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Editorial | Post-APS Changes Are Not Far-Reaching Enough

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Mid-December has become a time of painful remembrance in Pakistan.

We had not yet come to terms with the 1971 war and the secession of the larger half of Pakistan, when in 2014, Taliban terrorists inflicted a terrible wound on what has been left behind. In brutally murdering infant students on such a scale, the Taliban drove to us in a most gruesome manner the costs of armed jihadism. After all, the Taliban represent a renegade version of the very same fundamentalist force that – in their folly – successive administrations have nurtured since 1971.

Five years from that date of that massacre of our children, some things have changed. There is a greater realization of the drawbacks of armed jihadist groups. Moreover, counter-terror efforts have been able to drastically reduce – if not eliminate – the occurrence of terrorist outrages on Pakistani soil.

But there is a strong case to be made that the changes are not far-reaching enough.

There is the obvious wrangling about implementing the National Action Plan (NAP) that was crafted in the aftermath of horrific terrorism. Fingers continue to be pointed, but no one authority or institution of state is willing to step forward and accept responsibility for implementing the NAP and evaluating that process as it happens. Instead, the NAP has largely become a security-related talking-point to be bandied about by this or that political force.

But even more worryingly, we are still far from that crucial national consensus that would see us turn our backs on the disastrous policy of Strategic Depth. Not only does the Strategic Depth worldview still have its powerful defenders, but helplessness in the face of its fruits appears to be the default “wisdom” even among those who are otherwise critical of that paradigm.

Some dared to hope in 2014 that the line “After all, what can we do about it?” would have become anathema after the mass murder of our children at the APS in Peshawar. They were clearly wrong to permit themselves such hopes.

Instead, there appears to be a grim determination to continue the use of armed fundamentalist non-state actors to the extent that is possible, subject to the limits imposed by various global powers through coercive financial instruments and strategic means. Moreover, Pakistan finds itself embroiled in the heightened sectarian tensions that are both the engine and product of Saudi-Iranian conflict.

The social fallout from decades of state-sponsored fundamentalism continues unabated. Vulnerable communities within Pakistan – especially minorities – remain just as vulnerable as they ever were. And a bright bureaucrat and administrator in Attock found herself forced to sit in her official capacity and explain that there are limits to religious tolerance and demands for interfaith harmony once your words offend local hardliners.

Mid-December is, indeed, a dismal time for the thinking Pakistani to reflect on matters.


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Naya Daur