Goodbye, 2014

The year 2014 is over. Finally! It was a dark, depressing and disappointing year for my country, Pakistan. The year started with a brutal massacre of Shia Hazaras in Balochistan by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). During the year, there were many other devastating terrorist attacks. The year ended with more than a hundred children killed point-blank by the Taliban in a school in Peshawar. We want to forget, but we cannot. The pain of all these attacks cannot be wished away even if one wants to. Every day is a grim and gloomy reminder of our scars and then there is fear that the worst is yet to come.

The year ended with more than a hundred children killed point-blank by the Taliban in a school in Peshawar. A Pakistani soldier walks amidst the debris a day after the December 16 attack. File pic
The year ended with more than a hundred children killed point-blank by the Taliban in a school in Peshawar. A Pakistani soldier walks amidst the debris a day after the December 16 attack. File pic

Some people are optimistic that with the military brass and political class united to fight terrorism, things will get better. Unfortunately, the method they have chosen to deal with this menace of terrorism is not the right one. Lifting moratorium on death penalty and executing those on death row and/or establishing military courts is not a solution; it is another form of fighting barbarism by taking barbaric measures. Those who are willing to be suicide bombers will not be deterred by the possibility of hanging to death. As for military courts, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) rightly noted: “...trying civilians in military courts has always been a controversial issue and again one that the superior judiciary has opposed. The system of ‘speedy justice’ has never proved to be fair and often not speedy.” Military courts will not just undermine the superior judiciary but also our civilian leadership at the end of the day.

Instead of improving our justice system, introducing witness protection programme, providing security to judges and prosecutors, our politicians are handing the justice system over to our de facto rulers - the military. Our politicians must take responsibility and not shift it on to the military; a military that has already discredited them many a time in the past. It is time for our civilian leadership to stand up and be counted.

Who would not want terrorists to be punished for their barbaric deeds? We all do, but knee-jerk reactions in the face of a national tragedy - not unusual in this world - would hardly achieve anything. A concrete counter-terrorism policy is needed as well as doing away with the mindset that promotes religious radicalism. We cannot breed religious intolerance and terrorism for decades and think it can be routed overnight.

Steps must be taken in order to root out the mindset that breeds terrorism and intolerance in our society: all terrorists - be they our ‘assets’ or not - should be put behind bars and tried for their crimes against humanity; terrorist sympathisers should be taken to task; there should be zero tolerance for mullahs preaching hate from their pulpits; hate speech/material should be banned; crimes committed in the name of religion should be dealt with in the most stringent of manners; textbooks being taught in our schools should be more pluralistic; the government must be get rid of discriminatory laws, etc.

Our unity should not turn into some barbaric form of revenge. If we have to show unity, we must show it to reclaim sanity. Here’s hoping that 2015 turns out to be a better year for Pakistan and for all of us.

The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at mehmal.s@gmail.com

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