Friday, December 26, 2014

Smashing Flowers

By Shad Begum[1]


Photo credit http://www.ibtimes.co.in 
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 implemented.

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 problem solving.

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 ahead.

  





[1] Shad Begum is a human rights activist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and a recipient of international women of courage awards.

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