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January 2, 2015



Dark words

Part - II
Before the school mission, perhaps come drugs were used. Except that drugs generally slow reflexes. Unless one takes those special pills that keep you going without sleep for days and nights. Eyes bright, unblinking, unseeing, except for the specific tasks one has been trained to tedium. One may never have heard of The Manchurian Candidate. But induced dependency for blind – but not deaf – obedience is an option that is at least required to be listed.
Inside the tunnel through which we presently crawl there comes the stench of poverty. Unwashed, under-nourished, stunted deprivation from infancy. Barely any education – because two more hands were needed to earn one more meal. The searing memory of Mother, bearing one baby after another, a couple of them dying soon after. Father, unable to become one of those who migrated to Karachi or to Dubai and remit money regularly to their families. Father remained stuck to his soil, unwilling to leave, unable to climb out of the ditch into which he was born: never was there a more willing prisoner!
So when the recruiters came by (their actual origins, identities, resources, aims unknown, camouflaged, or known and stated, as the case may be ) to enlist one for paid work, the money they gave on the spot as the opening card, the money they pledged to Father for the future: the lure of lucre, was irresistible. One was being taken to a whole new world of excitement. Closer to the mystique of God and the power of the gun held in one's hands, the rigorous training, the sharing, the preparing for the great task ahead. But to ascribe responsibility to poverty for calculated cruelty is to demean the dignity and non-violent decency with which most of the poor bear their burden.
Surely the brightest blur of light in the darkness of the barbaric mind was the promise of Heaven. Drawn to enter mirage-gardens where non-alcoholic wine and houris without burqas await to welcome heroes who say they can make horror

really holy.
Is this list exhaustive? Do they motivate individually or mesh together, partly or wholly? The human mind buries its mysteries deep. So the search for the truth about how mass murderers of children are produced continues infinitely.
The spontaneous, unconditional outpouring of empathy and grief, from close neighbours as well as distant friends, from across the country and the world is comforting. Even as the cynical worm wriggles to whisper that a few of these may be the hidden sponsors of such wretches.
As for the living victims: the incredible resilience of mothers, fathers, siblings sometimes overwhelms even grief. The defiance of the young, their determination to persevere. Public events and official mourning were respectfully observed. Yet by deliberate choice, several private events comprising book launches, art shows, workshops were held as scheduled, as were dozens of candle vigils. To prevent the terrorists from paralysing a nation.
Meanwhile, some of the imperative actions required by the state and by society to trace and crush the sources of such evil – of which a few are visible in broad daylight –need to break self-set slow speed-limits. Where in the past, some sections of the political, civil and military spheres have permitted non-violent extremism and showy piety (potential cradles for crazies) to acquire undue licence, the Peshawar massacre has stirred unprecedented solidarity.
To sustain this fusion of goals and to concretise actions is now the formidable challenge. To their credit, the current leadership of the armed forces and the para-military forces and the police, while already rendering the supreme sacrifice of life almost every day, are now prepared to go the full stretch, whatever it takes.
To revive capital punishment is only one small and not very potentially effective option. Those who have been ingrained with the conviction that killing for a religious cause is a transition to new splendours of reward are unlikely to be deterred by the execution of others in the here and now. The National Internal Security Policy awaits measurable outcomes. And new pluralism-rooted education policies by the federal and four provincial governments must be enforced at the earliest.
The hunt should be as full-blooded as the blood that has forever stained a school floor. There has to be complete, comprehensive reform till such people become extinct. It is going to be a long, tough haul. But given the will to keep walking boldly through the dark, it can be done. All religions are vulnerable to gross mis-representation, mythification and mayhem. Perhaps Pakistan, over the next two decades or so, can demonstrate that religion, as one element of identity, can also catalyse profound transformation inside the human mind.
The writer is a former senator and federal minister. www.javedjabbar.com