At the end of 2013, I had compared the difference between Pakistan and the rest of the world, which had celebrated the beginning of a Ney Year with the traditional spectacular fireworks and singing and dancing in the streets.
While in Karachi, once City of Lights, which used to be full of joy and laughter, again came under a virtual lockdown after sunset and the major roads were blocked with ugly steel containers and people were advised to stay home and not to celebrate the New Year, because as per our tradition, there was nothing to celebrate. And unfortunately, as per tradition, the beginning of the New Year has proved that to be right, as hundreds of innocent men, women and children have been maimed or killed due unabated target killings, terrorists and sectarian attacks, while our government, the opposition and LEAs squabble and fiddle, while innocent citizens are being mercilessly killed.
Such is the misfortune of Pakistan, which was founded by the Quaid, with a vision of a progressive and tolerant Muslim state, which could proudly stand on the world stage with the League of Nations.
But over the years, the Quaid’s dream, which was based on his first speech to the nation, in which he had declared: “You are free to go to your temples, your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the State”, has turned into a nightmare. At the same time, we have an unconcerned nation and civil society, especially the educated and the rich, who have become indifferent and unconcerned about what is happening to Quaid’s Pakistan and have buried their heads in the sand like ostriches.
They have abdicated their responsibilities of being law abiding, responsible and good citizens and instead have taken an ‘Who Cares’ attitude and distanced themselves from the lack of good governance and the tragedies that surround them. This has given the extremists, militants, war lords and criminals a free hand to do what they please.
As such, today, Pakistan is once again facing a defining moment and stands at the proverbial crossroad and has to take a decisive stand against these extremists and criminals, who are hell-bent to destroy our country and our way of life.
In the past few weeks, the militants have launched a pitiless assault on the citizens of Pakistan, including Polio workers and have been on a killing spree across the nation, from the hills of Khyber to the port city of Karachi, killing and maiming innocent men, women and children, while the response of the government, opposition leaders and the Silent Majority, has been, to condemn these attacks in the ‘strongest words’, something that we have been hearing for the last ten years, but which obviously leave the bloody killers unmoved.
It seems that the government is confused and paralyzed and has no clue as how to tackle the problem. Even now it does not have an effective Anti-Terrorist or a National Security policy and cannot decide on, whether to talk or not to talk with the militants. While the Sindh government’s Operation Clean Up, which was launched with such fanfare, seems to be in the doldrums and has become ineffective.
Our government and opposition leaders seem to be only interested in issuing dire warnings and taking photos with the families, offering fatiha for the Shaheed, but the consequences for the people are deadly, as the banned outfits operate with impunity and it is the innocent citizens who are led, like lambs, to the slaughter house. A few retaliatory air strikes and cosmetic actions are not going to solve the problem or break the back of the militants. What the PM needs to do is to tell the nation exactly how the government intends to tackle terrorism and announce its National Security policy.
Stopping a suicide bomber just as he is about to detonate, is indeed almost impossible, that is why it is important to take the fight to the militants, to destroy their hideouts and safe havens, uproot the infrastructure which brainwashes, trains and dispatches suicide bombers and prosecute those guilty of waging war on the people and the state of Pakistan.
So, besides the usual humdrum problems of running a dysfunctional, divided nation, we have the serious issues of law and order, the sectarian killings, the drone attacks, Gen. Musharraf’s trial, which seems to be ending, not with a band, but a whimper, the power crisis in the coming summer, escalating prices of essential items, etc.
While the recent dharnas in the cities of Pakistan by the Shias of Hazara, which paralyzed the city, has highlighted the seriousness of the situation. The entire nation should have joined the dharnas and protested against the genocide of Shias, but as always, that has not been the case.
The dharnas have been called off, as the government has promised to do the needful, but does the government has any such intentions or the political will to take effective action or will it continue to be on the defensive, surrender to the terrorists and allow them a free hand? It is about time the state asserts its authority and displays some leadership to stop the militant onslaught.
The above situation reminds one of the sad stories of the genocide the Nazis had launched against the Jews, when they went around Jewish neighborhoods, rounding them up and sending them to concentration camps and finally the gas chambers. Nobody had stood up to protest and in due course, there was no need to protest, as there were no Jews left in the neighborhood. So, the million dollar question is the PML-N government capable of getting its act together and start delivering on some of the promises they had made during the elections? Can it unite this divided, fragmented nation on one platform and take decisive action against the terrorists and sectarian killers. And if the government fails to do so, then in time, the Taliban will take over our cities. As such, we don’t have many options, and if we don’t break our ‘Silence of the Lambs’, then it won’t be hard to figure out as for whom the bells toll.
n The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org