There is not a sufficient amount of attention that can be paid to the recent execution of 132 children in Pakistan. The world watched in horror as gory details of the terrorist attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar emerged. As a new mother and former student of numerous Army Public Schools across Pakistan, this tragedy hit close to home. The repulsion from seeing the APS logo and uniform smeared in blood refuses to wither.
Within the same day, the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack and made it very clear that it was in retaliation for Operation Zarb-e-Azb — the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. Brutal killings of young students is a clear sign that they are desperate. By murdering so many innocent children and staff, any attempt the TTP was making to instill fear into the public has backfired. This attack was so horrific that the targeted fear response has been overridden by fury and demands for swift justice. Divisions between opposing political parties have even been softened as they work to appease the public, if only for a bit.
Terrorists have repeatedly taken advantage of the gaps in Pakistan’s security apparatus, however, the provincial and federal governments need to be held accountable as well. Instead of focusing on their constituents, they have been preoccupied with bringing each other down. Neglect by those in power has abetted these events that led to more than 100 lifeless Pakistani youth. Now is the time to put cheap politics aside and focus on the primary purpose of their office, to serve the will of the people. One sign which indicates that the government grasps the urgency for it to act is the new attention being paid to the old promise of establishing a National Counter-Terrorism Authority Another sign of action was the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty for terrorists in prisons. While much of the world was shocked, the move was welcomed by most Pakistanis since jailbreaks are common and corruption in the judiciary results in too many terrorists being set free.
Executing already convicted terrorists aside, if the government is serious about eliminating terrorism, then it needs to do much more than the symbolic APCs and formation of committees made up of Taliban apologists. Major instigators of violence can no longer be tolerated. Will the Punjab governor’s assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, be executed? How will the government respond to the burqa-wearing Abdul Aziz? Will Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a member of the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, be executed? Some of the worst offenders, the leaders of fanatical madrassas are right to expect a crackdown against their institutions. This government would be completely justified in coming down hard on these religious schools and investigate their funding and syllabus.
Hopefully, this tragedy is a pivotal moment and will not just be added to the long list of tragedies that have failed to inspire action among Pakistan’s leadership. The 25 people lined up and shot on their way to Gilgit in 2012 or the 127 murdered when the All Saints Church was bombed in Peshawar was not enough. The globally infamous attack on Malala, now labelled a CIA agent by conspiracy theorists, was not enough. Now even the staunchest Taliban apologists must come to grips with their folly. Perhaps, the Lal Masjid protests are an indication that this is already happening.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2014.