The dreadful day that it was. The December 16th, 2014 when apocalypse happened in broad day light in Peshawar’s Army Public School that we all watched and wept.
For about 155 families, today is the day of heart wrenching pain, grief, anguish, angst and anger that they have been living for last one year. For many of us it is first of the annual reminders of horror, shock and shudder that the entire nation went through a year ago. For some – state authorities that is – it is a day to showcase their performance on their responsibilities ordained under the law of the land that they had to fulfill.
The families have been doing only what they could, trying every bit to handle the intensity of the grief and reminding the state of doing its duty. They organized themselves into a Shuhada Foundation and kept gathering on the 16th of every month. They kept asking questions and raising concerns. They kept reminding the state to fulfill its promise of being guardian to the life and property of its citizens. They kept recapping the social contract and the part that the other party to it, could not keep.
The society kept standing in solidarity with them. On the 16th of every month, dozens – yes, just dozens – of citizens kept gathering in different cities to assure the parents of slain children of their unconditional support and solidarity.
The state was also doing its bit. Trying hard to pretend that it was now committed to change its priorities. From a security state that allowed (I’m not using the word ‘nurture’ so I don’t step on someone’s toes) non-state actors on its land, to a state that was determined to sort them out. The non-state Frankenstein that grew up to be too big engulfed our own land and society much faster than it could fulfill its original geostrategic purpose.
So for the sake of checking it, the state announced a National Action Plan. There was a military operation going on as well, which got heated up after the APS carnage, into phase after phase of”‘clearing the areas”. Shawal valley, we hear, is “almost” clear after a year and a half of operation. The rest stays at 90%-clear status. A strong sense of vengeance was inculcated among the masses through announcements of ‘we won’t spare anyone’, lifting of moratorium on death penalties, leaking out pictures of executions and blowing the sentiment out of proportion using media.
Result? A populace ready to accept and applaud statistics. Such and such number of people arrested on hate speech. Such and such number convicted on a plethora of charges including assorted incidents of terrorism. Such and such number executed on whatever crimes, homicide, robbery, kidnap for ransom. Just anything. A battered populace would feel better. No one would ask questions. The discomforting questions that push venal states (we are told all states are venal so it is okay for our state to be so) to change their policies as per people’s wishes. People’s wishes were successfully managed lest they cross the red line. The red line where the ugly truth starts coming out and embarrasses people who sit deep down at the core of the state.
So today is the day to flaunt the numbers. And why not? If we have the vital statistics, let us boast. We did the operation everyone knows. As per the presser by the DG, ISPR, as many as 13,200 Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) were conducted across the country in which 183 hardcore terrorists were ‘neutralized’ and 21,193 were arrested. The good General informed that 3,400 terrorists were killed while 837 of their hideouts were destroyed. The numbers do not end here. A total of 11 military courts that are functioning have been referred with 142 cases, out of which 55 have been ‘resolved’ and 87 are being ‘processed’ while 31 terrorists were convicted so far. The winning figure is: four executions of the ‘facilitators’ of APS massacre.
But for all this effort in order to get these striking numbers, we paid the price too. We have lost our 488 valiant jawaans from Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps and Sindh Rangers and 1,914 were injured last year in Zarb-e-Azb. Such an elaborate stage has been set and so many numbers have been accomplished alongside losing precious lives of our soldiers. Not to forget, the most important output of the year that was unveiled just two days before the first anniversary of our children. The song.
Borrowing (obviously without credits) what was originally Malala Yousafzai’s quote – Instead of revenge, I would educate the children of even my attackers – the song, if you allow me be an optimist, probably sought to bring positivity to the discourse and give direction to the angst of victims’ parents and survivors. To be fair, when was the last time that soldiers in any era and culture were known for artistic prowess? So may be some things should be best left to where they belong.
But then, all of this was to accomplish one bigger output: ensure the masses that the state has changed its old policies. To corroborate this, we have other statistics firmly in place. Number of terrorist attacks for example, which have, admittedly, lowered down over last year. Leave aside other factors that might have contributed to it. Then there is declining number of targeted killings, kidnaps for ransom and other crimes, the fact that justifies executions. We also have speedy trials and abrupt executions that justify the existence of military courts. Leave aside every question on veracity of these claims and even the basic information about the cases under which convictions and executions are happening behind thick clouds of military procedures.
All right let me believe all of this. State is changing its old policies and is routing out all its former ‘assets’; every institution is open to accountability; all kinds of extremism and terrorism is going to be destroyed; and every kind of terrorist network is going to be dismantled.
Seems now it would be easier to answer critical questions that still remain even after all the statistics mentioned above.
One: Who is the ‘enemy’ in recent ISPR song whose kids we are promising to educate? India? USA? Afghans? The tribals and Pakhtoons who we have been radicalizing and using for our battles? The madrassa kids? Afghan Taliban? Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan? LeJ? LeT / JuD? Or anyone receiving lessons in distorted history and acquiring extremist views based on religion and so called ‘patriotism’? Who?
Two: Since every institution has presented itself for accountability, have we done anything to affix the responsibility for the failure of entire state apparatus that was / is there to ensure our children’s security? Any inquiry commission formed? Why not?
Three: Why so much secrecy on the case of APS carnage? Why the FIR is sealed? Why such a weak FIR? Why we do not know the details of the cases against those who have been executed? Why no one has been dismissed from duty for negligence? Why the families who are raising these questions are being silenced?
Answer these and I have another list of subsequent questions. Anyone please?