It was the deadliest-ever attack on Pakistan’s Christian community. Words cannot describe the pain everyone must have felt while watching the tragic visuals on our television screens: parents looking helplessly for their children, family members holding dead bodies of their loved ones, children in shock at the tragedy they had just witnessed, men and women shouting and screaming at the authorities to help them. It was a nightmare… a nightmare that will not end when we open our eyes, a nightmare that will keep unfolding until our state decides to stop capitulating before the terrorists responsible for murder and mayhem. Unfortunately, it seems that those at the helm of the affairs have no such intentions. As a result, our religious minorities will continue to be threatened, persecuted, maimed and target-killed by terrorists.
Jundallah, a terrorist organisation, claimed responsibility for the church attack. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is reportedly distancing itself from the attack after some reports said that one of its factions, Jundul Hafsa, could be behind it. Does it really matter whether the church attack was carried out by the TTP, Jundallah or Jundul Hafsa when the worse is still to come? What matters is that our civilian and military leadership need to buckle up and go after each and every one of the terrorist groups that operate from our soil. Al-Qaeda, the TTP, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and countless other terrorist organisations continue to terrorise the people of this country, especially our religious minorities, every single day. Instead of coming up with a strategy to counter terrorism, our government offers to hold talks with these barbarians. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan goes one step further and asks the government to declare a ceasefire and allow the Pakistani Taliban to open up offices to facilitate ‘peace talks’. I couldn’t agree more with journalist Cyril Almeida’s (@cyalm) tweet: “The PTI has become the political wing of the TTP. Let’s not pussyfoot around it. Taliban Khan lives.”
While our politicians can be blamed for spreading disinformation among their followers, the blame for such obfuscation cannot solely rest on their shoulders. Pakistan’s military establishment has been at the forefront of creating mass confusion by overtly and covertly supporting terrorist groups, and religious groups and spreading extremist propaganda by misusing religious ideology for its own vested interest. Our military and civilian leadership need to understand that we cannot afford to remain in this state of confusion any longer. When the late Benazir Bhutto was asked in an interview (The Herald Annual, January 2001) about the basic problem with civil-military relations, her simple yet profound answer was: “The inability of the military to bow before the people’s will.”
It would obviously take a long time to undo the damage that our military establishment has done through decades of indoctrination to our collective psyche but the solution lies in deciding once and for all what is to be done. Our time is up.
The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org