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October 29, 2016

Quetta and beyond


October 29, 2016

And so it happened – three veiled men laced with arms and explosives managed to skip over the walls of the police academy, taking down a lone tower guard and ripping through everything and everyone coming their way.

By the time the security forces could respond, the terrorists had already slaughtered over sixty young cadets, leaving dozens reeling in pain.

What followed was agonisingly familiar – a site soaked with blood and gore, trampled around by a frenetic mob of reporters and cameramen falling over each other to grab a piece of the story. Some hollow statements about the nation’s ‘unwavering resolve’ and fortitude came thundering out from uniforms while a flood of condemnations kept bustling across our TV screens and news streams throughout the day.

As always, the next bit of the sequel was to fix culpability of the attack. Some began to point eastwards, others were dead-sure the attackers came from the west. What they do not seem to realise is that the paranoia of blame-game that ensues after every attack does absolutely nothing to alleviate the pain and suffering of the aggrieved families. They little care who the terrorists were, what they looked like and whether they descended from the heavens or crossed-in from a neighboring border.

Such explanations soothe no ears and utterly make no sense to them. All they want to know is why it happened in the first place for every act of terror is viewed as a betrayal of that blind trust people place in their state institutions.

In less than a period of three months, Quetta has endured a hat trick of terrorist attacks – each deadlier than the other. The recent spree of terror attacks also ripped through the scarecrow of media-mongering and self-congratulatory narratives of success. The terrorists seem to have an impeccable sense of timing too. They strike when they find us most complacent. This time they found us entangled in Kashmir and blindsided by the mushroom clouds building up in the capital by Khan-e-Azam and his flock of part-time revolutionaries.

 Let us all be clear about it. As dreadful and demoralising as it may sound, terrorism is here to stay – thanks to all its sponsors, abettors and apologists. By extending state patronage and giving legitimacy to a lawless bunch of die-hard freaks in a bid to wield influence in Afghanistan and deter India, we had long sown the seeds of our own undoing.

The delusion of viewing the Taliban as some loose, controllable and submissive entity has left a thousand scars on the face of Pakistan, a face that repels the world from engaging with us, something that was amply evident in the cold response our Kashmir-specific delegations received in political capitals all around the world.

Dislodging disruptive social structures – especially ones propped up by the state itself over the course of generations – is a long and arduous process of reconfiguring the fundamental relationship of state and society. This implies devising and indoctrinating new narratives which are compatible with both internal as well as external environment. The switch from Zarb-e-Momin to Zarb-e-Azb was an abrupt awakening – more damage control than a long-term strategy to sterilise violent tendencies from society through large-scale mobilisation.

At the moment, we simply do not have the institutions and organisational capacity required to streamline a national strategy of such epic proportions and consequence. As we NAP about cluelessly, more attacks may follow; and apparently there is little hope of finding a way around them, certainly not with the present lot of people and policies in place.

Going through the motions, as we leave behind yet another tragedy like hundreds before, the jawans hit in Quetta attack have been laid to rest – the awards conferred; even if they were not ready for it. We can see people already talking about cricket. Twitter is abuzz with celebrity gossip and the claptrap of petty politics has picked up again. We are done with our hashtags and the doom and gloom from our Facebook pages has withered away, at least for now.

Yet, for those who lost their loved ones, life may never be the same. They must be wondering in grief; wondering at the misfortune of a country where nobody accepts responsibility – except for the terrorists.

The writer is a postgrad student of
economics at the University of Bonn.

Email: [email protected]



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