16th December was supposed to be a turning point. The brutal massacre of hundreds of innocent children at APS Peshawar had finally awoken the nation and united our resolve to defeat the real enemy – the jihadi extremists that had killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis since the last ten years. It is almost six months since that black day, and where are we now? The truth is not encouraging…
I wrote those words six months ago. Six months after the brutal slaughter of innocent children that shocked not only our own nation but brought the entire world to tears. Today I have been struggling to find something to write on the one year anniversary of this tragedy, but find myself at a loss of words. What has changed since six months? What has changed since one year?
Today I have heard countless people praising the sacrifice made by these little ones, but when did they or their parents offer to sacrifice themselves? They were only children going to school to learn, not to sacrifice. Or have we reached the point that merely living in this country is itself considered a sacrifice? Where learning is an act of courage?
We have been told ad nauseam that the terrorists have been defeated, and yet they continue to kill us by the dozens. Today we honour the memory of those poor children killed one year ago, but tomorrow we get back to our routines of taking out protests in support of extremists.
Aha! You say. But terrorist attacks are down! General Raheel and Zarb-e-Azb have broken the terrorists backbone, demoralised them, and scattered them to the wind! But in reality, even the numbers are not encouraging.
Only in Pakistan would a thousand terrorist attacks be accepted as success. And the feel-good rhetoric does not stop there. The terrorists have been defeated! It has been declared for over a year, but no one has bothered to ask what dictionary is being used to define “defeated”. It’s a question that is worth asking, since security officials admit that despite being defeated, these terrorists can still carry out attacks against us – even one as terrible as the one targeting APS Peshawar.
“There is no question about this,” a senior security official said. “Do they have the capability to carry out attacks of the scale of the one on APS or Mehran and other places?” — Absolutely, the official said.
So today, I am not going to beat my chest and shout nationalistic slogans. I am not going to wear a school uniform and praise the families of these lost children for their sacrifice to our nation. They did not ask for their children to be sacrificed. They do not deserve our thanks, they deserve our apology. Our apology for letting them down not only in allowing extremism to get to the point that their children were killed, but because even that it seems could not wake us from our hypernationalist delusions.