Pakistan united in pain on anniversary of division

Pakistan united in pain on anniversary of division
5 min read
17 December, 2014
The murder of more than 100 children and their teachers exposes the murderous narrative of the criminal attackers.
More than a hundred children had their lives cut short in the massacre [Anadolu]
It was the longest day and most excruciatingly painful night.

Pakistanis lay in bed to sleep, but pieces of our selves were scattered all around. The nation did not feel secure enough to forget the hard day. Some 136 angels were shot at close range, mostly in the head. A dozen elders, including a young female teacher who was burnt alive, accompanied them.

In the dry, cold winter night of Peshawar, the children lay in a thin white shroud sealed in a wooden casket. The homes of the victims and their neighbors will never be the same again.

For a people who have lost 60,000 citizens to attacks by the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and others since 11 September 2001, the December 16 massacre was not about the death toll.

The attack ripped through the nation's soul.

"The cowards can't fight our men so they kill our children in schools," cried a grieving grandmother in the hallway of Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital.

The terrifying search

The local hospital drained from victims' relatives whatever ounces of blood remained by displaying a list of children who had been taken there. It resembled a school's results day, when parents anxiously look for their children's academic performance.

The 10-page notice board gave each child's name, their father's name, city and condition. It was mostly a list of martyrs.
     The notice board gave each child's name, their father's name, city and condition. It was mostly a list of martyrs.


Knowing the dwindling likelihood of finding their children alive, eager parents huddled towards the board, hoping beyond hope not to find their child's name. Many collapsed right in front of the board when they did.

The Central Asian city of Peshawar, which has hosted more than two million Afghan refugees since the late 1970s, today looks like a graveyard of flowers. Amid threats of more revenge attacks on funerals, the Pakistanis bid their martyrs a teary farewell. Over the years, suicide bombers in their bid to satisfy their vampiric lust for innocent blood attacked countless funeral processions.

Pakistanis fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan along with the Middle Eastern brotherly nations, as well as the United States and Europe. The West continued to play its games, paying off Pakistan-based Afghan refugees not to foment a revolution or build a proxy for Shia Iran on the subcontinent.

Meanwhile, Islamabad's unparalleled desire to be the home of every Muslim in distress led it to open its doors, not only for the Afghan refugees but also for those the Middle Eastern rulers found too Islamist or politically threatening.

Isolation explodes

The moneymen behind the Afghan revenge against the Soviets withdrew their support. The Arab fighters and their Central Asian comrades had nowhere to which to return. The Ben Alis, the Gaddafis and the Hosni Mubaraks et al wouldn't let them go home.

Led by Osama Bin Laden, they instead vowed to make an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Married to Afghan and Pakistani women, they began an isolated life. Come 9/11, the world paid the cost of their exclusion and the isolation of ideologically driven human beings.

Islamabad acted as a bridge for a few years, despite its declared goal of crushing the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Monday wasn't the first rampage on schools in our country. There have been countless bomb blasts and suicide attacks.

But never before had they gone from classroom to classroom with grenades and machine-guns. They had not shot children at close range with their own eyes shut. The teachers were never burnt alive in front of children who were not yet even teenagers.

Vengeance

On December 10, the world celebrated the courage of a Pakistan girl, Malala Yousafzai, in Oslo, Norway. Her Nobel Prize was too much to digest for the criminals fighting in what they say to be the name of Islam.

Owing to Pakistan's superficial security arrangements against terrorism, they could have struck on December 11, immediately after Malala's award ceremony.

But they had cold-bloodedly planned a spectacular revenge.

The militants chose to strike the heart of Peshawar on December 16, the anniversary of the day Pakistan was broken into two and Bangladesh was created in 1971.

Pakistan did not point fingers at its neighbours for allegedly instigating the attacks. The soldiers first fought bravely to eliminate the nine attackers and then collected the martyrs' bodies.

Solidarity and geopolitics

On Tuesday, the politicians met beneath one roof in Peshawar. They may have pretended to forget their difference for now - but then they are politicians.
     It's only a matter of time before these soul-touching remarks from global capitals will lose their meaning.


Condolences have poured in from the frequently hostile India to the unpredictable United States. It's only a matter of time before these soul-touching remarks from global capitals will lose their meaning and geopolitics will again take over.

In solidarity with Pakistan's loss, Turkey announced a day of national mourning. These are "two countries with one nation", after all.

Twitter bears witness that the Arab people too are deeply shocked. However, no one in the world can feel Pakistan's pain better than Palestinians and Syrians. The iconic four-frame image of a Palestinian father protecting his son until he kisses his dead body was published here countless times.

But today, Pakistanis understood what an average Palestinian father goes through every day. The Syrians, who still send their little angels to schools despite Assad's butchery, share the pain of Pakistani parents today. For the rest of the world, unfortunately, a Pakistani's blood will continue to be thinner than water.

Nonetheless, the children prepared for school on Wednesday morning like they always used to.

But they are no longer children.

They know their schools are on the front lines of the battle. The nation has also learnt the hard way that it's their war and they ought to win it.

Many of the mothers of the children killed want each of the 500 convicted terrorists in Pakistan's jails to be hanged forthwith.

Pakistan has observed a moratorium on the death penalty since 2008 - until Tuesday, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that it would be brought back into practice.

While the Taliban's murderous narrative stands exposed and vulnerable, 43 years after the country's painful division, the renewed pain of December 16 has again united Pakistan.

Naveed Ahmad is a journalist and academic, specialising in conflict and disaster studies. Follow him on Twitter: @naveed360

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.