Ever since the horrific and beastly attack on the children and teachers of the Army Public School (APS), Peshawar, we have heard over and over again, indeed ad nauseum, the mantra: ‘All (the leadership) are on the same page when it comes to combating terrorism in all its forms and (that hackneyed, horrid word again!) manifestations.’
We then saw a flurry of All-Parties Conferences (attended by the PTI too); the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty; hangings aplenty starting with those accused of complicity in plans to attack GHQ and assassinate the Commando. We saw many meetings of parliament to ‘debate’ military courts as a panacea for ending terrorism through quick trials of accused terrorists. Interviews were aired on the media galore; some religio-political parties disagreeing and then making solemn promises of everyone staying together, then again abstaining to vote.
The Senate too, dominated by the PPP, which has always been antithetical towards military courts, was also swayed in the end when its leader, former president Asif Ali Zardari, decided to lend his support to the prime minister and the government, and voted for military courts, the good Senator Raza Rabbani breaking into tears whilst voting against his conscience. Respect, Raza.
The PTI, whilst its MNAs have not yet vacated their apartments in the quite filthy and unkempt MNAs’ hostel, nor given up their cars in the use of NA committee chairmen and other perks, such as free first-class air travel, took cover behind its fig-leaf of resignations and did not attend parliament, despite the fact that the attack took place in the province it runs, or purports to run through its Islamabad-based CM. This was obviously a ploy to shield itself should things not work out the way they are intended to. At the end of it all, after a frenetic 15 days of freely flowing pious words showing much resolve and backbone, and so on and so forth, the whole shoot began to unravel.
The attack happened on the awful day of December 16, 2014; by January 12, 2015, 27 days later, when the school was to be reopened, all of the above seemed to disappear into thin air. Just the COAS was seen inside the school with a smattering of ‘civil society’, meeting children and encouraging them on. The prime minister and other political leaders were conspicuous by their absence.
At 11:11am on January 12, 2015 Imran Khan tweeted: “Planned to be with our brave children who returned to APS today along with Reham & CM KP, but we were advised to postpone visit as COAS was going today for what we were told was a ‘soft’ opening of the APS. But we will be there with our brave children this week.”
Could it be that the prime minister and other political leaders were so advised too?
If so, wrong move. The reopening of the school was the day when the entire leadership of the country should have been seen in the APS Peshawar, offering prayers for the dear departed, meeting the returning children, and praying for the school’s future and the well-being of its teachers and pupils.
That was the day when politicians of all shades: members of the civil service, the military, schoolteachers from other schools, and civil society, should have come together as one to send a tough message to the beasts who so wantonly butchered so many innocents and literally tore the country’s heart out.
For, remember, that whilst many thousands of children have been mercilessly killed in the past along with adults, the graphics of the present attack, and the sheer number of just children massacred was mind-boggling. It brought the country together at long last. Indeed, the fiasco of the Imran Khan visit of January 14 would have been avoided too, the pictures of the gathering of all proving to be inspiring to all those involved in the fight against terror.
I might add that it is good to see that convicted sectarian killers are also getting their due, and that at least three have been executed by now. The test of this whole exercise, of course, will be the execution of Salmaan Taseer’s self-confessed, garlanded, and much-kissed executioner who is fast turning his fellow inmates AND jail guards into fanatical killers too. His first victim through a jail guard’s gun is a blasphemy accused named Mohammad Asghar, a naturalised British citizen, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia years ago. Mercifully, he was just wounded in the attack which has become an international incident.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, the IS is reported to have started recruitments in Helmand province of Afghanistan on our very doorstep. A report on CBS tells us that in spite of the Afghan Taliban warning people not to defect to the IS/Daish:
“Afghan officials confirmed for the first time Monday that the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is active in the south, recruiting fighters, flying black flags and, according to some sources, even battling Taliban militants.
“The sources, including an Afghan general and a provincial governor, said a man identified as Mullah Abdul Rauf was actively recruiting fighters for the group, which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq.
“General Mahmood Khan, the deputy commander of the army’s 215 Corps, said that within the past week residents of a number of districts in the southern Helmand province have said Rauf’s representatives are fanning out to recruit people. ‘A number of tribal leaders, jihadi commanders and some ulema (religious council members) and other people have contacted me to tell me that Mullah Rauf had contacted them and invited them to join him,’ Khan said.”
So there we have it! I reported last week that Daish wall-chalkings had appeared on walls and gates in the strategically located village of Wah, now home to hundreds of ‘Taliban-types’. Is it too much to ask that a uniformed presence, or at least patrols, are visible in the environs of the area? Forewarned is forearmed.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2015.