At the end of the year people are generally pulling on their optimistic strengths to take on the next year with renewed hopes. However, our hope was hit on 16th December with the Peshawar attack that took around 150 lives, majority of whom were children. This is not the first time that Pakistan has experienced a horrific attack that has resulted in the loss of innocent lives, but this incident stung the most. Our children were directly targeted at such a large scale.
The general response is that we make noise for a few days, promises are made, oaths are taken and then life is back to normal until the next time and the cycle repeats itself. Sadly, this cycle has been given the name of resilience.
Immediately after the attack everyone for a change agreed on dropping the distinction between ‘good and bad Taliban’. Everyone agreed that there is no longer any room for the apologist narrative. Many of us took a sign of relief with the hope that this time around maybe just maybe the powers to be were going to take the much awaited direction of forming a counter terrorism strategy.
The moratorium on death penalty was lifted and welcomed by the majority. Those responsible for such brutality would be and should be hanged. Very few voices were raised against the death penalty and they were booed, being labelled as liberal fascist, pseudo of every category and what not. We wanted revenge and we wanted blood. Unfortunately, that is all we got. Counter operations were conducted and a few pawns were hanged, to save face in the growing anger and protest. While this process also grabbed victims like Shafqat Hussain, the main convicts were being released on bail, with one explanation or the other.
All in all, as far as the official efficiency is concerned we are back to zero and as some would say, we never moved away from point zero in the first place.
What is different this time?
A place where amnesia is a dominant feature and it can be assumed that it is a sort of defense mechanism people use to survive the chaos they live in; people have opted to not forget this incident. These are not just the people who have suffered personal loss in the incident. If there ever is a window of hope, then this is it.
Civil society in Islamabad led by Mohammad Jibran Nasir started a campaign aiming to reclaim our mosques from those representing our religious ideology. The narrative from our religious institutions has been promoting the self-interest of political Islam which is negated by the majority of the people. Another aspect that needs to be focused on is the indoctrination coming from these institutions which is crippling for our future generations. The protests started outside the infamous Lal Masjid in the capital of the country in reaction to the statement of Maulana Abdual Aziz aka Mulana Burqa calling to forget the Peshawar attack as a small sacrifice for a bigger cause. The peaceful protesters were able to register an FIR (first information report) against him and subsequently in getting arrest warrants from the court.
The mainstream media has by far not given the coverage that this movement deserves. Their word has spread through social media, which Jibran Nasir has used as an alternative form of press release. The fundamental message being that it is time that the people stand up and reclaim their mosques and demand that those entrusted with our religious representation should stop voicing the extremist narrative and further imbedding it in the vulnerable minds of our children.
People from other cities joined in solidarity, gathering at coordinated points in their respective cities, showing that a large section of our society still believes in humanity and supports the basic fundamental concept of co-existence in harmony.
Given the record of movements in our country, it is not easy to put one’s faith in any movement but given the grassroots nature of this one it feels right to invest in this one. The team that has developed here, came out with a charter of demands which they took to various authority figures. The demands presented are justified and what many have been asking for a long time without any heed from the powers that be.
Melody Beattie said, “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals”.
It can only be hoped that the shock of the Peshawar school attack is strong enough to send tremors through the walls that have to date refused to address the elephant in the room. There is no room to debate the ifs and the buts of the situation and use the past decisions as a scapegoat. In order for us to have any chance at a better future, it is important that we admit our mistakes and role in creating a Frankenstein, and right a chapter that secures the future of our children and transpires the dream of our elders who gave up everything they had to create this homeland.