Two weeks ago, a bus exploded while driving through Peshawar. 15 innocent people were killed in the terrorist bomb attack. If you were not aware of this tragedy, do not feel too guilty. It was barely mentioned by the media. Some government and military leaders gave a short tweet condemning the attack, but mostly the entire nation went on with our busy lives, watching cricket, visiting friends, and complaining about how the Western media only makes a big deal when Westerners are killed. In other words, it could have been any other day. Yesterday, another blast was carried out. This one got our attention. It was a shot right in the heart.
This time it was not a bus in Peshawar, it Gulshan-i-Iqbal park in Lahore. And it wasn’t 15 government employees who were martyred, it was 70 innocent people including women and children. Just how sick the minds of these terrorists are was shown when a suicide bomber detonated himself next to children’s rides to maximise the inhumanity and brutality of his evil deed.
Reaction has been quick and coming from all corners, but the response also includes the common problems that have kept us from successfully defeating the terrorist threat since many years.
The Army has declared an operation against all militants in Punjab, but it is unclear if we are still using the old definition of ‘militant’ that quietly excludes supposedly ‘pro-Pakistan’ militants like Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammad. These groups have been protected from previous operations because they are seen as no threat to the state, even though there is increasing evidence that by radicalising people they are feeding recruits to Daesh and TTP and other anti-Pakistan groups. Will the Army finally give up its delusions that some jihadi groups are no threat?
Whatever Army does, there is also the problem that military operations alone cannot solve the problem which is rooted in a radicalised public. This was also made clear by the fact that while security forces were responding to the suicide blast in Lahore, they also had to respond to over 25,000 extremists marching on parliament. These were not TTP militants, they were our neighbors. The people we pass in the street every day. And they have been so radicalised that they were taking out a violent march against our own government. By definition, that should make them anti-state militants, but if we accept that fact, then how much of our population must be considered as such? The answer is too terrifying to think about.
Our leaders are giving the same excuses and circular thinking that brought us to this point. Khawaja Asif is denying that the attackers are not Muslims or Pakistanis.
TV anchors are preaching appeasement of terrorists
Or trying to shift the attention away from jihadi terrorists to India
Meanwhile, the rest of us are complaining about whether the Eiffel Tower was lit up green and whether the West is giving us the same respect as Brussels and Paris. At a time when we need to look inwards and heal our own country, instead we are looking outward and wallowing in our victim mentality.
I am going to say this now: Who cares how the West responds? Who cares if London and New York and Paris are showing solidarity with us in our time of grief? They will or they will not. Do you think that the terrorists will be so shocked by a green Eiffel Tower and give up their jihad? Do you think Facebook profile pics or Twitter hashtags will cause extremists to wake up and walk away from their guns and bombs? It is a meaningless waste of time and energy.
We are facing a life and death situation. It is not going to be fixed by Western solidarity, and it is not going to be fixed by Army operations. It is not going to be fixed by appeasement. It is not going to be fixed by blaming India. Our country is going to live or die based on whether you – yes YOU – decide whether you are willing to take your country back from the extremist elements that have hijacked it.