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Opinion

February 1, 2015

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The eternal tango

Out of my head
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years and each time I hear the news, I react not as a president [or prime minister or chief minister or governor or party leader or army chief] but as anybody else would, as a parent. That was especially true today.
“I know there is not a parent … who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. The majority of those who died today were children. Beautiful little kids [who] had their entire lives ahead of them. Birthdays, graduations, weddings. Kids of their own.
“Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfil their dreams.
“Our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children and the families of those adults who were lost.
“Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well. For as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early and no words will ease their pain.
“As a country, we have been though this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in [Peshawar], a [masjid] in [Dera Ghazi Khan], or a [shrine] in [Sindh], a [naval base in Karachi] or a [bus full of pilgrims in Quetta] these neighbourhoods are our neighbourhoods, these children are our children.
“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action and prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
“Tonight [my wife] and I will do what I know every parent in [Pakistan] will do, we will hug our children a little tighter. And we will tell them that we love them.”
These aren’t the words of Mamnoon Hussain or Nawaz Sharif or Shahbaz Sharif or Muhammad Sarwar or Ishratul Ebad Khan or Imran Khan or Asif Zardari or Raheel Sharif in the wake of the Peshawar tragedy.
With a few minor edits this is Barack Obama’s speech on

December 14, 2012 after Adam Lanza killed 27 people, including 20 children between the ages of five and ten, in an attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newport, Connecticut. Lanza had a Bushmaster .223 caliber XM15-E2S rifle, a Glock 10mm handgun, a Sig-Sauer P226 9mm handgun, and an Izhmash Saiga-12 12 gauge shotgun with him in the attack.
The ‘meaningful action’ that Obama talked about was bringing in effective gun control laws in the United States. But through a combination of political ineffectiveness, lack of political will, right-wing media opposition, and the free-flowing coffers of the National Rifle Association that liberally funds the campaigns of many a US congressman and senator the needle on gun control has effectively not even moved an inch. If anything it may have even moved backwards.
Every incident of a public shooting by a deranged gunman with easy access to deadly weaponry is followed by a fresh round of tear-shedding and hand-wringing and a pledge to take ‘meaningful action’. But the needle refuses to budge. Lather, rinse, repeat. One step forward two steps back. It’s the eternal tango.
There have been approximately 75 separate school shootings in the US since the Sandy Hook massacre.
Here we have shed our tears and wrung our hands after Peshawar, December 16, 2014. Made many speeches. Expressed outrage. Aired emotional music videos on our television channels. Supported the constitutional amendment to allow military courts to try terrorism cases.
But at the same time religious lobbies and their apologists like Imran Khan have decried the ‘secret’ agenda of the secular parties of using the military courts only for religious or sect-based terrorism cases. They have also refused to acknowledge the well-documented link between terrorism and many madressahs (many of them foreign-funded). Imran Khan, in fact, envisages a Naya Pakistan in which madressahs receive even more funding.
Nobody – absolutely nobody – in the corridors of power is willing to talk about the source of the foreign funding (we all know where it’s coming from) and the need to cut off the head of the snake. Rather, the State Minister for the Interior, Baleegur Rehman, declared in the Senate that only 23 madressahs in the country – Sindh (2), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (12) and Balochistan (9) – were receiving foreign funding while Punjab had no such seminary.
The information regarding Punjab madressahs came from a report from the Punjab Additional Inspector General of Police (Special Branch) Muhammad Amlish. This while the province has reported 13 terrorism-related fatalities in the first 26 days of 2015 alone, at least 11 of which are sectarian based and for which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the TTP’s Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) faction have claimed responsibility. 2014 saw a 122 percent increase in terrorism-related fatalities in Punjab over 2013.
In Sindh, the Shikarpur Imambargah bombing of January 30, 2015 has so far resulted in 61 fatalities. Morning talk show hosts continue to ignite the flames of religious hatred against certain communities. Such voices continue being given a platform for their bigotry.
Lather, rinse, repeat. One step forward two steps back. The eternal tango.
The writer is a freelance columnist.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @KhusroMumtaz

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