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Half a year since APS massacre: Is Pakistan forgetting its greatest tragedy?

‘Jate hue kehte hu qayamat ko milenge,

Kya khoob, qayamat ka goya hai koi din aur’

December 16th 2014  marks the darkest day in the country’s history. Marked as the day when Pakistan lost its eastern wing more than four decades ago, the day rarely brought any positive memory for Pakistanis. December 16th, however, would be remembered for something else. Something far more tragic, something far more catastrophic and something far more horrendous. A day that sent a wave of terror throughout the country. Make no mistake, terrorism isn’t new to Pakistan. But Peshawar was a manifestation of barbarism and brutality that appalled even Pakistanis who had grown desensitized to terror and bloodshed. This was callousness beyond the wildest imagination of a nation that had lost thousands of lives in the war against terror. Everyone from the liberal to the conservative vowed to avenge the death of our children. Our children who had so courageously embraced martyrdom. We solemnly swore that no mother would have to go through the ordeal of seeing her child’s bullet riddled corpus. We had had enough. Even those who had maintained their ignominious indifference and silence against extremism capitulated under mounting public pressure.

There was finally a shift in the public’s narrative. No longer were we to engage with militants. They could not be forgiven. Peshawar could not be forgotten. Madrassas would be regulated, hate speech would be curbed, and sectarian violence would be addressed. Most significant of these developments was perhaps the establishment of military courts. Terrorists would now be convicted. The moratorium on death penalty was promptly lifted. The nation agreed that these measures were imperative. Political parties agreed, albeit reluctantly.

Recalling the events of December 16th and the days that followed, Peshawar and the ensuing consensus against militancy seems like an opportunity lost when one ponders over incidents that have transpired over the last 6 months. The unity and call for decisive action did not survive the light of the day. Religious parties like the JUI expressed their misgivings when the government pledged to act against banned sectarian outfits. The government, keen to appease its political ally was quick to push the issue to the backburner. While the government continues to make tall claims about going ahead with the national action plan, its promises are little beyond demagoguery and political rhetoric.

While the moratorium on death penalties was lifted with a view to eliminate terrorists, its efficacy remains a matter of concern. While the hanging of Saulat Mirza and the pending execution of Shafqat Husain has generated immense media coverage, most Pakistanis fail to acknowledge how 8 out of the 10 terrorists responsible for the attack on Malala Yousufzai have been exonerated and released. The honourableInterior Minister recently launcged a crackdown against a number of NGOS with alleged links to the US, India and Israel. We are yet to see Mr. Nisar act with the same robustness against Madrassas with links to Saudia Arabia, Afghanistan or Iran. Hatemongers perpetrating sectarian violence continue to carry out their sinister agenda, undauntedly and relentlessly. Banned outfits continue to operate under new names. The names have changed, the agendas haven’t. The government in Sindh particularly failed to act against such outfits despite protests and sit-ins by the civil society. Clerics associated and linked to dubious militant or quasi-militant organizations continue to appear on National television. Their appearance on primetime has now become a regular feature with tensions escalating on the country’s eastern borders. Half a year since Peshawar, our political parties maintain their apathy and criminal indifference. Apathy bordering on callousness.

Today as we mark the 6 month anniversary to our greatest tragedy, we’ll hold a number of vigils. Our politicians would make speeches about how Peshawar would not be forgotten, the perpetrators of the heinous act never forgotten. Our television channels would run marathon transmissions on the APS catastrophe, perhaps even manage to record a few close-ups as the families of martyrs mourn and weep. Make no mistake though. Our political parties would still turn to these banned outfits, seeking their support in the next by-elections. Our media houses would continue to invite the latter’s leaders (read militants) to their talk shows to ponder over the future of Indo-Pak ties. We would continue to dwell about the catastrophe that took place on December 16th 2014. Make no mistake though. We have forgotten Peshawar and the tragedy that took place there.

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