The 600 people, including women and children, gathered at the historic All Saints Church for the Sunday Mass, unaware of the horror that was to be visited upon them. At least eighty people were murdered in cold blood and more than a hundred seriously injured, when two suicide bombers attacked as worshippers left the church. The incident is a national tragedy which threatens to shake the very fundamentals this country was founded on, it is also a manifestation of the criminal mistakes of our past and the present.
The state has for some time now been well aware of the fact that terrorists, equipped and hell-bent to bring death and destruction in the name of religious purification, wander freely across the country with a license to kill. This is not the first time that a minority, whose patriotism and loyalty to this country has never been in question, has been subjected to indescribable ruthlessness. Despite this, it is obvious that the state failed to carry out one of its basic duties; to protect the lives of its citizens. When the culprits responsible for the murders of Shias, Ahmadis and Christians continue to escape accountability, it is not surprising that they strike again, and with greater force. It was believed, perhaps naively so, that a calamity of such magnitude would expose the true face of the enemies and shred the false narrative of ‘peace talks’ to pieces. But, the reaction from the ‘leaders’ has only added salt to the injuries. In line with the tradition which is followed whenever something horrible happens, empty statements of meaningless condemnation and regret were issued to the media by politicians, and that was the limit of their contribution. However, members and ministers of PTI along with their leader, Imran Khan, made an exception to their usual post-attack modus operandi, by visiting the Lady Readings Hospital to inquire after the injured. Speaking to the media, the PTI Chairman contradicted himself by first clarifying that such attacks had been going on since 2002, and that there was nothing special about this one. And then, he proceeded to claim that this attack could be part of a conspiracy to ‘sabotage’ peace talks. As his fellow countrymen lay limbo between life and death in the background, Imran Khan laid bare his apologetic approach to the extremism issue. The same approach that got him elected, the same approach that has time and again raised hell against the idea of any strict action being taken against the terrorists.
In Mr Khan’s mind, among other proponents of peace talks, it makes perfect sense that people affected by drone strikes would structure highly organised militias, get sympathetic funding, buy suicide vests and then, attack people for their beliefs. He felt that it was premature to blame the TTP as they had not yet claimed responsibility. Although, they have. If he would just switch on the TV, or pick up a newspaper. They have also openly claimed responsibility for the IED blast that killed three military personnel, including a Major-General, post-peace talks offer by the government, if Mr Khan would cast his mind back a week. Mr Khan described the ‘unknown people’ responsible for the heinous act as “animals”. But, the TTP has targeted places of worship on countless occasions, including shrines and mosques, killed over forty-thousand innocent civilians without any sign of remorse and yet after all this, Mr Khan still lacks the courage to name the "animals". Mr Khan’s response to the attack shows lack of courage to admit that he was wrong about talks, and a dangerous trend to continue to appease those who would wipe the white stripe off the flag of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s statement gives no reason for optimism, either. While speaking from London, the PM was quick to condemn the attack but dedicated the rest of his words to defend the decision of holding peace talks with extremists taken by political parties in APC. So, a reality check is in order. The PM needs to be reminded that his government has conducted its experiment, and it has failed. Its offer of peace has been met with the same mindless violence by the terrorists and the people of the country find themselves to be just as vulnerable as they did before electing him. No, the TTP, its offshoots, and the rest of the terrorists are not our own people who have been led astray due to drone strikes. They are murderers, driven by an ideology which preaches bigotry and the use of violence to establish a homogenous state where everyone must conform, or die. If the PM cannot act after the death of 80 people in a targeted attack on a minority, perhaps he ought to resign and let someone else do the job he is afraid to do without first holding a round of handshakes.