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The Moral Dimension of Shooting Children

When a 15-year-old girl from Swat was shot in the head for her desire to go to school, the majority of our citizens labeled this horrific event as a conspiracy in order to defame Pakistan and Islam. There was a massive campaign against the girl with people from all walks of life criticizing the defenseless child and labeling her as a western agent. A letter from the Taliban to the girl was shared by thousands of educated Pakistani’s on social media, which justified the attack. The western world has bestowed upon her the highest honor in the land; the Nobel Prize. Pakistan, however has disowned her and the safety of her person cannot be ensured in her home country.

It was a cautionary tale perhaps. A test case. How does the Pakistani populace react when a child is shot in broad daylight? What if the child’s blood stained uniform is displayed for the entire world to see? Would it be enough to make our stone hearts melt? Apparently not. One child, or even several innocent victims were not enough for the nation to recognize their enemy. It would take something much more horrendous, much more barbaric, much more disgusting to open the eyes of a blind nation.

Seven attackers entered the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December 2014. They shot indiscriminately and murdered over 100 students, mostly from the ages of 10-16. How does one react to this? All of a sudden, profile pictures on social media are changed to honor the victims and comments are made about how God will punish the attackers and how their ideology does not represent Islam. The Prime Minister, Chief of Army Staff as well as the opposition leaders reach Peshawar in order to show solidarity with the victims’ families. Condemnations arrive from people who had never condemned such attacks in the past. The nation is paralyzed, the media is sensationalized and the people are nothing but confused.

Confused. Yes. You might think that we are sad by the presence of tears on our face but look deeper, look at how we don’t understand what’s going on. Yesterday, many people claimed the Taliban to be our brothers and the warriors of Islam. The government was holding peace talks with them and several opposition leaders publicly supported their stance on various issues. Hardly anyone ever criticized them. Even though they had conducted dozens of attacks killing thousands of innocent civilians, most of our population still found excuses to justify their barbarity.

Everything changed on a cold Tuesday morning. Children, cute little children neatly dressed in their uniforms were trying to learn about the world. They were not exposed to the harsh realities of our country. They could never have imagined something like this to take place. When the first classroom door was broken and the attackers entered, some children did not even hide, as they were so confused about what was going on. Most were shot in the head to ensure maximum causalities. In another classroom, the teacher was first burnt alive and the students were asked to recite the ‘Kalma’ before they too were sent into oblivion.

Who could do such a thing? What kind of monster does not feel any hint of emotion while hurling bullets in the body of a child? It seems difficult to answer these questions, but it becomes easier if we analyze past events. Has something like this happened before? Indeed it has. In many occasions, the Taliban have killed over 100 innocent victims and smaller attacks occur almost everyday. The answer is clear. As clear as it could ever be. It only requires us to finally open our eyes.

Religious extremism is the cause and all the stakeholders of Pakistan are responsible. The Government is responsible for giving a free hand to sectarian terrorists and in some cases providing their leaders with police security. The Imam of the Lal Masjib, Abdul Aziz Ghazi has refused to condemn the attack and has publicly joined ISIS. He has named a library after OBL in his Madrassa and openly displays arms in the seminary in order to entice youth to Jihad He is given several security guards by the government. The government also protects the leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an extremist sectarian organization. There is photographic and video evidence of our former Law Minister addressing a political rally with the leader of this terrorist organization. The former Amir of Jamaat-e-Islaami called the leader of the Taliban, Hakeemullah Mehsud a martyr and called the army fighting the Taliban infidels.

The story does not end here. Our armed forces have created their fair share of mess by organizing and allowing the operations of what they consider as ‘strategic assets’. For some, there are two kinds of Taliban. The good Taliban are the ones, which operate in Afghanistan, the Bad Taliban are the ones that operate in Pakistan. Also, ‘unknown’ hands protect several extreme organizations like Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The leader of this organization, Hafiz Saeed who also has a bounty of $10 million can often be seen with a former ISI chief, Hamid Gul who helped create the Taliban.

Our judiciary is also to blame. The majority of the cases involving terrorism are casually ignored and the terrorists are often set scot-free as the authorities are too scared of publicly showing evidence against them. The Taliban have been successful in two jailbreaks in which they released over 500 convicted terrorists.

The blood of the children from Peshawar is collectively on the hands of the Pakistani nation. For too long have we continued to ignore the imminent threat knocking at our door. Perhaps for the first time, our nation is united like never before. We are willing to face this enemy head on and are desperate to ensure the security of the citizens of this poor country. It is time for the whole nation and the world at large to unite against religious extremism and unless this menace is dealt with from it’s roots, we will continue burying our dead.

This attack made us realize that the lightest coffins are often the heaviest ones.

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