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Opinion

September 13, 2015
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Waiting for a tragedy

Opinion

September 13, 2015

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The haunting image of a three-year-old boy’s dead body on a beach in Turkey, that shattered the collective conscience of the world, also sent a message across the civilised circles of the world and those championing the cause of international human rights.
What the world felt about the tragic death of the toddler was manifested in its expressions in the media, especially social media. But one can hardly imagine what the grieved father would have felt while burying his two sons and wife who drowned off the Turkish coast while trying to reach Europe.
Three-year-old Aylan is no more but his tragic story tells a lot about the hardships and challenges of the hundreds of thousands of refugees in distress who are trying to find their way to safer areas in the hope of a better tomorrow.
Aylan’s father, the broken and distraught Abdullah Kurdi, while addressing a huge gathering on the occasion of his son’s funeral said his sons were only a few of the many victims of Syria’s four-year conflict and pleaded for Arab countries to find a solution to the tragedies gripping his country. He is right. Aylan is not the only one. He represents many such toddlers who have lost their lives but whose deaths went unnoticed. Probably no word would have come out by any quarter to mourn his death had the camera not captured his tiny lifeless body at the Turkish beach.
Aylan’s death helped create outrage in support of the refugees from Middle East, Africa and Asia. The shocking death moved European leaders to open their doors for these refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Before this tragic incident, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s reluctance to accommodate not more than 1,000 refugees was followed by a statement from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban who also voiced concerns about mostly Muslim refugees undermining what he called Europe’s “Christian identify”.
But this tragic incident prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to say that

being a father he would welcome up to 20,000 refugees to his country. In a Sunday sermon at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, Pope Francis asked every parish, religious community, monastery and every sanctuary to take in one refugee family. The generosity of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to welcome up to 800,000 refugees attracted worldwide appreciation. In another such development, Austria’s capital Vienna witnessed a huge gathering of around 20,000 people to press its government to allow refugees into the country.
As humans we realise the importance of a tragedy and shed tears only after it happens. But the irony is that we hardly learn lessons from history to make sure the same tragedy does not happen again. Pakistan is prone to disasters and has been experiencing great human tragedies – from earthquake to floods and drought to huge mass displacements but we couldn’t care less about what happens tomorrow.
We have always run our state affairs on an ad-hoc basis with no proper planning for the future. The terrible Kasur tragedy, where more than 200 children were sexually molested, shocked the entire nation. But the issue went into the background as soon as the dust settled down. We haven’t moved an inch forward to take any step to avoid any such big human tragedy of the same nature in the future. A Child Protection (Criminal Laws) Amendment Bill has been in the pipeline for the last almost 10 years to become a law but the authorities are yet to decide on moving ahead on that front.
A suicide committed by a victim of the gang rape in Jetha Bhutta area in district Rahimyar Khan last month by jumping in front of a train could hardly draw the attention of the authorities. In March 2010, the federal government passed two laws against sexual harassment at the workplace but the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have not yet even appointed the provincial ombudsperson to entertain complaints against sexual harassment even though five years have passed since the legislation was crafted.
To curb the onslaught of terrorism and put an end to the rising tide of militancy, the country’s policymakers framed a 3D strategy (dialogue, deterrence and development) in October 2008 but the nation had to go through a series of resolutions passed through the joint parliament and all-parties conferences to witness its implementation phase.
The all-arties conferences on February 14 and February 28, 2014 under the banner of the ANP and JUI-F respectively followed by the one with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the chair in September 2014 ended up with no good results to frame a well-defined and well-designed strategy against militancy and violent extremism.
We were probably waiting for a big national tragedy. The unfortunate and shocking human tragedy of the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16 last year, however, played an unprecedented role in uniting the whole nation behind the army. The political leadership set aside its political rivalries and stood united to fight the war of its survival. Sensing the gravity of the situation, the government – as a last resort – came up with a National Action Plan (NAP) to give peace a chance by curbing terrorism and violent extremism on all possible fronts.
By now, almost nine months have passed but questions are still being raised on the performance of the government in achieving the desired targets. The obvious manifestation is the dissatisfaction of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the pace of action on the National Action Plan at an apex committee meeting at the PM house on September 10. This would naturally make one wonder: are we waiting for another big tragedy?
Email: [email protected]

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