Written By: Ghazi Salahuddin

Fortunately, we have evidence that the entire nation has come together and the national leadership has braced itself to resolutely confront not only the terrorists but also their sympathizers and apologists. In fact, the stage for this undertaking had already been set by the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb. It has been noted by observers that the Peshawar massacre is a kind of confirmation of the gains that the army operation in North Waziristan has made. It shows that the terrorists are under great pressure. It was visibly an act of utter desperation.

We have buried our schoolchildren and they have become seeds. Now the challenge for us is to nurture these seeds into a garden of peace. And this task is as sacred as the barbarism of the terrorists was satanic. Meanwhile, though, we have to come to terms with a trauma that will stand out in the annals of crimes against humanity in world history. Time, they say, heals the wounds. But in this initial period, every passing day after that ignominious sixteenth of December has deepened our pain and our sorrow. The more you learn about the details of times that mens1the beastly massacre, the more incomprehensible it becomes. We are numbed with shock. It is hard to imagine the loss that the parents, families and friends of more than one hundred and thirty four students and sixteen members of the staff of the Army Public School and others in Peshawar have suffered. Hundreds of students who were trapped in the premises and who watched the killings have been wounded psychologically and need professional care.

At the same time, this heartrending tragedy has touched us all across the entire country. We have all, in a sense, died a little. We have also seen how the rest of the world has grieved with us. “It’s a dark day for humanity,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. That something like this has happened in Pakistan has its own significance. Since it has come in the wake of other gory exploits of terrorists in recent years, questions would naturally arise as to why this drift had not been effectively checked a long time ago. After all, Pakistan has almost been pushed to the edge of the precipice in a dire security environment that embraces global and regional exigencies. There have been additional, specific, reasons for the growth of militancy and religious extremism in the country.

Against this backdrop, the Peshawar massacre has the potential of becoming the catalyst for a paradigm shift in our national security and social development policies. It is a moment that has to be seized by our civilian and military leadership. We may be reminded of what Shakespeare said about a tide in the affairs of men that “when taken at the flood, leads on to fortune”.

Fortunately, we have evidence that the entire nation has come together and the national leadership has braced itself to resolutely confront not only the terrorists but also their sympathizers and apologists. In fact, the stage for this undertaking had already been set by the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb. It has been noted by observers that the Peshawar massacre is a kind of confirmation of the gains that the army operation in North Waziristan has made. It shows that the terrorists are under great pressure. It was visibly an act of utter desperation.

But this also means that the battle against the terrorists has arrived at a point where a decisive and conclusive strategy is required to finally mop up the debris of the past and build a new structure that had been visualized by our founding fathers. In the light of the Quaid’s vision, we have to reinvent Pakistan. The sixteenth of December is a date that has a flaming reference to a catastrophic turn of events in our history largely because of disconnect between our people and the leadership.

times that mens2On this date in 2014, the dynamics have been different. In a metaphorical sense, this was an attack on the very existence of Pakistan and, for once, the people have no confusion about who the enemy is. This does not, however, mean that it would be easy to defeat this enemy and to eliminate it completely from within our ranks. We must also understand that it is a war that will also be fought in the minds of men. So, while we feel assured by the united resolve of the nation to finally eliminate all terrorists and traces of terrorism from Pakistan, an evidence of which was readily available on the part of both the civilian and the military leadership, a lot of soul-searching is essential. We did have an important clarification when the leadership vowed to go after all terrorists without any distinction between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ Taliban. But the big question remains: how did we arrive at this diabolical turn of events? This, to be sure, is a very problematic issue. This is not the occasion to go over the history of how we were pushed into this blind alley. What is urgent, however, is to find the strength and an intellectual tenacity to make a new beginning in the light of what we can learn from our experience.

Personally, I feel comforted by some recent indications that the national sense of direction in this regard is being carefully modified, with particular reference to the moves made by the army. In the first place, the launching of Zarb-e-Azb in itself indicated a clear and more stringent policy. Its success became a vindication of the initiative that must have been taken after careful deliberation. However, I would specifically like to refer to a statement Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif made in Karachi only twelve days before the terrorist attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School. He said that Pakistan’s current “enemy lives within us and looks like us” and elaborated that security does not refer only to external threats but is a concern in terms of politics, human rights, economy, water security, terrorism and insurgency. We need to ponder about this formulation in the light of the latest developments. An obvious inference is that military action is no substitute for political process. This also means that the civil and the military institutions must work together and in harmony to pursue national security that is defined in a wider context. Essentially, the goal is to create a social order that fosters development in all its dimensions and ensure national security in its true spirit.

We are in a state of war but we may still have some moments to reflect on the root causes of terrorism and where it was that we, in a collective sense, made decisions that did not eventually serve our national interest. It should be possible to identify some lapses that have led to disasters. However, now that we are making a new beginning, we need to set our goals that conform to the original promise of Pakistan. The enemy that lives within us and looks like us cannot be easily defeated. Let me conclude with this Thomas Paine quotation: “These are times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shirk from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of men and women.”

The writer is a renowned literary figure and senior journalist who regularly contributes for print and electronic media. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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