Let’s face it, we are at war. The ridiculous arguments about the terrorists only targeting government establishments, or it is the West’s war, it’s a Jihad against infidels, etc, were blown to smithereens last Wednesday afternoon in Peshawar’s Meena Bazaar.
The powerful car bomb, which ripped through the thickly-congested market place — a favourite shopping area of lower and middle class families in particular — showed that it is a war with terrorists standing on one side of the blood line, and we the people on the other. The dead count had a heart wrenching abnormally high share of women and children. The message has come loud and clear: every Pakistani is a target, even the women and children are no longer off the hit list of the terrorists.
In fact, they may just be the new preferred targets, as they surely constitute the softest underbelly of our hitherto collective and dithering national will to fight back with all that we have got.
Some analysts will view it as a perverse outcome of Hillary Clinton’s visit. Others may view it as the continuation of the expected surge in such explosions in the backdrop of the ongoing South Waziristan operation. And both are right. Then there will be terrorists’ apologists like Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and their ilk, who will once again repeat the mantra of the ‘holy warriors’ only targeting security establishments and government buildings and will try to mislead the people into venting their fury at Delhi, Washington etc, you take your pick.
Does it really matter if India’s RAW was behind it? Or whether it was Mossad? Or the CIA? Because for arguments sake, even if we concede that to be the case, what really matters is that they are able to function because of the conducive environment provided by our so-called Taliban and their al-Qaeda friends.
Enough of this confusion and dillydallying. We must wake up to the reality that contrary to what Qazi sahib and others may want us to believe, terrorism has no rules, no protected segments of society. On the contrary, a new rule has emerged, that ‘there are no rules’ and that women and children are fair game.
Background briefings by top security officials, interactions with relevant stakeholders, information gleaned from sources within such terrorist elements had already left no doubt that the battle of Waziristan will really be fought, and won or lost, not in the rugged Waziristan hills but in the cities of Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and others.
A massive spate of suicide and car bombings will consume our cities and our resolve to fight back and to hold the line. And the expected fear is translating into reality. The time has come that either we own up this war as our own, stand collectively or die individually in one bomb blast after another.
The wars of 1965 and 1971 lasted for a few days, and weeks, and yet the whole nation was knit into one unit. Whereas this war of ours has been going on for months but owing to a deliberately created confusion, we are still debating its ethos, arguing over its ownership.
Meanwhile, terrorists continue to kill and maim. What is alarmingly missing is the recognition of it being a full-blown war, and not some civil war or mere insurgency as many of our ignorant rulers and confused leaders would have us believe. Months down the road and even the media remains embroiled in the self-defeating exercise of determining whose war it is. Well the answer was written in the blood of women and children at Meena Bazaar. It is our war, and the state must declare that we are in a state of war.
Sending troops into terrorists’ lair is a laudable step, and long overdue, but a lot more needs to be done. For starters tough decisions need to be taken eschewing short-term political expediencies. The nation must be told that we are not in the midst of an insurgency but it is war, pure and simple.
It is imperative that people are given the awareness to clearly see past the smog of confusion created by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maulana Fazlullahs, and the Mianwali Khans of this world. Too much innocent blood has been spilled to act tolerant anymore.
We now also know that our children are a prime hostage bargaining chip, sitting ducks for a killing spree that will numb our senses and take the winds out of our sails. The rulers must take their egoistic heads out of the sands of ignorance and for starters remove the children from the killing fields. Close down all schools if they must, till the expected ferocious terrorist backlash against the ongoing military operations loses momentum.
A few weeks of lost school time is nothing compared to losing even one little life. Schools were closed down in 1965, in 1971, again in 1979, so why can’t it be done in 2009. This war is far more ruthless anyway.
It is ironic that we are being forced into closing our schools while madaris of all hue run unchecked. It is tragic that moderate political forces cower down in fear while the political advocates of terrorists hog airtime and hit headlines. It is scary that a war is being painted as a manageable insurgency by our own rulers.
It is alarming that elements everywhere, even within the media, continue confusing the people about the reality of this war as being our own. It is criminal not to inculcate the reality into public consciousness.
The time has come for the nation to go into a full war mode and the first step is to recognise the fact that we are in the midst of one, whether we call it so or not. Silence shall be at our own peril.