Just three days from today, it will be the one-month-anniversary of the gory horrible day when our kids were brutally killed in Peshawar. Seems pertinent to take stock of how the state and the society have responded to it.
Talking of society, we saw a stunned nation with scantily attended ‘vigils’ in major cities, shocked and noisy social media, confused and misleading reactions of analysts and opinion-makers on the idiot-box, big headlines in reverse on spreadsheets and a generally somber air. The world, on the other hand, responded to it with unequivocal solidarity and massively attended vigils.
Just when one was beginning to believe that there was going to be a consensus against terrorism, the TV started showing the ‘usual suspects’ reminding us how it was not our war and asking why we were not shocked and agitated when madrassa children were killed by drones. Then emerged a strong lobby known for its pro-army streak, claiming the Peshawar massacre was the handiwork of India. On Dec 16 when we gave a call for a vigil in utter shock and distress, we found Jamaat-ud-Dawa activists already gathered on the venue chanting slogans against India thereby the diluting nation’s anger against the Taliban.
The next day we saw the Prime Minister lifting the moratorium on the death penalty, giving the message that terrorism was taking root because there existed limited deterrence for it. If we think the death penalty is really an act of deterrence for a suicide bomber. Two days later we saw the hangings of two convicted for attacking GHQ and attempting to murder then military dictator Pervez Musharraf. It was followed by public frenzy for blood. But, whose blood? This is unclear. Just anyone convicted by the court of law rightly or wrongly. Not necessarily those who claimed the responsibility for the massacre. That’s what we saw on TV when Mullah Abdul Aziz shamelessly defended the Taliban for being ‘victim of wrong policies of the state of Pakistan’.
That became the turning point. Ordinary citizens rose from the ashes and despite media protection, the likes of Mulla Aziz, they demonstrated strongly against his defense of the killers. The Mullah’s response were usual threats of violence. The citizens were adamant. They lodged an FIR against the Mullah for threatening to murder. They subsequently rallied for his arrest. We have seen no arrest to date. But what we saw was the capitulation of the state once again, and the Mullah’s brazen threats to the state of unleashing ‘a thousand suicide bombers in different cities of Pakistan like it happened in 2007’.
What followed was political theatrics. The All Parties Conference, the formation of Committees, the National Action Plan and the establishment of Military Courts. The Chief of Army Staff continued signing more death warrants of civilian convicts. On special orders, the government promulgated a hastily drafted Ordinance to make room for otherwise illegal sentences of civilian convicts by the military leadership. The so-called ‘consensus’ was achieved for military courts among the politicians, which quickly evaporated, as is normally the case with forced decision-making.
The Corps Commanders Conference was quick to fix the politicians with polite but strong and firm statements, asking the political class to not let the consensus be lost due to trivial issues. Project democracy and strengthening of democratic values is indeed a trivial issue! The media and a portion of the intelligentsia successfully propagated the impression that military courts were the only answer to terrorism and that everyone against military-led (in)justice was actually soft on terrorists. It worked.
The politicians were forced to sit together once again and ‘agree’ on the constitutional amendment document to allow military-led courts. That the constitution did not allow such a parallel judicial system was not at all an issue. The politicians who usually are at loggerheads whenever there is a debate about constitutional amendments, were herded together to agree ceding their own power vested upon them by the people of this country.
The irony was lost on us; the right-of-center political parties and predominant portion of civil society that had achieved ‘independent judiciary’ and had taken pleasure in judicial activism, was not so keen to preserve the dignity of that institution. The consensus appeared to be for the rejection of the existing judicial system with embarrassing admission that the civilian leadership across-the-board was incapable to address the weaknesses of the judicial system.
On the day when democratic forces thrust the humiliating defeat upon them and voted for the demeaning constitutional amendment, the powerful image of one of the most credible and respectable parliamentarians almost bursting into tears captured the essence of political dilemma. On the one hand was the principle of party discipline, on the other was the prick of conscience for making a damaging choice for the very democracy (some) politicians had so long been struggling for.
Whatever power the parliament had gained post-2008, was lost with this vote. The disconcerting submission of all political parties was somewhat broken by this act of dissent by Senator Raza Rabbani. The three parties that abstained did not do it to uphold the principles of democracy. The two religious parties were unhappy because of the first-time admission of the leadership about all shades of religious extremism as the root cause of the blood and gore around us, and of religious seminaries to be fountainheads of most terrorism. The PTI abstained because it did not want to become part of the act of a parliament they had been abusing so loudly for several months.
Then emerged the wedding of the year. The media forgot the whole blood and terror, and engaged itself in covering the details of the bridal dress while social media was abuzz with the misogynic portrayal of the past life of the bride – not the groom.
Amidst all this, a gruesome attack on the Imambargah in Rawalpindi occurred. Around a dozen died and several got injured. No one had time to ask why anti-shia, takfiri Deobandi proscribed outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat were still operating freely despite those twenty points of a hyped National Action Plan. It is wedding season, you know!
The hangings continue. But the hanged are only those who attacked the military and military dictators. A state thirsty for blood is seen unleashing its selective vengeance. The murderer of Salman Taseer Shaheed, the killers of more than a hundred Ahmadis in two worship places attacked in 2010, the terrorists of LeJ and ASWJ who claimed several attacks on Shia Hazaras and dozens of targeted killings of Shia intellectuals; none of them matter.
Those behind Mumtaz Qadri, attacked peaceful participants of a vigil paying tribute to Shaheed Salmaan Taseer on his death anniversary. We hear some are arrested. Those behind many attacks on Shias remain at large. No movement on the state’s part. Mullah Abdul Aziz and his wife are still free despite pledging allegiance to ISIS. Wither National Action Plan? Consensus?
It is thus fair and justified for the citizens to hold demonstrations on January 16 to mark one month of Peshawar attack and remind the political and military leadership of their responsibilities. Be there, citizens; you are Team Pakistan. Never forget!

The writer is an Islamabad based freelance columnist. She can be contacted at marvisirmed@gmail.com