Can Pakistan win its war against the Taliban?


Eric John, bottom, who survived the Easter Sunday attack, cries during the funeral of his cousin who died, along with at least 70 others. Photograph: KM Chaudary/AP

Source: The Guardian

By Mohammed Hanif, whose novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes was longlisted for the Booker prize, shortlisted for the Guardian first book award, Commonwealth literary prize and won Shakti Bhatt first book awards

More than 70 people were killed and hundreds more injured on Easter Sunday after a suicide bomber massacred families in Lahore. As the army wages a war against religious extremists, author Mohammed Hanif asks how his country can recover from the slaughter

Paranoid parents have always known that children’s parks are potentially dangerous places. That rickety seesaw might fling your child skywards. That slide is always too steep. That swing will snap one day. That toy plane that vibrates after you insert a metal token and sings Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is wrongly wired and will turn into a death trap.

We think of all these things, but we never think of a suicide bomber blowing himself up in children’s play area on a Sunday afternoon. Not even on an Easter Sunday afternoon. Not even in Pakistan.

We have seen schoolchildren being massacred before, we have seen churches bombed and Christian localities burnt to ashes. We thought we had seen the worst. We were told that we are winning this war. Nothing could have prepared us for the carnage that took place in Gulshan-e-Iqbal park, Lahore, last Sunday.

After the first shock and desperate hope that this might be a mini-massacre with single-digit casualties, Pakistani reactions were predictable, as if we had known it was coming. Those worried about world affairs wondered why CNN and Fox News were not covering it the way they covered the Brussels attacks. Was the Eiffel Tower going to light up in Pakistani colours, in solidarity? Surely there has to be an Indian hand behind this? It can’t be an attack on Christians because more Muslims were killed. Within hours of the attack, the laptop warriors were telling the nation that the attack was a sign that we were winning this war. Look, they are attacking the soft targets now. This was supposed to reassure us: the soft targets.

The Taliban group that claimed responsibility was clear in its mission statement: “We have brought the war to your doorstep, it’s an attack on Christians – and by the way, we don’t attack women and children, but you guys don’t leave us much choice, do you?”

We have heard this before. We went looking for distractions.

Every bloodbath in Pakistan is accompanied by a sideshow, which helps us take our gaze away from burnt and bandaged children and wailing mothers. As people with fading hopes were rushing from hospital to hospital looking for their loved ones, thousands of lovers of the prophet were on the rampage in Islamabad. Their demands were simple: give us sharia, give us the right to kill anyone who commits blasphemy. If you don’t, we’ll do to you what those Taliban are doing.

A month ago, Pakistan’s government hanged Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, after an exhaustive judicial process. I thought our government was being cunning by hanging Qadri on 29 February; his supporters would have to wait for four years to mark his anniversary. We are always an optimistic lot. As it turned out, his supporters didn’t even wait 40 days. Their demands included that the media be ordered to call Qadri a martyr and the cell he died in be declared a national monument.

Don’t get the mob gathered in Islamabad wrong, they may look like Taliban’s cousins, but they assure us that they are with us in the war against Taliban. Sometimes it takes a slaughter in a public park to remind us that we are in the middle of a war.

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3 replies

  1. What is disheartening about Pakistan’s internal crisis is the Government’s inability or a compromising position with the terrorist groups including Taliban.One of the most hrorrifc attacks of Taliban was the destruction of Swat Valley considered “hean on earth” in Pakistan. That alone called for a swift action against Taliban But there has no visible and significant action against the ruthless criminals.
    On the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, after a court order, the Mullahs have taken to street and turned the whole issue as an ant-Ahmadi (Qadiani) issue inciting public and a some Mullahs shouting and dancing as well – which alone should render them worthy of punishment under the Islamic Shariah law. The inaction by military and law enforcement is alarming as Mullahs mourn and celebrate the hanging of a convicted criminal. There is absolutely no regard for law and order in Pakistan. How can it face the international community as a country of peace and law and order is beyond wisdom.

  2. As long as Muslim Clerics around the world do not dare to declare publicly that the book of Hadith is the root of violence in Islam today.

    Blasphemy law is written in the book of Hadith. We know that the book of Hadith created by ancient clerics who lack of knowledge.

    Extremist Muslim will not stop to kill blaspheme, for the sake of prophet Muhammad.

    Pakistan is a dangerous country in this world, there are so millions extremist Muslim as we see today,

    Was salam

  3. If Muslims are serious, they should defeat that ideology which is behind such groups. Unless the ideology which does not teach tolerance , which does not accept accept people of other faith and issues fatwa _ e _ wajibulqatal, is rejected , it is impossible to defeat such groups . Government should strengthen the military operation with religious freedom . Unless people have choice , it is difficult for people to distinguish between right & wrong. Unfortunately , because of the government policy , Pakistani Muslims know only that Islam which doesn’t believe in ” there is no compulsion in the matter of faith ” .

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