The Devil is in the Definition

hafiz saeed samiul haq sheikh rasheed hamid gul munawar hasan

We have reached a consensus. Zero tolerance for terrorism. Terrorism will not be allowed to flourish on our soil. All terrorist groups will be dealt with across the country. Ban on death penalty has been lifted and already six hardcore terrorists have been dispatched to hell. So we are in a agreement about one thing: We are all against terrorism. The problem is we don’t agree about what is the definition of ‘terrorism’.

Continue reading

Abdul Aziz FIR welcome, but we have a long struggle ahead of us

Abdul Aziz FIRThe registration of FIR against Abdul Aziz is a welcome development in the aftermath of this week’s tragedy. Most inspiring were the crowds who gathered outside Lal Masjid and refused to be intimidated as they demanded justice and an end to support for terrorism. However, I still worry that we are getting our hopes up too quickly.

Abdul Aziz was an obvious target after he refused to condemn the 16th December attack at APS Boys, but remember that Munawar Hasan also had petition filed against him after he termed jihadi terrorists as ‘Shaheed’ but not our own soldiers. Over a year has passed, and nothing has come of it.

We are once again hearing about ‘zero tolerance’ for militants and that ‘Good Taliban Bad Taliban’ policy is finished, but mention of Hafiz Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa is glaringly absent from any such talk.

While people protested outside Lal Masjid, they was another demonstration going on in support of Abdul Aziz and the ideology he promotes. Members of ASWJ turned out in force to show their support even while threats of suicide attacks were thrown about. Registering a FIR against Abdul Aziz is one thing. Registering a FIR against Ahmed Ludhianvi is another.

Inshallah the martyrdom of those 141 angels in Peshawar will finally spark real change in this country. But don’t think it will be instant. Reversing decades of creeping extremism will require a long struggle, and it will not be easy.

#PeshawarAttack: What’s Different This Time?

Candle light vigil in Islamabad

Peshawar attack has been termed a ‘game changer‘ in government’s response to militants, and the nation appears united unlike it has been since long. Official numbers report that 50,000 Pakistanis have been killed by jihadi terrorists since 2001, but it was the 141 killed on 16th December that have finally crossed the tipping point. It was an act of brutality and cowardice on such a scale that it has shocked the world to its core because the attack targeted children.

The TTP have killed thousands in their seven-year insurgency, but [foreign affairs and national security advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Sartaj Aziz] said the nature of the Peshawar attack was radically different from what had gone before.

“It was targeted at the children, and those children who were injured, they fired back upon them to kill them,” he said.

The response has been swift. Nawaz Sharif lifted the ban on death penalty, and COAS quickly began signing death warrant for convicted terrorists. Today, the first two met their fate.

The popular belief is that this time, everything is different. The attack was different. The response is different. And now, the future will be different. But I worry about what was really different, and what that means for us.

The Taliban’s attack was inhuman. That cannot be denied. But targeting children is actually not new. In 2009, Taliban ambushed a school bus in Hangu killing several school children. In 2011, Taliban attacked a school bus outside Peshawar, killing four children. In 2013, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi carried out a bomb attack near a school that killed children.

A spokesman for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni group, claimed responsibility for the bomb in Quetta, which caused casualties in the town’s main bazaar, a school and a computer centre. Police said most of the victims were Shi’ites. Burned school bags and books were strewn around.

And just a few months ago, 15-year-old Aitizaz Hasan sacrificed his life to save his schoolmates when he stopped a suicide attack against his school in Hangu.

These are just a few examples of children being targeted by jihadi terrorists. What was different this time?

Obviously, the scale. Every child’s life is precious, but the evil required for killing so many at once is shocking beyond belief. Still, I can’t help but wonder whether the same response would be taking place if the school had been in Hangu and not at an Army base.

The executions that are now taking place only add to my concerns. I have no pity for the lives of Dr Usman and Arshad Mehmood, but I cannot help but notice that these were the two who were chosen to be first executed in response to the attack against school children.

Usman a former soldier of the army’s medical corps, was executed in relation to an attack on the headquarters of the Pakistan Army in 2009 in Rawalpindi. Arshad Mehmood, was executed for an assassination attempt on former military ruler, General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf.

The nation is united right now, and the state is responding. I pray that this week’s tragedy is truly a ‘game changer’, and that there will be no tolerance for any terrorist, whether they are attacking Army officers and their families, or some poor Hazara farmers.

The Death Penalty Delusion

public hanging

Nawaz Sharif has lifted the ban on death penalty, and Gen Raheel has signed the death warrants for six convicted terrorists. The reaction has been fairly predictable, with right-wing hypernationalists beating their drum to hang someone, anyone, in the streets and left-wing human rights activists worrying about whether death penalty makes us no better than the killers we are killing. I have a different opinion than either of these. I’m not going to lose any sleep over whether a terrorist loses his life. Hang him if it makes you feel better. Hang him from a lamp post if something about that makes you feel more like a man. But don’t expect me to be there cheering it on, either, because it won’t matter. It won’t make one bit of difference.

Continue reading

Disturbing Facts Behind #PeshawarAttack

The most disturbing fact in the 16th December attack on Army Public School Peshawar is the one most often noted: The terrible loss of 141 innocent lives including the unspeakable crime of murder against 132 children. It was a crime that must never be allowed to happen again. In order for that to happen, we must take note of some other disturbing facts that are getting less attention.

Continue reading