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When teenagers are left as the nation's sole defence

Publication Date : 15-01-2014


Ours is the country where a 15-year-old was killed while in his attempt to stop a suicide bomber from blowing him a school full of studnets. There is a need to honour this young man, Aitezaz Hussain's, courage and memory. But that is not enough.

We need to ask ourselves, when and how did this country become so sick, that teenagers are the ones who are defending us from these attacks. We get angry when researchers place Pakistan among the "worst places for children to be born". But maybe the real issue is why it is such.

Terrorists in Karachi have finally caught up with Chaudhry Aslam, the anti-terror hero who for many years was the bane of their existence. And we can cry ourselves hoarse paying tribute to his bravery and determination to defend his country.

But he is gone now. He has joined the list of courageous men like Safwat Ghayyur, Malik Saad, Khan Raziq and Abid Ali, who fought against the scourge of terrorism to their deaths. They stood in the forefront in defence of their country, even when their country would not stand beside them, and this is what makes them true heroes. Men like them are hard to come by.

Indeed, such heroism is costly. It will cost one his life and cause his family grief. And how much more will this nation allow its people to suffer such grief? Where is the government whose role is to protect the people, not leave everyone to fend for himself?

Has Pakistan become desensitised? We have seen a schoolgirl shot in the head, a teenager killed because he tackled a suicide bomber. We have seen terrorists flaunting the severed heads of our brave soldiers and assinate an army general. We have seen policemen die fighting terrorism alone. And we have become used to seeing such ugliness.

Why did Aitezaz have to die? Why did those opposing the US mission to Afghanistan decide to attack a school full of teenagers who had nothing to do with the US or its policies?

Chaudhry Aslam was not killed because he had directed drones to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. His only job was to protect citizens against terror attacks, a job he was doing well. He was killed because there is now a war raging across Pakistan, where terrorists are attacking innocent people.

In such a war, you cannot root for both sides. You cannot mourn over soldiers and policemen who died in the line of duty and innocent citizens who were killed in mass terror attacks, and at the same time symphatise with the attackers. You cannot make excuses for them, saying they carried out the attacks in the name of God, and that it was hatred for the US that drove them to it.

The duty to protect Pakistan rests entirely on the government, and it has nothing to do with how anyone feels about the US.

It is not acceptable for our nation's leaders to visit other countries, discussing with other states about the rule of law, or tragic loss suffered by the nation, or the need for peace, when at home, people are being killed in the masses. It is also not alright for the opposition parties to scoff at pro-government stances in private, but in public support the "let's talk the terrorists out of terror" mantra.

Pakistan's leaders are stricken by fear, but that cannot justify its pusillanimous response to terror. It has only managed to prove itself fearful, incompetent, confused and indifferent to the plight of the people.

On Sept 8, 2013, the government passed a resolution to solve the national security crisis besetting the nation. Four months later, almost nothing has been resolved.

Apart from "negotiating with the terrorists", where is the policy on tracking and eliminating terror funding? Where is the monitoring and cutting off their supply of guns and explosives? Where is the disruption of terrorists' transit from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Karachi and back?

The distress shown over Chaudhry's death is fitting. However, when the state chooses to symphatise with the terrorists, it is clear which side it is really on. Pakistan has come to the point where all that we have to protect us are teenage boys like Aitezaz, that is, until we run out of them as well.

*16-year-old high school student Aitezaz Hussain was killed on Jan 6, 2014 when he tackled a suicide bomber who tried to attack his school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Chaudhry Aslam was a superintendent with the Sindh police department, who died in a suicide attack by the militant Tehrik-i-Taliban.


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