The Jundullah faction of the Pakistani Taliban was quick to claim responsibility for the suicide attack at the All Saints Memorial Church in Peshawar last month. But the top leaders in the federal and provincial governments purported the notion that the deadly bombing was not carried out by the Taliban.
Statements by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif suggested that the motive of killing more than 84 Christians was to create an image problem for Pakistan ahead of Sharif’s visits to the US.
They did not elaborate on how the incident impacted the prime minister’s tour, during which he attended the United Nations General Assembly session and met other world leaders.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak tried to link the terrorist act with a bomb attack that killed a top army officer in Upper Dir a week before, implying that the attacks were meant to sabotage the unanimous decision at an All Parties Conference to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban.
[quote]Would it be enough to tell Shias in Quetta and Karachi that they must not take their killings as discriminatory because other communities are also being attacked? [/quote]
State Minister for Religious Affairs Mr Hasnat Shah tried to water down the brutal incident while speaking to a news agency, saying that the attack on the church right after the Sunday mass was no exception, and that other religious communities had also been attacked in the past.
All these statements defy common sense, but the last one is the most unjustified. Would it be enough to tell the Shias in Quetta and Karachi, or other religious communities elsewhere, that they must not take these killings as discriminatory because other communities were also being attacked?
If these positions were taken as representing the national policy on Taliban or against terrorism, even symbolically, there is reason to believe that denial has seeped deeply into our national psyche. And the leadership has taken for granted that the world would believe them.
During the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, the premises that drone attacks violate ‘national sovereignty’ made Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s position very awkward, so he switched to the ‘drone attacks are counterproductive’ argument soon in his speech. That is just one example of how terrorism would not allow Pakistan to stand among other nations with dignity.
Volumes have been written detailing the menace of terrorism in Pakistan, and on the law and policy imperatives, but a genuine debate is still missing. In order to have a genuine debate, we need listening ears, not of the victims merely, but also of the policy makers.
These statements reflect that the policy makers are in a state of willful denial. They might have postponed any serious debate until 2015, and they might also be able to fool some people for some time, but the seeds of conflict being sown and the losses being inflicted on the society in the meantime are simply becoming hard to reverse.
Is there someone in Islamabad with the vision and courage to try to save Pakistan?