Let’s make it count this time
It wasn’t the first incident of terror in the country. As a quantum of body-count, it was, perhaps one of the highest, but the Karsaz blast at the PPP rally had reached triple figures as well. So had the attack on an ANP rally in Lakki Marwat. Even the city of Peshawar itself had seen a triple-figure casualty count in the Meena Bazaar blast of 2009, women and children being the principal targets.
But this attack, we are told, was different. This attack, we feel, is different. What is it that sets it apart? That we saw a distilled, crystallised, unadulterated form of evil that targeted the young? Well, we had seen it before, hadn’t we?
The above questions are being put forward by well-meaning cynics who have seen such minor surges in the public sentiment against the Taliban and militancy in the past as well, only to have it dissipate into the political ether later on. The ANP, the PPP and perhaps a smattering of nationalists are against the Taliban. The rest? They will go back to the talk-to-them mantra as soon as tempers fizzle down.
Perhaps in the age of the internet, there was a lot of documentation, a lot of photographs of the victims that stared us in the face this time. Friends sharing an ice-cream a day or two before the nightmare; a stylish boy posing in his new haircut; a couple of friends laughing at a joke and the ephemeral moment of levity was caught on film days ago. Emotional resonance on that end.
Plus, the military, accused of running with the hares, also suffered a big personal blow as well, what with this being (not exclusively) the school of army officers’ kids. (A mention here of at least two army officers’ wives, who showed more true grit that day than the SSG would have since its inception.)
Let the silver lining to this event be the emergence of a national consensus that enough is enough. That no political party is going to try to milk political mileage out of the situation when the going gets tough – which it will. The army needs to jettison its policy of having favourites amongst the militants. The “good Taliban” have to go, not just because the good Taliban provide support to the bad Taliban but because even if “our boys” spare Pakistan and focus on Afghanistan, it would be unacceptable; we should love Afghanistan and pray for stability and peace there. The judiciary needs to get its act together: the amendment that allows for military courts is to be challenged in the Supreme Court and a betting man might say the courts will overturn the amendment, bringing the issue back to the courts.
And, for the love of God, give the police more money. They are in the thick of it, as opposed to the sequestered bases of the military, provide more actionable intelligence than the two military – and one civil – intelligence agencies put together. As the Americans found out in Iraq, policing is a far pricklier situation than soldiering.
And, finally, let us not forget madrassa reform. The interior minister said that ninety percent of the madrassas are not involved in the terror business. But they indoctrinate the kids with such hatred that they are low-hanging fruit for the militant organisations come recruitment time. Take a look at the ages of the attackers of the APS attack.