The planners of the Army Public School attack are not crazy fanatics. They are intelligent, cold and calculated warriors on a mission. The December 16, 2014, attack in Peshawar is similar to the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India.
By attacking an army school the planners and executers wanted maximum impact. They knew that Children’s deaths would draw worldwide media attention and would cause deep grief and shock at a large scale.
Attacking children of military officers is a message that can affect soldiers’ morale. It is a cruel but classical example of psychological warfare and is usually used against foreign enemies.
It also shows that a very small number of people can cause havoc creating fear and panic in the whole country.
Pakistan is at war but there is little understanding and preparedness for this war. Those who are supposed to fight the war are actually part of the problem.
Misunderstood and misinterpreted religious teachings may have colored vision of some Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia and elsewhere.
Pakistanis response to terrorist attacks is confused and predictable. After each act of aggression we are reduced to knee-jerk reaction, emotional outbursts, shouting matches in the media and mere statements of condemnations. Records show that after shallow reaction to such incidents, the Pakistani state and public sit and wait for the next one. The same is likely to happen in the case of the Army Public School Peshawar massacre.
Many Pakistanis’ attitude towards life has also changed, particularly during the past three decades. From the Jihadis to the Taliban and from Mulana Tariq Jameel to the imam of a local mosque most preachers have been focusing on the life after death. They have been saying that this world is a platform, life is unimportant therefore we must prepare for the other life where the paradise awaits us. Muslims should not fall in love with this world; they must remember death and be prepared for it. Also giving life in the way of God is supreme as shaheeds go straight to paradise.
The above teachings can’t be challenged as these are part of the Muslim faith; however, an important component of the Islamic teachings seems to be missing or ignored by those who have monopolized the Islamic faith in Pakistan in the past 30 years.
The missing bit is very important. Islam is religion of peace. According to Islam this world and indeed the whole universe is God’s creation in which human being is the most beautiful and special creature. Islamic teachings say that the God belongs to the entire human race and HE is not just God of Muslims. Also life is a gift of God, preparing for the other life is an obligation but it doesn’t mean Muslims cause hurt and pain and start taking lives. A Muslim has to be responsible and should live active and meaningful life—learning, exploring and expanding knowledge. He/she should be a source of love and kindness.
Pakistan is a battlefield of foreign sponsored wars. Wrong and selective religious interpretations serve purpose of foreign masters so they used such interpretations to motivate and manipulate the public to justify their wars.
Half truths are always dangerous. When under the influence of selective interpretation, human life is disrespected and is taken for granted it leads to deadly consequences which are witnessed in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world in form of intolerance and extreme violence.
Another manifestation of this interpretation is acceptance of violence as God’s will. Perhaps this attitude is one of the reasons that in Pakistan serious attempts are not made for catching and punishing mass murders and culprits behind terrorist acts. Benazir Bhutto’s murder case is one example out of thousands of others where murder is considered a causal affair. Often people get killed over very minor issues. Cruelty and violence are accepted in the name of religion, culture, honor and national security. Such casual attitude towards life could be a reason why many in Pakistan can’t comprehend the seriousness of the threat they face as people and country.
In the United Kingdom, the Scotland Yard spent more than three years and interviewed 3000 people in investigating the murder of Dr. Imran Farooq, a Pakistani immigrant politician who lived in London.
When rule of law and principles of equality are followed life of a single human becomes extremely important. But when the rule of law and respect for human life is ignored, the result is the situation in Pakistan and in few other Muslim countries.
Resolving this issue is not a responsibility of the government only. The Pakistani society has to take responsibility and challenge those who misinterpret their faith and use its teachings selectively. Appreciating the value of human life and rejecting all forms of violence is also pivotal. We must not act as God and judge and punish people who disagree with us or have different believes or appearances.
Incidents like the attack on the Army Public School Peshawar prove that Pakistani security institutions need further training. Lack of will and lack of coordination are also problems. In the past three decades some Pakistani institutions have been using guerrilla warfare techniques where achieving the target becomes important, not the means. Rule of law is the first casualty of such strategies.
Pakistan needs to adopt a comprehensive strategy to counter the threat, which if not controlled, will eliminate the state of Pakistan.
a) True and peaceful face of Islam and its teachings of love and harmony need to be highlighted from homes to schools, in the media and politics.
b) New lines of horizontal communication and coordination should be established between Pakistan’s various law enforcing and intelligence agencies and security forces. The security establishment of the country has to adopt transparency as its top priority and they must be accountable to the government.
c) Pakistan has to be active on the diplomatic front and find new allies against the security threats. It should also review its ties with states which have been pursuing their interests and agendas on the Pakistani soil at the cost of Pakistan’s security and stability.
Shiraz Paracha is a commentator, public affairs specialist and journalism professor.
His email address is: email@example.com