A whole world grieves with Pakistan. The murder of 132 schoolchildren by terrorists professing to uphold the principles of religious belief and yet callous about the same belief held as sacrosanct by these children is a reminder to all of us that vicious bigotry is yet at work. Despite the feeling among the Pakistani establishment that the offensive against the Taliban has been going well in recent weeks, it now appears that these merchants of violence are well-ensconced in their lairs and refuse to die. That these brigands are well armed and are capable of striking at the most unexpected times and places was demonstrated in gruesome fashion in Peshawar on Tuesday.
Rare is the instance of men ostensibly fighting for a cause descending to the depths the Taliban did on Tuesday. Its spokesmen did not have the decency even to pretend that the murder of the 132 children was a mistake, that they regretted the outcome of the attack on the army public school as an unintended consequence of their plan. Indeed, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has, to the horror of civilised people everywhere, let it be known that its men were supposed to kill the older children in the school and leave out the younger ones. The twisted logic which drives the minds of these denizens of the dark disturbs sensibilities everywhere. They chose to avenge the assaults of the Pakistan army on their hideouts through killing the children of the officers and soldiers who have been giving them a hard time. They forgot God. They insulted faith.
The Peshawar tragedy has left hearts cracked everywhere, even in places where Pakistan's external policies have traditionally been viewed with suspicion. Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has conveyed her grief to Islamabad. Indian leader Narendra Modi has asked schoolchildren in his country to pray for the children sprayed to death in Pakistan. In this moment of heart-wrenching tragedy, happening only a day after the siege of a café in Sydney led to the death of three individuals, including that of the gunman who started it all, people around the globe have united in grief. There is something about grief that has people remembering their need to come together when civilised life is under assault. And when pain is inflicted on a society by elements whose worldview rests on the medieval and the barbaric, it is neighbouring societies that suffer as well. The feeling of suffering is vicarious. Those children who died on Tuesday in Peshawar, who did not know that vicious men who themselves were once innocent children would snatch their future on a calm winter morning, were children not just of Pakistan. They were everyone's, every society's, every nation's children. They were the babies of the world.
Within Pakistan, the tragedy has seemingly brought the country's squabbling politicians together. Imran Khan, known for his sympathetic view of the Taliban, has been shocked into a loud condemnation of the outfit's misdeeds in Peshawar. The ruling Muslim League, the opposition Pakistan People's Party, the Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Jamaat-e-Islami have now agreed to begin talks on containing the Taliban threat. The Pakistani military, roused to fresh heights of fury, has promised death and destruction for the terrorists. It is a pity that the country's establishment needed the murder of 132 children to comprehend the mortal threat the Taliban symbolised before the country. And yet the gruesome murder of an altogether 142 people today reverberates as a call for order and stability to return to Pakistan, in the interest of its future and in the interest of the future of the region as a whole. The defeat of the Taliban will have significant ramifications in that it will kindle hope around the world of ISIS/ISIL being vanquished, of al-Qaeda coming apart, of Boko Haram in Nigeria being neutralised. Pakistan's politicians and its military must come together in a synchronisation of Taliban policy and then place that policy in implementation mode, relentlessly and pitilessly.
It is irony which the murder of the schoolchildren in Peshawar has thrown up. The rise of the Taliban had as much to do with the fanatical zeal of its adherents as with the enthusiasm of Pakistan's politicians and military for the rise of bigotry in neighbouring Afghanistan. Pakistani politicians and generals, riding the monster they created, simply had no way of taming it. The monster grew, in shape and size. And with that grew the Taliban's appetite for increasing power and influence, through a barbaric wielding of unsheathed weaponry and a convoluted interpretation of faith. It has destroyed Afghanistan. It has gone on to create unending havoc in Pakistan.
As the 132 schoolchildren and their teachers go to their sudden graves, only one truth arises, through the cold winds of winter, for the living: it is time to drive the spear, sharp and swift, into the heart of the monster --- to silence it for all time.r
is Associate Editor, The Daily Observer.
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