The brutal massacre of 132 schoolchildren has finally united the country against terrorism – or so we are told. The problem with that assertion is that terrorism has been involuntarily condemned in synchrony with terrorist attacks for the past decade. Only this time around an emotional knee-jerk could be heard with the customary mechanical denunciations and insincere vows to ‘chop off the roots of terrorism’.
This was because children weren’t collateral damage for a change; they were the target. The pusillanimity of such an attack, and the ensuing gut-wrenching images, could be peddled as the reason why our leaders mustered enough valour to use the T-word during their hollow condemnations and rhetorical vows.
It’s a shame that it took a tragedy as big as Peshawar for our leaders to name the enemy that has been the most conspicuous existential threat for the state, and a massive security concern for the region. It’s an absolute disgrace that the state retaliation is being directed exclusively at hanging those who have had little – at best – and absolutely nothing – at worst – to do with planting ‘the roots of terrorism’ in the country, instead of addressing the actual roots.
They are just the fruits of varying sizes. The ‘roots’ lie elsewhere.
The pretentious backlash of the Peshawar attack, in addition to the victims’ youth, is also owing to the fact that our leaders couldn’t ‘rationalise’ it as an attack on the ‘wrong’ sect or the ‘wrong’ religious community.
Actual unity against terrorism would mean uniting against all kinds of extrajudicial use of violence regardless of political, religious or nationalistic motivations. And when it has taken us over ten years to unite against those terrorists responsible for over 50,000 Pakistanis – most of whom were Muslims of the ‘right kind’ – one can only imagine the time it will take for us to curb those responsible for the butchery against the ‘others’.
The good terrorists with their ‘right kind’ of terrorism.
Pakistan Army continues to enjoy immunity from mainstream criticism despite founding and propagating cherry-picked terrorism as a foreign policy, which has violently boomeranged on the state. Despite having total control over formulating and implementing the security policy, the Army successfully manages to coerce all fingers into being pointed elsewhere, despite the fact that marauding inside cantonments has become a cakewalk for terrorists. Let alone the fact that the world’s most wanted terrorist lived a long jump away from Abbottabad cantonment.
Pakistani Taliban’s transition from ‘good’ to ‘bad’ has ‘coincided’ with them excommunicating the Army and openly waging jihad against them. This obviously means that the Army’s foes are now the official state enemies, instead of it being the other way around. Hence, Afghan Taliban continue to be granted refuge by the establishment, with Mullah Omar allegedly in Quetta, the city which has become the most prominent stage for Shia genocide. A similar policy of shielding the allies of the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, persists in the north.
Likewise Hafiz Saeed is seen openly giving verdicts on terrorism on national television and in massive gatherings of devout followers, with Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, initially granted bail by an anti-terrorism court last week before he was detained by the government. The masterminds of the Mumbai attack – one of the biggest acts of terrorism in the region – continue to roam free owing to a ‘lack of evidence’, when all one needs to do is listen to Hafiz Saeed’s sermons for a ‘hint’ of his intent vis-à-vis India and Kashmir. But since that intent strikes a popular chord with the masses, and of course the establishment, he continues to enjoy the support of both.
Then there is Malik Ishaq, acquitted 30 times following charges of terrorism and homicide, who at the time of writing was all set to be released on December 25. This is the same man who has never hidden his desire of exterminating every Shia within Pakistan, with his Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan – also known as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) – indulging in spilling Shia blood all over Pakistan.
With Lashkar-e-Jhangvi focusing on the Shia community, Lashkar-e-Taiba targeting Kashmir and the Afghan Taliban network eyeing Afghanistan, all talks of unity against terrorism are of course laughable. As has been iterated multiple times over the years, these are all heads of a multi-faceted monster that is fuelled by the ideology of jihadism.
No wonder Abdul Aziz and his Jamia Hafsa battalion can proudly support Isis
This is precisely why the factories of jihad – the madrassas and mosques – will not be indiscriminately targeted because when there is clampdown on jihadism, the motivation to wage jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir will also fizzle out. No wonder Abdul Aziz and his Jamia Hafsa battalion can proudly support Isis – the biggest jihadist organisation in the world right now – and openly threaten Lal Masjid protestors with warnings of suicide bombings, a few kilometres away from the ISI headquarter.
The actual ‘roots of terrorism’ lie in jihadism – an ideology that is common to both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists. As long as we continue to cherry pick between organisations that have ideological violence as a common denominator, there obviously isn’t any unity in confronting terrorism. At best you have a revenge campaign going on against the military’s enemy who used the ideology taught to them in against the offspring of their teachers.
Peshawar should have been a lesson for those who think that jihadist monsters can be tamed to restrict themselves to hunting specific prey. But unfortunately it seems to have become a one-on-one showdown between Pakistan Army and TTP, with the state hosting the act of vengeance, still oblivious of its actual existential threat. Still light years away from uniting against terrorism.