THERE are moments when the full force of the threat that stalks this land hits with a sickening intensity. Yesterday was one of those moments — a depressing, shocking, violent attack that made it apparent, as though a reminder was needed, of just how far this country has drifted from the ideals and principles upon which it was created. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan is not dead, for Christians still congregated in Peshawar yesterday to celebrate the Sunday mass. But the suicide bombers who attacked the All Saint’s Church and killed innocent, ordinary citizens were trying to kill Jinnah’s Pakistan. If this country is to survive and emerge one day as an embodiment of its founding father’s ideals, there can be no room for extremists, terrorists and militants. There is truly an either/or scenario for this country: either the terrorists are defeated or the Pakistan that the majority of the country wants will be lost forever.
The targeting of Christians may seem to some as a new front being opened by the militants, but in fact it is logical progression of the extremist ideology. Be it other sects within Islam or other religions, the violent extremist wants to eliminate all others and produce a homogenous society in which only a particular version of Islamic interpretation rules over the people. The hatred and bigotry embedded in the extremist ideology is not just about foreigners, but also about the majority of Pakistanis themselves. Be it Shias, Ismailis, Barelvis, non-Muslims or anyone else deemed to be outside the pale of radical Islam as practised by the militants and terrorists, everyone is a target. Until that reality is absorbed by the country’s political leadership — that what confronts the country is a murderous ideology — there can be no real understanding of why Pakistan has been so wracked by violence. And without that understanding, there cannot begin to be a solution.
For a week that began with the killing of an army general and ended with the murder of scores of Christians, the inevitable question is where does that leave the nascent dialogue process with the TTP? If dialogue was at the outset very unlikely to succeed, what chances of success are there now? Perhaps the most discouraging aspect about the dialogue process is the national political leadership’s abject surrender before the Taliban. Even yesterday voices were heard suggesting that the church bombing was an attempt to undermine the dialogue process. When deferring to the enemy trumps honouring your dead, what hope for peace, dialogue or anything of the like?