Nov 4, 2009

Youth vs terrorism

By Enam Hasan

Pakistan is fighting a war of its existence, against those who are determined and well-trained to wreak destruction and inflict death across our country of more than 170 million inhabitants. It is against those who have turned the barren mountains up north into sanctuaries of terror. They want us to feel insecure and put the fear of death in our hearts and minds. But can we really let that happen? Can we really let the traders in suicides achieve what they want? The fact is: they do not and cannot kill us all -- they are less in number -- probably a few thousand. And not all of them have the guts to blow themselves up at a crowded place. It takes madness of a certain kind to carry out the act of suicide bombing. Against that, we are a nation. Calculate the heads and hands of our millions of people and see how big a number appears on the calculator.

A war inevitably breeds frenzy and fear, but they can be defeated. They have to be defeated if a nation wants to win a war as full of meaning as this. Sanity and bravery must be our prime tools informing any strategy we employ. We have heard stories of how this nation stood firm, shoulder to shoulder, in 1965. We know how painful it was for our elders to witness the fall of Dhaka in 1971.

According to a rough estimate, at least 60 per cent of Pakistan's population falls between the ages of 18 to 35. That makes it about 80 million young people. Should we be afraid then? The latest carnage in Peshawar, which cost us more than 115 lives, was a brutality committed to demoralise us, to instil in us a sense of defeat and helplessness. We can and must fight back sending a message across the mountains: that our strength is our tool; that we are ready to keep our schools, colleges and universities open, come what may. We will continue to play cricket and this land of ours won't stop producing artistes and musicians.

The young and the bold of this country are our greatest hope, our most potent weapon in this struggle. Our politicians and bureaucrats have been found grossly wanting. Even in this hour of crisis which threatens to engulf us all, they simply cling to their luxuries refusing to let go. Some of them are callous, or coward, enough to evade visiting hospitals to inquire after the victims of terrorism or offer condolences to the grieving families. A lot of us despise the claims and promises made by them and rightly so.

But there must be something we can and must do. We must rise above petty politics (and politics in Pakistan has remained pathetically petty even in the face of a colossal crisis) while the limbs and bones of our countrymen lie scattered. We can't just turn a different corner. We can't just give up looking at the ineffective "coalition government", which is busy fixing deals over the NRO and other such "contracts". The least we can do is to leave the cosy comfort of our homes, take an unambiguous stand, and organise demonstrations across the country to make it clear to the Tehreek-e-Taliban that we are not taken in by their rhetoric of religion and morality. That we are not so gullible as to buy the apologetic arguments from a section of the political right, justifying the existence and atrocities of the most inhuman kind of obscurantism yet to have befallen us.

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