Peshawar Massacre: A Gaffe

Misbah U. Azam, Ph.D.


Iraqi-born expert on Middle East politics and affairs, and the syndicated columnist of Jerusalem Post, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir – in February 2007 — wrote about the miscalculations terrorists commonly make when they plan some significant and spectacular terror attacks. He took a case of 9/11 attack on New York and Washington DC and pointed out some indiscretions which the terrorists committed while planning their gruesome act. He wrote, “The fallout from the tragedy of September 11 indicates that those who masterminded the attack, seriously miscalculated the reaction by the United States, the international community and the Arab and the Muslim world to the scope and the consequences of the attack”. However, while, he was discussing about the perpetrators’ miscalculations he was also warning the reader to remain fully alert to the ruthless fatalism of such elements. He pointed out that their first miscalculation was that they overestimated the impact of the attack on the Muslim world and expected that they would be able to create an apocalyptic consequence in which the Islam will stand up against the West and they will somehow emerge victorious. Another miscalculation which Ben-Meir pointed out relates to the nature of terrorism itself. He argued that the 9/11 attacks did not quite follow the traditional patterns of terrorists’ behavior, where, the terrorists – at one hand – try to spread a state of fear and create the perception of present and future danger but at the same time, for strategic reasons, the terrorist groups try not to cross certain threshold of violent acts against states to keep the room of coming back to negotiation table to get their demands accepted. In Dr. Ben-Meir’s view although the world had witnessed the growing fundamentalism, but engaging in the war against the West is not a goal shared universally by Arabs and Muslims. In fact, out of around 1.1 billion Muslims around the world, the overwhelming majority are not fundamentalists.
The school hostage crisis of September 2004, in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia (an autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation) which lasted three days and involved the capture of over 1,100 people as hostages (including 777 children), ending with the deaths of 385 people, was also one of example where the terrorists miscalculated the response of the State and crossed the threshold of violence which gave the State right to unleash its wrath brutally without getting any backlash from the Human Right groups and other governments of the world.
In view of above discussion, looking into the Peshawar massacre, it is evident that terrorists believed that due to long sit-in and political polarization – especially Khan’s PTI which had no future plan on horizon to call off their sit-ins and violent public protest — in the country they can cross all the limits of terror, which Pakistanis have ever witnessed. The operation was designed to create fear and engendering panic based on the false perception that by slaughtering the children belong to the military families, at one hand, the liberal civil society will join the religious right and pressure the powerful Army to back off from the operations and at the other hand, it will demoralize the Army which will culminate to secession of Zarb-i-Azb and Khyber-1 operations. However, although the terrorists show their resolve to respond to the Zarb-i-Azb and Khyber-1 operations in the most brutal and ruthless way but they failed miserably, in gauging the reaction of the State and the potential for the civil society, common people, government and the opposition parties, even PTI and the religious political parties, to stand behind the military to ruthlessly respond the attack.
Pakistan has already taken lot of beating but it never awoke. After the December 16, 2014 incident, it must finally awake. There must be two important points to be remembered. First, since the war has begun, so everyone must realize that the backlash from the terrorists is imminent. The military offensive will force the enemy to use any remaining means available to their disposal to strike back. Second, it must be made abundantly clear to the apologists that this is the war of Pakistan’s survival and only if they shoulder it side-by-side with the rest of the country, they will save people from this insidious plague of terrorism which is getting rampant for some years and which has a capability to gobble the very existence of the country.
Terror forces always find opportunity to act. Unfortunately, the polarization and the hatred being spread by Khan and his political allies and the section of media helped them to further aggravted this polarization for their own editorial/political agenda for months, may be one reason why terrorists got encouraged to launch such a brutal attack. History will persecute those who played role in diverting the focus of the people from the real and existential issue to their personal power struggle. Time has come that at one hand the security agencies – or individual in those agencies – should completely shun their support for the “good terrorists” and at the other hand civilian leadership and real and self declared “experts” must also stop preaching the narrative of “peace” and portraying these war hardened terrorists as victims of US, India and Israel conspiracies.
There are no words left to say how much pain the whole nation felt after witnessing the most gruesome terror act against the innocent children but these terror forces miscalculated miserably because their act united the people and permeated nation’s collective consciousness against the terrorism.

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