On the fateful day of 16th December 2014 when Pakistan was remembering the tragedy of loss of its eastern wing, another tragedy took place. Seven armed terrorists motivated by religious zeal wreaked havoc in a school in Peshawar and killed 132 children and 9 staff members. Pakistan has suffered many gruesome terrorist attacks during last 13 years but this one was unique and it has been dubbed as mini 9/11 for Pakistan. Apparently, this attack brought all the political parties of Pakistan on same page and it was unanimously agreed to form an action plan to root out terrorism from Pakistan. But still Pakistani nation at large is in a state of denial about the real cause and perpetrators of terrorism.
All major political and religious leaders of Pakistan openly declared that terrorists have nothing to do with religion of Islam and that terrorism has no religion. This is a negation of a basic fact and reflects the state of denial prevalent in Pakistan. Terrorists who butchered 132 children in Peshawar were Muslims, beyond any doubt. They were inspired by religious ideology which motivated them to sacrifice their lives for the cause. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the organization which claimed responsibility for the attack has waged Jihad against Pakistani state for their demand of implementing Shariah. In the presence of a number of evidences, denying the religious denomination of the terrorists and declaring them to be uncircumcised infidels is nothing but a further proof of the state of denial. This will not only prevent from solving the issue but it will further exacerbate the matter as the real cause of terrorism, i.e. religious indoctrination, is denied.
Madrassas are still the primary breeding ground of religious extremism and militancy in Pakistan. Irrespective of who is running these seminaries and what their motives are, it cannot be denied that root cause of terrorism in Pakistan is unchecked network of thousands of seminaries in Pakistan. When government expressed its intentions to regulate these seminaries, religious establishment reacted aggressively. They termed any attempt to bring religious seminaries under the law a threat to Islam. Playing the Islam card is a favorite past time of the clergyman and their most commonly used method of survival. While the state’s complacency is expressed by Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali’s statement in which he came to the rescue of seminaries by saying that only 10% of the seminaries are part of the problem and the rest are just imparting religious education. Former Interior Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has also defended the seminaries by rejecting the notion that seminaries have any role in terrorism. When the government of Pakistan is sympathetic to the source of the problem then how it can possibly be resolved?
Moreover, the common citizens of Pakistan are also in a state of denial about the terrorists. The national discourse on terrorism is that it is related to the waar in Afghanistan and that all the terrorists are foreign saboteurs who disguise as Muslims. Many educated Muslims can be seen arguing to defend this discourse. The public discourse on terrorism is shaped by right wing columnists, conservative politicians and the clergymen who have enormous influence on the opinions of common Pakistanis. How can it be expected from Pakistanis to rationally understand this whole issue when one of the most popular evangelist in the country, instead of condemning the terrorists, explains the Peshawar school incident as an expression of the wrath of God? Such an attitude lies at the core of whole issue of Talibanization because without getting a clear popular support of the people, it is not possible to defeat the threat of terrorism.
If truth be told, the root cause of terrorism in Pakistan is the policy of using jihad to achieve foreign policy objectives. In order to execute this policy, a conservative agenda has been pushed in the mainstream of Pakistan for last three decades. As a result the intellectual and political discourse in Pakistan has continuously drifted to the rightwing. Due to ignorance and lack of awareness, an average Pakistani citizen is gullible and vulnerable to accept any agenda as plain truth. As long as such state of denial continues, no action plan, military courts or collective political effort can eradicate the menace of terrorism. Incidents like Peshawar school massacre will create a short lived uproar and when the dust settles, everything will be back to normal again.