The Peshawar Tragedy: A Tanqeed Statement

Dec 2014

Issue 8 اردو │ شمارہ ۸ 

A family mourns the death of their child │Photography: Reuters

A family mourns the death of their child │Photography: Reuters

The cold-blooded killing of 132 innocent children and 9 adults at the Army Public School in Peshawar is a dark and sad chapter in the recent history of Pakistan. We extend our condolences to the parents, friends, and loved ones. We cannot comprehend the severity of your pain or the extent of your loss. Our words cannot begin to describe your suffering, much less to alleviate your pain.

We condemn the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for this despicable act, and all groups that use religion to justify their brand of violence. We condemn the absence, incompetence, and the dehumanizing violent policies of the state. We condemn the numbness and oppressive attitude of the ruling classes. We condemn those people who allow these rulers to use the name of Islam and the ideology of Pakistan to cover up their criminal failings. We condemn those who find contentment in blaming these acts on foreign actors or non-Muslims.

When our children are sacrificed on the altars of ideology, religion, and politics, then we must acknowledge that the problem is of a fundamental nature. For these children, for all the children that have become victims of violence and oppression, and for our future generations we need to acknowledge our faults. Somewhere, somehow, many among us started valuing human lives less than the “sacred” ideologies of the state, narrow interpretations of Islam, and the economic and personal interests of the ruling classes. The lives of our children have become cheap. Such values, such valuations, have no place in any society.

The Peshawar massacre signals the continued aggravation of a cycle of violence that has been enabled and perpetuated by several groups: by the TTP and other militant, sectarian, and jihadist groups who use instruments of violence in the name of Islam and target children, religious minorities, political workers, Hazara Shias, Ahmadis, and uncountable others; by the Pakistani state and military, along with their imperial allies and lords, who directly support violent groups and enable other forms of economic and structural violence; by the media, religious ideologues, and the array of “experts” and “intellectuals” who promote militarized narratives that are knit around falsehoods of Jihad-e-Kashmir, Afghan Jihad, Ghazwa-e-Hind, the End of Times – who shift the blame onto the CIA, RAW, Mossad, the foreign hand, and the devil himself.

Along with militant Islamist groups, the state and military play a central role in perpetuating the reactionary attitudes and support of violence among the people. They use the tropes of the “ideology of Pakistan” and the “defense of Islam” to blind the people and promote their own interests – their properties, monies, wealth, and business interests. The army, like a two-headed monster, supports some militant groups and ignores others (including certain factions of the Taliban) on the one hand, and launches military operations in Waziristan and the tribal areas with impunity and no accountability or transparency. Our reporting has consistently shown that Operation Zarb-e-Azab has resulted in the death of children among others and has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of the people of Waziristan. The displacement of people, sometimes permanent displacement, has resulted in countless and unimaginable sufferings.

This two-faced policy has created internal divisions and discontent among the army itself. What can be a bigger proof of the incompetency of our generals and commanders than that they willingly sacrifice soldiers and lower-rank officers for “strategic depth” and proxy wars but fail to provide protection even to children in army-run schools?

Along with the military, our ruling elites and imperial masters have continued a three and a half decade long war in Pashtun majority areas. Pashtun people have lost the most lives in this war. The supporters of militant Islamist groups include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, our military and politicians from Punjab and other areas of Pakistan. But instead of seeking political and pragmatic solutions at the national, regional, and international level, our government and the military have simply decided to resort to dropping bombs on the whole population in the Pashtun tribal areas.

These military operations lack transparency. Tanqeed’s research shows that the mainstream media relies on military and official sources for their reporting on the operation. We know that no one is allowed to access these areas to carry out independent reporting. This means that, instead of having evidence that may help us determine the success or failure of these operations, it is not even possible for us to form any independent opinions on the matter because of the heavy propaganda of the state. If terrorists are killed in military operation, then why are details of their identities and the procedure for identifying them as “terrorists” not made public? And, why do we only hear about the death of “terrorists”? How is it that no ordinary lives are lost in these military operations? Our reporting has already shown the severe toll on civilian populations due to these military operations.

In the aftermath of Peshawar, the army has taken charge and set up military courts. The moratorium on the death penalty has been lifted. But the people being hanged on an urgent basis are those who were involved in attacking generals and military installations. Should we not pause and review our tactics? Is it not foolish to believe that terrorists and the radical ideology that creates suicide bombers, those who believe in and aspire for “martyrdom”, can be deterred by hangings?

We fear that instead of making fundamental changes in our approach to the problem, and instead of holding the military and government accountable, the military has been given free reigns which will only increase the cycle of violence. It must be pointed out that anti-terrorism acts have been and are being used against political activists and nationalist movements. Last year, with increased powers, the army upped military strikes in Balochistan – the situation there is deteriorating day by day. Baloch youth, children, women, and the elderly have been targeted using gunship helicopters. Dead bodies, tortured and riddled with bullets are still being found on bloody roads – and now these dead bodies have also started appearing in Sindh. These are the worst examples of state terrorism. Many political activists, union leaders, and peasants and workers have been tried and sentenced by anti-terrorism courts –they are now languishing in jails across the country.

We contend that the state and the military will have to change its dual policies to resolve the issue at hand. Instead of launching large military operations, we need to target the financial and human support networks of terrorist outfits. We need to ban all groups that use violence in the name of Islam – these include the Taliban, sectarian outfits, those who target Christians, Hindus and other religious minorities. We need to target the discourse that creates sympathies and support for such groups. Instead of bombing Pashtun areas, we need to institutionalize the policy and practice of protecting peaceful political groups. Non-state actors must not be allowed to take control of our mosques and use these to promote hate speech.

But perhaps this is mere wishful thinking. When the state and the military have been part of the problem, we cannot expect them to be the solution. It is our misfortune, but in a society where violence is pervasive, events like the Peshawar massacre are neither unexpected nor unique.

For years, in this land, we have had a tradition of sacrificing our future generations on false idols and fake gods: militant Islamist groups like the Taliban massacre and bomb children in schools; sectarian groups attack and kill Shias and members of other sects; Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians and other religious groups are targeted using blasphemy laws,  they are killed and burnt alive, and they are forced to convert to Islam; children are killed in air strikes by the military, in drone strikes, and in the hunger and fatigue that accompanies displacement; Baloch and Sindhi youth are tortured and killed; sectarian and ethnic violence is burning the city of Karachi; and, day by day, the number of children dying from hunger is fast increasing.

Tanqeed tries to report on and analyze the various facets of violence, with an eye on increasing awareness on these issues. We all have to play our part. We need to take practical and political steps. And we need to join hands and work together.

That is why we appreciate the efforts of activists, political workers, and ordinary people in Islamabad who have targeted the Taliban sympathizers in Laal Masjid. We believe that this is a positive step. Students, workers, and women organizations must also participate in this and similar movements so that we can form a broad based people’s alliance against terrorist and religious fascism. Pakistan’s progressive parties, nationalist movements, leftist parties and groups and other circles must also stop looking to the state and the military for resolving the problems that they, in part, created. We must change our attitude, and forge alliances within society as we wage a long and peaceful struggle.

TQ Editors
December, 2014

22 Responses to The Peshawar Tragedy: A Tanqeed Statement

  1. Syed Hadi Jawad on Dec 2014 at 9:22 PM

    The words of the statement resonate deep in my heart as I hope it does in the hearts of who want a nation based on the rule of law, human rights and a life of dignity for all.

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