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Peshawar: The cost of managing terror

Ayushman Jamwal @Jamwalthefirst

Updated: December 18, 2014, 8:22 AM IST
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The killing of over 130 children in Peshawar by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has sent shockwaves across the world. It is a gruesome escalation of the war against terror and we all lament the loss of life. But isn't it time for the Pakistani state to introspect?

It is true that Pakistan has suffered greatly due to terrorism, but it is also true that terror groups have been used by the Pakistani state as instruments of war. It is true that the Pakistan army has engaged terrorists in the North Western Frontier Province and Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been a success in crippling the terror infrastructure, but it is also true that the state is harbouring, even felicitating those declared internationally as terrorists - namely Hafiz Saeed. Even though Saeed has been linked to the 26/11 attacks, he has a bounty on his head and has even been declared as an international terrorist by the UN, he freely operates his organisation, the Jamaat-ud Dawa in Pakistan, and gets government support to hold massive rallies where he calls for jihad against India.

Pakistan has seen strong citizen driven campaigns against injustice in the past. This year, Imran Khan and Tariq Qadri lead major protests against the Nawaz Sharif government calling for his resignation on charges on corruption and vote rigging. The protests did not succeed, but thousands rallied behind a campaign against mis-governance. In 2007, Pakistani citizens protested against former President Musharraf's declaration of Emergency, which spearheaded the fall of the former army chief's regime. The Pakistan media also ran a widely popular PR campaign in 2008 called 'Yeh Hum Nahin' which tried to de-mystify the misconceptions surrounding Islam and terrorism. This same vigour, this same level of urgency needs to permeate the Pakistan citizenry once again to tackle the threat of terrorism head on. Citizens need to develop a no tolerance stance against leaders of Islamic extremist groups, who are established terrorists and continue to propagate war, as well as political parties who patronise them.

While the US is Pakistan's prime ally on the anti-terror and economic front, it has also urged the state for self-reflection. When Hillary Clinton was US Secretary of State, she stated that "Islamabad could not keep snakes in its backyard to strike its neighbours." Even in November, the Pentagon issued an assessment report stating Pakistan was harbouring terrorist sanctuaries. Such statements are met with stiff opposition within Pakistan, however can this issue be sidelined as completely untrue? Is there no credence to the international image Pakistan has got today? Given the extent of the violence in the nation, it is high time the state realises that terror cannot be managed, it cannot be controlled. But even as state policy has persevered such attacks, it is time once again for the citizenry to rally against it. The sacrifice of those Pakistan soldiers who have fought against terrorism and the memories of those civilians killed in attacks cannot be honoured unless there is an unequivocal stand against every element of terrorism. The state cannot engage the enemy on one end and tolerate the activities and expansion of known terrorists and extremist organisations at the same time. The shift in such a stance has to come from the citizenry as successive Pakistan governments have done nothing to amend state policy.

No holy war can be waged over the blood of innocent children. There is no legitimate goal or a better world that the terrorists are set out to create. Terrorism is a cancer that has to be cut out, it cannot be negotiated with and it is clearly suicidal to be selective with it. In the eyes of the world, Pakistan must actively take an unequivocal stance against terror and this can only be driven by the citizenry who have suffered for too long, but possess the will and the fortitude to fight back and eliminate this scourge once and for all.
First Published: December 18, 2014, 8:22 AM IST

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