Quetta blast a turning point in public opinion?

In the aftermath of the Quetta Civil Hospital blast, the state has responded with the usual lines: Intelligence agencies are working day and night to defeat enemy designs. Terrorists attacking soft targets prove that Zarb-e-Azb is a huge success. All attacks are the work of foreign agencies. However, something is different this time. The public response has been either muted or, more noticeable, critical.

First, people began by asking hard questions that have gone unanswered for too long.

COAS says the attack was to target the CPEC. But how do we explain Jaish-e-Muhammad collecting funds in the presence of Rangers in Karachi? How do we explain Hafiz Saeed marching from Lahore to Islamabad and holding a rally, only few hundred meters away from the parliament?

As a citizen of Pakistan, I have a right to know that why, despite numerous claims by the civilian and army authorities to have “broken the backs” of terrorists, do these attacks happen?

I have a right to know the status of National Action Plan, which was formulated unanimously by the country’s leadership. I want to know the reason why the banned organizations are still allowed to operate.

Hard questions quickly changed to frustration, as people started pointing out that every time terrorists hit, we are told that attacks are being done by an ‘unattainable culprit and thus getting ourselves absolved of any responsibility‘. Now people are starting to call for facing the embarrassing reality.

It is the product of ill-conceived policies and ill-gotten ideology. Go stand in front of any hate-mongering or regular seminary, indulge into a chat with the students there. You would be surprised to listen to the comments. And after a while, if one is gullible enough, one would return with a solid understanding that it was the victims of the blast who were at fault. The victims should have registered their-self for jihad instead of wearing black coat and tie.

Until the state abandons the policy of ‘good extremist’ vs ‘bad extremist’, this problem is not going to go away. There is no such thing as good fire and bad fire; it burns and doesn’t discriminate between the stuff it is burning.

In response, the state has started to threaten not just the terrorists, but anyone who dares ask questions or challenge the state’s claims.

“Is it not my duty as a Pakistani to stand with our armed forces?” questioned Nisar, adding that giving such a statements at a critical juncture was “unacceptable”.

APS massacre was supposed to be a turning point in which Army was discarding the ‘good Taliban’ ‘bad Taliban’ dichotomy and taking on all terrorists without pity or sympathy. Since that time, however, things have not changed. The frequency of attacks are down, but they continue, and could take place at any moment. Militant groups are seen openly raising funds and spreading extremist ideology.

The national unity that rose out of the ashes of the APS massacre has been squandered. We are now at another turning point, when people are no longer willing to blindly accept the conspiracies and half-truths being told to them. Maybe this time we will be able to press the state into taking the necessary steps to save this nation of ours.

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