course-correction is the only sane way forward. It requires new thought leadership. People like this author, Pervez Hoodbhoy, historian Dr. Mubarak and many others, who are quietly contributing with their seminal thoughts. Cut the noisy ones and listen to these sane voices with poise and equanimity.


  • Dec 21, 2014 - 11:01AM

    I am a writer, author, and a poet. Over the past 12 years I have written over 500 poems and written 5 books of poetry. There are times when I wake up and find either a piece of paper on my table or I find my computer on. It is then when I find words that have been given to me in my sleep. My latest poem has a message that I feel many need to heed.

    Words to the Monster

    I have no words for those seven men
    Those who strapped bombs to their bodies
    Walked into a school
    And killed 132 children
    They took the lives of innocents
    And shot unarmed instructors
    Without remorse

    I have no words for these monsters
    They have met their fate
    They have stood before the One
    The One who in the end
    Shall judge all of us

    I have no words for them
    Or pity either
    For the punishment they face

    These men though
    If you wish to call them that
    Were only a tool
    A weapon
    Loaded and armed
    By others

    These men hide behind religion
    Prey upon the weak
    Both of mind and soul
    Blind them with propaganda
    And promises of reward
    They do this to maintain
    Their wealth
    Their power
    And their pretended control

    For these men
    These monsters
    I do have words

    You, the pretended guardians of faith
    Are but a disease
    One that has infected the minds and souls
    Of this generation and generations before you
    You have thrived in the darkness
    Handed your hate and your illness
    To all those who fall victim of your words

    I tell you now
    For every disease
    There is a cure
    No darkness can stand against the true light of knowledge
    And we shall bring this
    Into every corner
    In which you choose to hide

    It has been said
    To destroy a monster
    One must first become one
    But these
    Like so many other words

    To destroy a monster
    One only needs to know it
    Know it by its true name
    And be willing to drag it into the light
    So others see it in its true form
    As well

    You may hide
    You might run
    You may try and recruit others
    To once again spread your disease
    But know this

    Your days on this Earth are numbered
    And when you do leave here
    There are thousands of souls waiting
    Waiting to forever drown you
    Smother you in their blood
    Until the end of time

    The fifth seal is broken
    The days of the martyrs
    Have begun

    Ed Roberts 12/18/14


  • abhi
    Dec 21, 2014 - 11:19AM

    A very brave article. People need to think if their actions are actually helping the extreemists.Recommend

  • Wellwisher
    Dec 21, 2014 - 11:31AM

    When everyone else was picking up bodies during the May 2013 election campaign , Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mr Khan roared on, with the explicit support of the TTP.

    Are PML(L) and PTI have any answer?


    Dec 21, 2014 - 11:39AM

    Not at Lahore but at Jaatiumra or Raiwind.


  • raider
    Dec 21, 2014 - 11:53AM

    taliban are abuse and their apologists are placed at same sacle of barbarism as they are, but why dear writer you are not going to blame peoples who voted for them, dilemma is parties which are at clear stance against terrorism have been proved them self matchless in corruption


  • Parvez
    Dec 21, 2014 - 3:01PM

    @Ed Roberts: Poetry is really not my thing……..but that was moving and so poignant.


  • Parvez
    Dec 21, 2014 - 3:09PM

    When 14 PAT workers including a pregnant lady get murdered by the Lahore police in the Model Town Incident…….AND THERE IS NO JUSTICE EVEN TODAY…….does one expect those responsible for this cold blooded murder ( a High Court judge has apportioned blame ) to feel remorse from the killing of children ( especially as they are not theirs ) ? I DON”T THINK SO.


  • Mano
    Dec 21, 2014 - 5:15PM

    Excellent write up


  • Gone
    Dec 21, 2014 - 6:40PM

    S-U-P-E-R-B! I have always been against IK’S dharna and asked his apologists why can’t he do the same against taliban? why weaken the gov. when army is engaged against taliban? but they had their strange logic,the same as dished out by their irrational leader on the container. As for NS, his inactivity and inertia makes him completely unfit for the job.So what are we left with? I’m afraid to answer that question. The tragedies like APS, God for bid.


  • harkol
    Dec 21, 2014 - 7:14PM

    Deradicalization thought is nice.

    But, if they attempted it the crowd may thin out! Crowds have their own reasons for following a leader. Perhaps the terrorist sympathy of IK is part of his appeal.Recommend

  • aayjkay
    Dec 21, 2014 - 8:28PM

    @Ed Roberts
    Beautiful- I have been shedding tears since this act of barbarity, you opened the flood gates again


  • Rubab Farooqui
    Dec 22, 2014 - 7:11PM

    A Tv channel has shown the letter written on 28th August 2014 by intelligence agencies alerting terrorist attacks on schools in Peshawar. Sadly, there is no accountability in KPK!


More in Opinion