Charsadda attack: It is time to ask Pakistan Army some hard questions

Whatever the military demanded, civilian government gave – from military courts to foreign policy, everything has been under control of Army. But what are the results beyond photo-ops and extensive PR gains?

A month after Pakistan observed the first anniversary of the deadly APS Peshawar attack, Islamist terrorists belonging to the banned TTP have struck again – this time at Bacha Khan University in Charsadda.

According to the latest updates, 21 people have been killed in the attacks with over 60 injured. Law enforcement agencies have cleared the premises, killing 4 terrorists.

This attack on another educational institution holds a lot of symbolic value. This is the third major attack in KPK in a month – all after Army’s continuous propagation of ‘phenomenal success’ and ‘broken backbones of terrorists’ in Zarb-e-Azb.

20th January is the death anniversary of Bacha Khan, a true humanist and preacher of non-violence. The attack took place when students had gathered to commemorate his death anniversary.

The attack on university, followed by quick condemnations, calls for swift investigations and ISPR blowing the trumpet of Army’s operation. Chief of Army Staff has arrived to the university, PM Nawaz Sharif and CM KPK, Pervez Khattak are on their way.

The question: What happens next?

An APC will be called, joint committee will be formed, followed by announcement of culprits to be brought to justice. End.

After December 16 attacks, the country’s leadership met to formulate a strategy to eliminate terrorism from the country – National Action Plan. A thorough analysis of the plan shows how unsuccessful the country’s civil and military government has been to implement it.

Banned organizations are still operating freely. The government bans an organization, it emerges with a new name, contests elections and even wins seats. LeT, banned in 2002, changed its name to JuD and still working freely under the guise of a welfare trust – often along with Pakistan Army in cases of emergency.

Lal Masjid is located at three minutes’ drive from the HQ of country’s premiere spy agency, where Mullah Abdul Aziz, a known terrorist and law-offender, unleashes threats against the state, refuses to bow down to the Constitution but still remains at large. To make it worse, country’s Interior Minister lies on the floor of the National Assembly, saying there has been no case registered against Mullah Aziz.

After the Pathankot attacks, Pakistan has announced action against banned JeM, closing down its offices and taking its leadership into ‘protective custody’. Banned since 2002, the government must answer the simple question: why did it wait for 14 years to take action?

The average response after this attack is exactly the same as any other in the past. ‘They are not Muslims’, ‘terrorism has no religion’, ‘it is a conspiracy of RAW’ and so on. Such oversimplified, sweeping statements have become a part of national discourse in Pakistan.

Not an hour into the attack and many in the media, responsible for narrative building, started pointing their fingers towards India.

The most ridiculous of all has been the response of Ansar Abbasi, who blamed the Indian intelligence, RAW for backing TTP terrorists. This is the same man who has, for years, defended the ideology of TTP and advocated dialogue with them.

Back in 2009, Mr. Abbasi about Sufi Muhammad wrote,“His decade’s long struggle for Islamic justice system in Swat and Malakand Division is in sight but now he himself has threatened the achievement of his life’s goal.”

The same TTP was considering Orya Maqbool Jan and Ansar Abbasi as their negotiators.

Now, the question is, if TTP is being backed by Indian RAW, has Mr. Abbasi been supporting enemies of Pakistan for years?

Giving sweeping statements like ‘terrorists are not Muslims’ is not going to take us anywhere. It is about time we stop being in denial and realize that they are Muslims and they do follow an interpretation of Islam.

If they were not Muslims, why Hakeem Ullah Mehsud, Baitullah Mehsud and Osama Bin Laden would be termed as ‘martyrs’ and ‘soldiers of Islam’? Why would Muslim clerics offer their funerals in absentia? Why would hundreds of locals rush to offer funeral prayers of terrorists hanged to death?

It is about time we asked Pakistani military some hard questions. It's no longer the era of patriotic anthems and keeping our mouths shut with the arguments such as ‘fouj ka waqar’, amidst serious security questions. The nation has thanked Raheel Sharif enough to ask for the results of his campaign against terrorism.

Whatever the military demanded, civilian government gave – from military courts to foreign policy, everything has been under control of Army. But what are the results beyond photo-ops and extensive PR gains?

Lastly, stop using adjectives such as 'resilient', 'brave', 'heroes', 'courageous' – please stop glorifying the dead children. Please. They were not resilient. Or brave. They were students. They never saw this coming – were murdered in cold blood by the hands of Islamist terrorists. There is no glory in it but sheer helplessness.

Umer Ali is an Islamabad-based journalist who reads and writes about Pakistan and its history. He aspires to see a tolerant and progressive Pakistan. Follow him on Twitter

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