Deeply influenced by the social inequalities around her and inspired by her father’s social work in her early age, Shad Begum would become a known figure nationally and internationally because of her determined struggle to improve the conditions of the marginalized segments, especially women, of her community in the northwest of Pakistan – a deeply religious and conservative area where Taliban publically executed men and women on non-conformity to their version of Islam.
I am a mother of two children
shivering with pain, anger, and helplessness to imagine the heart-wrenching
agony of the mothers and fathers, who lost their innocent children in the
horrific attack on Army Public School at Peshawar. The monster of terrorism has
crossed all limits of warfare, destroying mosques and other places of worship,
attacking funerals, and now even devouring the blood of innocent children. As a
nation, we Pakistanis are at a loss to understand as to what went wrong with
our society, our values, and our policies that nobody feels safe in this
country. We have offered great sacrifices in the War against Terrorism yet they
remain unrecognized by many people around the world.
The loss of lives of innocent
school children have shook the conscience of people around the world. There are
statements of condemnations and sympathies for the bereaved families. The
school children in Pakistan, even in India, stood in solidarity with the
parents of the martyred children. Politicians, civil society, the government,
the military, the judiciary and media – all stood united to formulate a united
response to the horrific tragedy of the Peshawar school attack. The
Parliamentary Committee came up with an Action Plan to deal with terrorism in
Pakistan, yet there are questions that remain un-answered.
Photo credit "Hamri Web"
The attack on Army Public School
Peshawar is not the first horrendous crime against innocent civilians; neither
is it going to be the last. Malala Yousafzai was shot by militants along with
her schoolmates while she was going to school. We also remember Aitezaz Hassan,
the school kid that stopped a suicide bomber to explode himself in the school
morning assembly. Aitezaz Hassan deserves the highest respect of this country,
who sacrificed his budding life to save other mothers from weeping their hearts
out. The sacrifice of Aitezaz should have a constant reminder that terrorists
will not spare even school children, but we quickly forgot the tragedy and
didn’t take appropriate measures to protect our schools. While this is true
that the government cannot provide security to every school, there must have
been an exercise to identify vulnerable schools and should have devised a
security strategy for them.
We must look deeply inwards to
search for answers. There should have been a judicial commission to understand
the causes of the Peshawar school attack; fix responsibility and avoid future
happenings but the government felt content with setting up a parliamentary
committee to devise a policy but unfortunately policies are not always
The civil society has come up
with an equally strong response by organizing vigils and protest against
apologists of the attack. It is important to organize such events regularly so
that the tragedy is converted to our national strength and resolve to end
intolerance and extremism in our society.
We must also keep in mind that
terrorism is a problem of regional and global dimensions. The reforms in FATA
have long been overdue. We need to terminate the sanctuaries of terrorists who
use inaccessible or poorly governed areas in Pakistan. The mainstreaming of
FATA in national development is the first step towards a peaceful Pakistan. The
people of FATA need local government institutions like other Pakistanis to
solve their local problems without looking to the federal capital for every
We should also seriously think
about the militants’ rehabilitation and reintegration in the social life. These
militants have been taught this way of life for years and punishment is not the
only solution. After every conflict, countries and government take special
measures to reintegrate militants to normal life.
Peace is not possible without a
just society. Pakistan, both at the State institutions and society level, must
take sustainable steps to counter the menace of militancy and intolerance.
While a military response to the problem of militancy becomes inevitable in certain
circumstances, it is the overall causes that we have to reflect on to address
this challenge that is now threatening our future. We must revisit our domestic
and external policies; invest in education and human development, and promote
values of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and mutual respect to progress
 Shad Begum is a human rights
activist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and a recipient of international
women of courage awards.