By Vijay Darda | 22-12-2014
The first thing that needs to be said about the massacre of innocents at Peshawar’s Army Public School is that this would not be the last of such tragedies in the region. We have to admit, whether we like or not that terrorists have struck deep roots here. The second thing to be stressed is that this is no longer an us versus them issue, or an India versus Pakistan phenomena. To underscore the point, let us remember that Peshawar is just 800 kilometres from New Delhi and in that sense physically closer to Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai. Acts of terror have always been inhuman. But this one has crossed all limits of inhumanity.
It is a planned barbarous attack on children at school. One fails to understand the working of the minds that preach about the holiness of a war in which children at school are killed. How can the reward for such an act be a place in Jannat? Yet clerics in Pakistan have defended the attack, and even propounded conspiracy theories blaming India and America. The irony gets bloodier when you realise that the perpetrators of such barbarism call themselves Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan — in other words –The Students Movement of Pakistan — word Taliban means student.
Ever since that dark morning, almost every worthy public intellectual has trotted his or her own diagnosis of the Pakistan problem, and proffered a remedy as well. There is no denying that this is a complicated issue, and would not render itself to any simple and permanent quick fix. This essentially is a battle for the soul of Pakistan, and the idea of Pakistan as a modern Muslim country. It is an existential war that can only be won by the people of Pakistan against their own compatriots. The beauty of this contest is that Pakistan as a modern Muslim state has the goodwill of the rest of the world in this war. The Nobel for Malala this year, one of the bravest victims of the TTP war on Pakistan, symbolises this support.
The Indian support for the Peshawar students was reflected more than adequately by the school students across the length and breadth of the country. All the boys and girls stuck a chord with their counterparts across the border as they stood in silence, their thoughts riveted on the pain, sorrow and the sense of helplessness that envelopes this tragedy. But let us not forget that the 148 Peshawar victims are not the first ones to have died in such circumstances. There have been scores of such incidents, the most high profile one being the assassination of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto as she was poised to win another term in office, and then she fell to a similar attack that also claimed more than 100 innocent lives. The terrorists in Pakistan have targeted churches, even anti-polio campaigns, and everything else that does not conform to their ideology.
The stark truth is that Pakistan has lost more 60,000 lives to terrorism, and still not much of the world would like to believe that it is a victim of terrorism. The simple fact being that it does nothing to curb terrorism. Within 48 hours of the Peshawar massacre, after the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged that the war against terrorism would not stop until the last terrorist is eliminated, the 26/11 mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was released on bail, and the onus was sought to be shifted on India for not providing adequate evidence. Mercifully, the situation was corrected after Indian protests, but then the fresh detention order is only for 30 days.
As a country, the rulers of Pakistan through all these generations can be safely accused of having followed a policy that believes more in hurting others, even if in the process the people of Pakistan are those who are getting hurt the most. For instance, in the case of the 1971 bifurcation of the unified Pakistan created at the time of the partition in 1947, the Pakistani establishment believes that this was the result of Indian interference and active meddling in its internal affairs. But then it ignores that the aspirations of the Bengali Muslims from East Pakistan were never taken into account, and all democratic principles were smothered.
If only the army generals, the politicians and the ruling elite of West Pakistan had shown the ability to come to terms with the legitimate expectations of the Bengali people, there would have been no Bangladesh, and perhaps no need to follow the policy of bleeding India by a thousand cuts, that has ultimately led to a situation where the very existence of the country is challenged by elements that have been nurtured by the same general-politicians-elite combine. The coincidence that the Peshawar massacre took place 43 years after the humiliating surrender of Pakistani forces in Dhaka on the same date — December 16 — can hardly be missed in this context. This is just one case from a long history of the skewed understanding the rulers of Pakistan have of the historical issues.
Even in the case of Taliban, the famous cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has maintained that they have been fighting against the Americans, and deserve the government’s support. It is not for nothing that he is known as ‘Taliban Khan’, because the TTP had nominated him as their representative when the government wanted to conduct negotiations with it. Khan did not join the talks, but the episode conveys everything that needs to be learnt about the complexities of the situation. Several army generals too have supported the cause of the Taliban and also the cause of the terrorists who have attacked India from the Pakistani soil, arguing that the refusal to resolve the Kashmir dispute leaves them with no choice.
These are some of the reasons that make sure that the Peshawar massacre is not the last time that the terrorists have struck in the region. For 67 years, Pakistan has not shown the maturity and ability to come to terms with itself. It has sought solace in hurting India, and no doubt has achieved some success in that. But it has not paid any attention to nation building and evolving into a modern Muslim nation, although it has excellent abilities to reach that goal. It needs to empower its women, educate its children and become a peaceful country. So far, no one, at least among the current crop of Pakistani leaders has shown that they know the route to these goals. Now, they have decided to come together to fight terror, Inshallah they would also find this route.
Before I conclude….
The Hindu Maha Sabha has come up with the idea of installing statues of Nathuram Godse. Would they be celebrating the murder of Mahatma Gandhi? Would their ideological brethren –the RSS — then delete Gandhiji from their morning prayers and include Godse instead as the next step?