November Issue 2009

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 15 years ago

It is ironic that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) should deny any involvement in the October 28 Peshawar bombings that left 118 dead and over 200 injured, besides destroying crores worth of businesses and properties. They proudly proclaim that they do not target innocent people and mosques.

So what have they been doing all along? How do they explain all those bombs that went off in market places, juice stalls, roadside cafés, hotels, restaurants, cassette and barber shops, shrines (including Rehman Baba’s), banks and even schools that left scores dead, injured or maimed, widowed women, orphaned children and often left families without bread-winners? How do they justify the burning of hundreds of schools, which deprived thousands of girls of education. And of Shia mosques — unless they don’t count as mosques? Their viciousness knows no bounds: they have even set off bombs at funerals, killing scores of innocent mourners.

Among the more shocking incidents was last month’s bombing of the International Islamic University in Islamabad by a Talib in a burqa who targeted the girls’ cafeteria, killing mostly female students. Ostensibly, female students do not classify as innocent civilians on the TTP’s hit list.

Given its track record of flogging girls and burning their schools (over 200 at last count), the TTP seems to have embarked on a mission to push women back to the confines of their homes. Never to be forgotten are those notices mounted in shops and marketplaces forbidding women to enter their precincts.

Unfortunately, all these barbaric acts seem to be lost on certain political parties, who are obsessing about the NRO and mid-term polls, and almost all religious parties, who in their hatred for the US fail to see the domestic angle of the tragedy as it unfolds.

The religious parties, in particular, mostly look the other way or justify these crimes as acts of retaliation against American drone attacks. What did a six-month old baby, who was badly injured in the Peshawar blasts, or the eight-member family that had come to Peshawar from Pindi to shop for a wedding — and died in the bombings — have to do with the American drones?

This was not collateral damage. This was cold-blooded, calculated murder. And the rage of those who had lost their all knew no bounds.

But their rage, unfortunately, was not directed against the Taliban but the government, for being missing in their hour of need. They accused officials of arriving with a cavalcade of security personnel and mediamen merely for photo-ops and then beating a hasty retreat.

If there is a political government in place, shouldn’t it be making its presence felt instead of barricading itself in fortresses. Using the security forces to protect your own lives while the awam have little or no shield against the brutalities of the extremists is no way to win the support of the people in this war on terror. Soon the masses will be demanding an end to the army operation whose backlash is causing them the most suffering.

The November issue of Newsline is available on newsstands now. Get your copy today.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.