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Must Read

Opinion

January 17, 2015

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Where do we go now?

December 16, 2014 will be a day remembered for long. Not only because 140 innocent children lost their lives in a war that simply has nothing to do with them, but also because that was the day Pakistan irrevocably changed. To put it plainly, December 16 was the day terror entered the lives of every single mother and father in the country.
Can anyone recall the number of terrorist attacks Pakistan has endured? Any guess on the number of people killed or injured? How about families affected? It’s all so hazy now, because it’s been going on for so long, and somehow we’ve managed to sort of pick up the pieces and keep drudging along. But this was different.
And it’s actually rather simple. Before, we just couldn’t relate, unless of course we were directly affected. But if we hadn’t lost a loved one, or been injured ourselves, or at the very least known someone affected by terrorism in our social circle, it didn’t really pinch us. Moon Market, Marriott, Qissa Khawani – they were all the same.
But APS affected everyone. Because we all have children. Because we were all children once. And now when we look at our own, the thought that it could have been them comes piercing through and we shudder in the thought, hug them tight and selfishly thank God it wasn’t them.
And now that the schools have finally reopened, it’s the 16th of December all over again. But something has changed. Schools don’t look like schools anymore. Barbed wires, high walls, guards and snipers are the order of the day. Rumours of security breaches, traced calls to Fazlullah, coffins thrown into schools, and utterly irresponsible journalism by a few have further compounded the confusion and fear; and parents are reluctant to send their kids to school.
When the schools reopened, should the media have been taking the government to task about the measures it has taken to secure our schools and kids, or done what it did instead: praising our brave children? These

children aren’t brave; they’re too young to be brave: they don’t know that they’re in the crosshairs (except the ones at APS) and why should they?
While the reasons for the low attendance can be easily explained and understood, the terror that resides therein is frightening. Most parents are choosing to wait it out, see how things settle, and then send their children back. There is also that horrible fear, that what if I send my child to school today and he or she doesn’t come back, how do you live with that? How does one balance the need for our children to go back to school with this fear that continues to grow with each passing day?
Or do you bite the bullet, kiss your child goodbye in the morning and pray to God that he or she returns home, safe and sound, today, tomorrow and for the rest of his/her life?
If you’re a parent, then you know what I’m talking about – in both cases, whether you send your children to school or not, it’s a lose-lose situation. But as someone said to me the other day, we’ll come to terms with this too. Like everything else. Until something worse happens. And so on and so forth.
What a miserable existence, if there ever was one.
December 16. Remember the date. It’s when everything changed. The question though is simple: where do we go now but nowhere?
The danger is real, the threat within and without. But it’s always been there. All the bombings that have happened; it could have been us, it could have been our children, and its getting closer and closer. Sooner rather than later, every single family in Pakistan will have become a direct affectee in a conflict that has entirely been made in Pakistan. That is what the future holds.
But no, wait, what about the hangings, and the National Action Programme (NAP) against terrorism, Operation Zarb-e-Azb – surely that amounts to something?
Absolutely. It all adds up to zero.
If you look closely at the NAP, a few of the goals mentioned speak volumes of how this is all grandstanding and nothing else. For example: the registration and regulation of madressahs, choking finances of terrorists and terrorist organisations, taking effective steps against religious persecution, ensuring against the re-emergence of proscribed organisations, dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists, and the most humorous: zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab.
Six major points in our comprehensive action plan against terrorism are non-starters. And while we will dissect this farce of a document in a later piece, let me call a spade a spade, or rather what we are being made by the government and to some extent the khakis: complete idiots.
I digress. The point of this piece was to highlight the tragic irony Pakistan faces today, and the fear that has finally found a home. Do I have any recommendations on the way forward? Of course. But anybody who knows anything about the workings of the state and its institutions knows better.
The only way then, it seems, is for us to accept, adapt, and carry on.
Unfortunately, this time, that’s not going to happen. It’s still the 16th of December.
Twitter: @aasimzkhan
Email: [email protected]

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