The Peshawar Carnage

Times come in life when the barbarity we witness is so heart-wrenching and horrific that we are dreaded. We feel grief to such an extent that we do not have any words to describe our feelings. The appalling as well as horrendous, to say the least, Peshawar Carnage has left everyone of us weeping and mourning the brutal killing of more than 132 students in Army Public School Peshawar. These helpless innocent flowers were targeted by the Taliban beasts. They have attacked the very heart and soul of our nation. The entire nation will remain in a thick shroud of silence and grief for many days to come.

This year sixteenth of December again came to reopen the gaping old wounds of the Fall of Dhaka. This fateful day did pass but by adding another shocking and tragic chapter to our history. The most dastardly act of terrorism in Army Public School Peshawar is another national tragedy which had never been witnessed in the history of the country and for that matter anywhere in the world. The spine-chilling murder of innocent children for no fault of theirs shocked and horrified the people across the country. Our hearts are laden with rue when we see the images of the carnage.

They say nothing good comes out of evil; barring the reality that in this case the anguish and anger the massacre of the innocents caused to the polity has helped clinch the long-eluded national consensus for a fight-to-finish action against terrorist outfits. The act has made our political leaders push their animosity and antagonism on the back burner to unite and be on the same page to augment efforts aimed at eliminating these bestial elements from Pakistani soil. For the first time, there is political convergence on the imperative of a decisive operation against this curse, which was not there given the political elite’s total engagement with its do or die power play. There is no way the country and its leadership should waste this rare unanimity.

It’s, undoubtedly, the time for an earnest introspection. The recent attack clearly indicates that it was carried out after thorough deliberations — ISPR reported that the planning of this attack was made in earlier days of December. This report exposes the vigour and zeal of terrorists for their nefarious designs and also the complacency and lethargy of our government. The attack has also made it vividly clear that the hardcore terrorists still have the capacity to regroup, communicate with their colleagues freely and there is every possibility that similar tragedies, God forbid, could happen in the future too.

The fundamental question that we face now is that whether the supreme sacrifice of our children will go in vain again or will this be a watershed event from where one will see a change in Pakistan’s approach to tackling terrorism.

The primary responsibility to counter terrorism lies squarely on the government’s shoulders. Unfortunately, so far it has not proved up to the task. Back in February Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, while presenting draft of a new National Security Policy in the National Assembly, had announced setting up of a joint intelligence directorate to make exchange of information between the centre and the provinces more effective. The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) was to implement the policy, for which the ministry had requested Rs 280 billion. How non-serious the government has been about pursuing that policy is obvious from the fact that to date Nacta has received merely Rs 90 million out of the Rs 280 billion required! And, hence it remains non-functional.

Sadly, despite recurring terrorist attacks the government has been long on the rhetoric and short on action. Hopefully, this time action will speak louder than words. The PM needs to take a holistic view of the situation and defeat terrorism with a strong resolve. Both immediate and long-term measures are in order.
First of all, Nacta must be made fully functional, and provided with necessary infrastructure and financial resources as determined by the Interior Minister.

Second, the ongoing intelligence-based operations being carried out by the Army in different parts of the country must continue until the last terrorist is eliminated. In tandem with these operations, the flow of funds, from local as well as foreign sources, to sectarian seminaries must come to a complete stop. Extremists with violent agendas use these places as nurseries for nurturing militants.

Third, the relevant law must be amended so as to ensure no terrorist wriggles out of the justice system’s hands and goes scot free. The government needs to act immediately to introduce necessary legislation.

Fourth, the existing laws banning the spread of religious hatred through pamphlets and the pulpit must be implemented in letter and spirit.

Fifth, there is a dire need to take a longer-term view of the spread of religious intolerance in this society and institute reform.

The religious leaders owe it to the people of Pakistan that they should sit together and sign up a code of conduct aimed at taking out the poison of extremism from their preaching.

The security and intelligence agencies must also reconsider their strategies and find out where the fault lies.

Pakistan is in a state of war and the only way is to overcome political differences and address the dangers that are threatening our security. If the country is safe and secure, the political leaders would have enough time to settle their scores. Therefore the political leadership and other stakeholders should move forward from just condemnatory statements, sit together and evolve a comprehensive strategy to go for an all-out action against the militants with political ownership.

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