Act to stop another blood­bath

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT - The opin­ions ex­pressed on this page do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

It was an at­tack so hor­ri­fy­ing, so shock­ing and numb­ing that the mind strug­gles to com­pre­hend it. Help­less school­child­ren hunted down me­thod­i­cally and re­lent­lessly by mil­i­tants de­ter­mined to kill as many as quickly as pos­si­ble. As a coun­try looked on in shock, the death count seemed to in­crease by the minute.

First a few­bod­ies, dead school­child­ren in blood­ied uni­forms, then more bod­ies, and then more and more un­til the num­ber be­came so large that even track­ing it seemed ob­scene. Pe­shawar has suf­fered be­fore, mas­sively. But noth­ing com­pares to the hor­ror of what took place on Tues­day in Army Pub­lic School, Warsak Road. The mil­i­tants found the one tar­get in which all the fears of Pak­istan could co­a­lesce: young chil­dren in school, vul­ner­a­ble, help­less and whose deaths will strike a col­lec­tive psy­cho­log­i­cal blow that the coun­try will take a long time to re­cover from, if ever.

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the car­nage, the fo­cus must be the griev­ing fam­i­lies of the dead, the in­jured sur­vivors and the hun­dreds of other in­no­cent chil­dren who wit­nessed scenes that will haunt them for­ever. Even in a so­ci­ety where vi­o­lence is de­press­ingly en­demic and mil­i­tant at­tacks all too common, the sheer scale of Tues­day’s at­tack de­mands an ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­fort by ev­ery tier of the state— and so­ci­ety— to help the vic­tims in ev­ery­way pos­si­ble.

For the sur­vivors, the state can help en­sure the best med­i­cal treat­ment, for both phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal wounds, and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. All too of­ten, after the ini­tial shock wears off and the TV cam­eras move on, the level of care and at­ten­tion given to sur­vivors drops pre­cip­i­tously. That must not be the case this time. For the fam­i­lies of the dead, the state can find away to honor their sac­ri­fices beyond an­nounc­ing so-called sha­heed pack­ages and promis­ing to dis­burse cheques. It is also in­cum­bent on wider so­ci­ety and the me­dia to en­sure that this time the state does more than the bare min­i­mum.

In­evitably, the hard ques­tions will have to be asked and an­swers will have to be found. Schools are by def­i­ni­tion vul­ner­a­ble, the trade-off be­tween se­cu­rity and ac­cess mak­ing for a rel­a­tively soft tar­get. Yet, vul­ner­a­bil­ity ought not to mean a dis­as­ter on this scale can oc­cur so eas­ily.

The ques­tions about Tues­day’s at­tack can go on end­lessly. They should.

But what about the state’s will­ing­ness and abil­ity in the fight against mil­i­tancy? Vows to crush mil­i­tancy in the af­ter­math of a mas­sive at­tack are quite mean­ing­less. From such events can come the will to fight, but not re­ally a strat­egy. Mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Fata and coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions in the ci­ties will amount to lit­tle more than fire-fight­ing un­less there’s an at­tempt to at­tack the ide­o­log­i­cal roots of mil­i­tancy and so­ci­etal reach of mil­i­tants. Fur­ther, there is the re­al­ity that mil­i­tancy can­not be de­feated at the na­tional level alone. Mil­i­tancy is a re­gional prob­lem and un­til it is ad­dressed as such, there will only be a long-term ebb and flow of mil­i­tancy, cy­cles des­tined to re­peat them­selves. The ar­ti­cle is an ex­cerpt from editoral pub­lished in Dawn, Pak­istan on Dec 17 Asia News Net­work

The opin­ions ex­pressed on this page do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily Canada Edi­tion.

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