September 22, 2013 is yet another black day for Pakistan. The Country’s most vulnerable, the Christian community, endured the deadliest attack in recent history when two suicide bombers, aged 17-18, targeted St. John's Church in Kohati Gate, Peshawar soon after the service was over and worshipers were dispersing. One feels chill running down the spine while watching the catastrophe. Death toll has reportedly risen to 85 including children, and women. More casualties are feared as many survivors are in critical condition and many left disabled for life. Reportedly, Jund-ullah, the same militant group involved in Nanga Parbat attacks linked to TTP, has claimed the responsibility for Peshawar Church Blasts as its spokesman told AFP that attacks were a response to drone strikes. However, the central spokesperson of TTP has denied the media reports.
According to media reports, around 450 terrorist attacks have happened in the country during the current year and more than 160 were carried out after May 11 which killed about 1400 people. One can witness the system failure to combat such insurrectionary attacks killing hundreds since the new government of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken the charge in June this year.
Making up less than 3% of country’s total population of approximately 19 million people, Christians are the second largest religious minority in the land of pure, after Hindus. Of these, around half are Roman Catholic and half are Protestant. As citizens of the state, Christians have made important contributions as educationists, doctors, lawyers and businessmen for country’s development while establishing multiple schools, colleges, hospitals, churches, trusts and factories in cities like Karachi, Multan, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Murree and Peshawar. They rendered valuable services in the education sector and institutes established by them are considered among the best, even in modern times.
One must not ignore the fact that there can be multiple aspects of this excruciatingly painful tragedy. First, this atrocious act is against humanity and an evil deed to incapacitate the efforts for peace and prosperity in the country at this point in time when the government is trying to negotiate a deal with Taliban after getting the consensus of all political parties. Second, the inexcusable role of the so- called ‘brotherly’ countries who have been continuously injecting money and sponsoring extremism and militancy in the country must not be overlooked. Next, the time-factor. There was violence all around the country but this time the anarchists changed their line of attack to make headlines as they struck at such a sensitive time when the newly elected Premier was on a visit to the United States in order to address the General Assembly session of the United Nations. This plot may also be examined in context of recent developments regarding Syria just to divert the attention of the world from the issue at hand.
It’s the prime obligation of the state to protect each and every citizen. In his Presidential Address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11th August, 1947 the Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah eloquently stated the same: "We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed –that has nothing to do with the business of the state." He stressed at another occasion: “Minorities to whichever community they may belong; will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life, their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed.”
The misguided who are involved in the butchery of thousands of innocent people are bigoted towards other schools of thought and believe in perpetuity of violence. They have been brainwashed by those who misinterpreted the concept of jihad bringing mess to this nation and the region including Afghanistan and India. They have nothing to do with the religion of peace and land of the pure as they are attacking the mosques, schools, churches, temples, religious processions, pilgrims and even the funerals throughout the region. Such attacks are against the teachings of all divine religions. Are they challenging GOD by doing so? Are they even human?
Simply, condemnation will not do justice to the departed souls and their bereaved families. Let’s come forward to show national unity with Christian brethren. We can’t undo and recompense what has happened in Peshawar carnage but we believe that collective grief bridges divides.
But it also needs investigation as to why the political leadership is so afraid to name the perpetrators. The silence of the Federal and Provincial governments over the issue is quite meaningful and leads to confusion. They must consider changing their apologetic attitude and dealing with terrorists with an iron fist. Enough is enough. It’s the time to take some action-oriented steps against this “fasad fil ardh”. Whosoever is at the back of this atrocity must be brought to book and dealt with in accordance with the law of the land. Only then we may be able to build a ‘Roshan Pakistan’ for the generations to come.
The writer is Islamabad based freelance columnist. Tweets@shahzadaligill