An Ode to a Resilient Nation

Author Name: Omer Aamir      16 Dec 2019     Society

December 16th, a day that remains botched in the memory of Pakistanis as one where the enemy was able to achieve its designs and break the country into two; a day whereby the two-nation theory was struck a blow; but more than that, a day on which humanity suffered. This was when on December 16th, 2014, terrorists who had no religion and no conscience, struck the Army Public School (APS) and caused the martyrdom of 144 innocent children and teachers (like Ms. Tahira Safdar). 

It should be acknowledged that despite insurmountable odds, sanctions and impediments, the nation of Pakistan has stood strong. Its legacy extending 72 years is filled with stories of heroics of people who embraced martrydom like Brig TM, Lt Col (retd) Haroon Islam, Aitazaz Bangash, DIG Mobeen, Sqn Ldr Sarfaraz Rafiqui and Fl Lt Yunus. It has seen its sons and daughters paying the ultimate price as glaringly exemplified by the December 16th macabre.

Pakistan was in a state of grief, anger and hysteria. However, it did not lose its resolve. The country under the leadership of able commanders like General (retd) Raheel Sharif, along with political leaders, gave the National Action Plan to weed out the menace of terrorism. The National Action Plan was built upon the intent that Pakistan will return to its peace-loving past where diversity was celebrated, humanity flourished, and where arts and culture and freedom of expression would not be curtailed. It had strict provisions to deal with terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure across the country. However, there is debate regarding whether the NAP was implemented in true letter and spirit. NACTA (National Counter Terrorism Authority) was established to monitor charities, refugee movement and terrorist funding in liaison with other agencies. NACTA’s success has been because it has been able to coordinate activities of various departments and organize events and awareness campaigns as well as advocate for Madrassah reforms. 

Let us look at the positive side; Pakistan went from a country with a small industrial base, to having strong services, industrial and agricultural sectors. The country has achieved remarkable feats in IT (Arfa Karim), Sports (Jansher Khan, Ifrah Wali, Jehangir Khan, Samiullah) and other areas. Telecommunications, mobile coverage and internet services are extended to a wide range of people. The amenities available to common people have increased, such as refrigerators, TVs, and means of transportation.

However, the crowning achievement of the country in recent times has been its ability to fight and win in the war on terror. The war on terror has taken the lives of the innocent, destroyed the social fabric of the country and severely damaged the economy. The losses in economic terms have been due to the loss of foreign investment, industries being shut down, and an air of uncertainty being generated causing crippling conditions. These losses have been estimated to be around $120 billion. 

The more serious losses have been the ones in terms of human life. These are the ones that take away the bread-earner or a loved one of a family. They have no economic tag to them. In legal terms, these losses are irrecoverable. 

Pakistan has suffered these human losses amounting to more than 60,000 innocent lives. However, it took the ultimate damage caused on December 16th, 2014 that made the Pakistani leadership wake up to the horrors and witness what extent terrorism can go to. They then came up with the military courts amendment to give these inhumane people the punishment that they deserved. 

From a pedantic point of view, let us explore the reasons that led eventually to this disastrous situation and the predicament that Pakistan saw itself in. The primary reason was the American war on terror. This war caused instability in Pakistan due to the influx of terrorism from the Western border. Our Eastern enemy took advantage of the situation and funded proxies within the country, such as Tehrik-e-Taliban, Lashkar-e-Islam and others, to cause instability in the country. The domestic situation was not very bright either: Illiteracy and intolerance were deeply rooted in the society. Different kinds of education systems had caused a divergence of views and there was no common platform to unite these diverging views. A debate which started late with the Paigham-e-Pakistan initiative could have taken start earlier. However, it took operations backed by determined vision of commanders of the armed forces and political leadership to reach a consensus to make this country terrorism-free. A socio-political change in the mindset of the public, to distinguish between terrorists and peace-loving Muslims, was generated through dialogue and a media awareness campaign. Eventually, the country succeeded in getting rid of this menace. 

On a conclusive note, let us pledge as a nation, on December 16th that in future no human being is lost to the menace of terrorism that our resolve as a nation remains undeterred, and that religion is not misconstrued to serve the purpose of self-serving clerics. If one has to pledge that history will not be repeated, then they have to take constructive steps to show for it. The day of December 16th taught us as a nation that terrorism is conscious-less, is devoid of any logic, and is backed by illiteracy, poverty and deprivation. It generates economic losses, fear-mongering and causes the social fabric of the society to be affected. It should not be allowed to take root in the country again. Pakistan has through a lot of sacrifices achieved peace and the geo-strategic situation that affects the country should not prevent it from showing internal fortitude in the face of adversaries in the future.

 

Omer Aamir is a Researcher at Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies. He intends to pursue International law and International Relations for future studies.

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