The 16 December 2014 terrorist attack on Army Public School (APS) Peshawar in which 140 students and teachers were brutally killed by terrorists evoked a wide range of emotions and responses. In many cases the reaction matched the violence of the attacks. The emotions were spasmodic and immediate. Charged and angry, the civil society called for immediate actions like removing prayer leaders preaching hatred in government mosques, hanging terrorists already on the death row, and establishing military courts to prosecute and execute terror convicts on the fast track. This baying for the blood of those involved in heinous terror crimes was stunning and totally eclipsed the essentially mild and benign ethos of our people. In many ways one could understand the violent sentiment that overshadowed a wiser and calibrated response to the tragedy.
The time was ripe for such an incident. It had been on the slow fuse for many years now. Many blame the policies of former rulers that turned our easygoing and laid back society into one that bred intolerance, disharmony and discord. The monsters that we confront today and find hard to rein in have actually been very much our own creation. Whatever may be the genesis of this problem, the sad fact is that our homegrown Frankenstein has come to haunt us. True the phenomenon of terrorism is now being aided and abetted by countries and agencies hostile to our country but then this happens, when you are weak and infirm. The vultures are drawn in by the smell of impending death to feed on decaying organs.
In my opinion the response to this heartrending incident could have been more measured and calculated. What is required besides immediate measures to root out terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is to embark on a long term strategy to change violent mindsets. Whereas, the National Action Plan (NAP) is the essential surgery to remove the cancerous parts, a strategic plan is needed to cleanse the body and create enough antibodies to prevent another relapse into this regressive disease. The entire nation has to be disabused of notions of false superiority and exclusiveness that feeds passions to kill those not belonging to the mainstream. In large parts such a nostrum can only be developed by creating an education system that teaches human values and that reflects religion and for that matter all religions as promoters of peace and harmony. There is a need to change the mindsets and develop a system that is merit-based and creates equal opportunities for all Pakistanis irrespective of caste, creed and gender. The fault lines that have appeared between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ must be bridged to create a united nation – A nation that recognizes talents and provides jobs to all segments of the society. A country in which the rule of law exists and where all people are treated as equals. Unless we see beyond our immediate grief and keep looking for revenge based solutions, we will remain lost in the wilderness of apathy and our real objective i.e. the welfare of the common man will remain elusive.