Pakistan’s Day of Tragedies
The Peshawar attack proved two things principally. Firstly, we can never be sure of the worst being behind us; not so long as there exists even the trace of an enemy driven by an ideology of the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, etc, mould. And secondly, our manner of dealing with the uprising, especially the fantastic ‘Good Taliban’ novelty, would have to be abandoned forever. Sadly, even though all parties came on board once the military went ahead with Zarb-e-Azb (after the Karachi airport attack), there were clearly elements in the political and security establishment that still favoured talks with the Taliban. And it took the Peshawar slaughter, the merciless gunning down of our children and their teachers, to finally unite everyone and thrash out the National Action Plan (NAP).
The security situation has clearly improved in the year since Peshawar. There have been fewer attacks and a large number of bad guys have been sent to their beloved paradise. Movement on the first two points of NAP – executions and military courts – was particularly swift, and more killers of our innocents were delivered the death penalty. Yet there are areas that require more urgent attention. There have been visible efforts to curb hate speech, yet pockets of belligerent extremists continue to provoke without check. Also, more needs to be done about armed militias, terror financing, militancy in Punjab, and particularly greater integration between the dozens of agencies that litter the security landscape.
Dec16 will stand out as the Day of Tragedies for our country. The first tore away a part of Pakistan and the second amputated a part of its soul. The loss of ‘71 was quantifiable, but the magnitude of Peshawar cannot be calculated. The only bigger tragedy still conceivable would be this day coming and going again without us having gone the whole way to eliminate this cancer of extremism and terrorism. And, as discussions leading to NAP pointed out, we will continue to be soft targets unless we go for the throat of the enemy. That will require a mix of lethal force and careful education, especially forming that crucial national narrative. Hopefully we will have overcome these problems by the time this sad day visits us again next year.
Remembering the fall of Dhaka
Right up till the fall of Dhaka the nation continued to be fed on lies by Yahya Khan’s military regime which insisted that army was in full control of the situation in East Pakistan. The followers of a religious party displayed stickers on vehicles with “Allah-o-Akbar Ki Zarb Lagao” printed in prominent letters. When international news channels confirmed the fall of the city, concerns about the fate of relatives and friends in East Pakistan overwhelmed the already traumatised people in West Pakistan.
Blame game was started, followed by conspiracy theories. Yahya, accused of being a drunkard, was held responsible for the debacle and ZAB accused of misleading Yahya. Hindu teachers were said to have created disaffection in East Pakistan while India had sent in soldiers posing as Mukti Bahini to bleed Pakistan Army. It was forgotten that policies pursued by Pakistan’s civilian and military rulers, with each side ruling for twelve years, had caused widespread disaffection in the land of the Muslim League’s birth. The movement for Bengali as one of the national languages was drowned in blood, East Pakistan deprived of equal share in economic and social development and in civil and military jobs. Provincial autonomy was denied. When East Pakistan was left to fend for itself in 1965 war, alienation became particularly strong. A repressive military rule under Ayub proved to be the last proverbial straw that broke the back of the camel.
Soon after Dhaka’s fall rulers, both civilian and military, reverted to their old games. Bhutto launched a military operation in Balochistan after dismissing the first elected government of the province. Later, Musharraf paved the ground for insurgency by getting Akbar Bugti killed. Actions taken by Zia to suppress movement for democracy in Sindh caused alienation in the province. What the present government is doing is further strengthening the feeling.
Speeches delivered and statements issued on the fall of Dhaka indicate that those who matter have learnt nothing from the tragic event. Conspiracy theories and blame games continue as before. There is a need to remove the blinders.