Why schools, colleges and universities?

Published: January 20, 2016

These attacks are meant to cause fear, panic and dread, more so in parents than in the children themselves. PHOTO: NASIR AKHTAR/FACEBOOK

As I am watching the attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda unfold on live television, I am forced to relive the horror of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Army Public School (APS) attack which took place approximately a year ago. For the millions of Pakistanis who witnessed that attack on live television, APS is a scar that is not going to heal. I can only pray for the students at Bacha Khan and their families.

Vehement protest, which perhaps is the best emotion to represent our feelings, will fall on deaf ears like the hundreds of similar protests across Pakistan following other terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, flowers and hollow words cost political officials a lot less than actual bullets and manpower.

A question that lingers in the minds of the general populace is, why schools, colleges and universities? If the war is against the State and its armies, then why are the terrorists attacking schools and universities?

Government pundits easily divert this towards the propagandist line of thinking – the terrorists are the enemies of education. I am sure we have all heard of the following statements,

“They are against education”,

“They don’t want girls to be educated”,

“Students are the frontline against terrorism” and so on.

This jingoist-propagandist thinking gave us the rise of Malala Yousafzai and ultimately a Nobel Prize (not taking anything away from Malala and her work towards female education around the world).

It is a known fact that these terrorists have nothing to do with actual education, especially religious education (the kind that turns brutes into decent human beings), but there is something greatly amiss here.

Are these people really the enemies of education?

Well the answer is no.

Perspective on this can easily be gained from a study of the governments set up by the Taliban and more recently by ISIS. As a general observation, they did not burn every school to the ground perhaps because they were busy destroying every monument or shrine which represented a chapter in the religious and cultural histories of world civilisations inclusive of Islam. Examples are abound, from the destruction of the Mosque of Prophet Yunus (AS) to Palmyra to the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

That said; please don’t think that these pseudo-religious mercenaries promote teaching science and mathematics under their jurisdiction. For schooling, they have another twisted system of ideologies which could produce scores of similar pseudo-jihadis for years to come. The revival of the Stone Age through literalist readings of religious texts is underway or more correctly has been underway since Ziaul Haq’s Afghan intervention policy took root in Pakistan.

A lot can be said on our current education system in Pakistan and its zombifying effects on our school going youth but let’s leave that for another time or blog.

Low cost – high impact terrorism

This term is used by security analysts and experienced journalists to describe certain acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, the horrific attacks of Bacha Khan University and APS fall under the same category.

As the name suggests, the term classifies certain acts of terrorism carried out through the use of unsophisticated equipment and small arms against softer targets, usually places where the casualty rate or collateral damage will be increasingly high. The results of the attacks are absolutely terrifying and blood curdling, which is the main aim of the terrorists.

The impact this creates resonates not only at the state level but more importantly it creates the necessary fear and terror in the hearts of the population. These attacks are meant to cause fear, panic and dread, more so in parents than in the children themselves.

The Bacha Khan University attack will definitely reinforce the atmosphere of fear which was created by APS. Political point scoring, the blame game, dirt dishing and finger pointing will commence. The lack of security for the common man and the inability of the security forces to provide for every Pakistani will be a major theme of TV pundits and newspapers alike.

Despite what every politician says, please remember that 50 bulletproof vehicles and the requisite manpower are available for securing them (and so are the jobs and compensation funds which are offered after someone loses a life due to this protocol).

No Action Plan (NAP)

Before we question the army and intelligence agencies in the aftermath of Bacha Khan University, we must come to terms with another painful political reality. We can’t police every school, every university, every mosque or every bazaar (market). Pakistan does not have the resources or the security manpower to undertake this monumental task. What could have been done earlier however, has not been done.

When the National Action Plan (or the No Action Plan, as I call it) was formulated with every political party on board, why was it not implemented? Why is the proverbial father of the Taliban still vying for a seat in the National Assembly and not in jail? Why are the most prominent friends of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s Malik Ishaq, still members of the Council of Islamic Ideology? Why are known terrorists, banned political organisations and their allies still able to run for national elections? Why are notorious terrorist allies and promoters running state mosques?

Ockham’s razor would dictate that if the root cause of terrorism is not addressed, it will continue to exist in Pakistan. How can you expect a cancer to die out through operation (read Zarb-e-Azb) alone, when it is not followed up by radiation/chemotherapy and proper medication? The political establishment that wrote and promulgated the NAP explicitly contains the benefactors, allies and sympathisers of terrorists and their ideologues.

If we won’t get rid of them, please be mentally prepared to face more such attacks, God forbid. They will attack us in our schools, our mosques and our bazaars, where hundreds of innocent civilians visit daily without adequate security in sight.

Any such mention sends chills down my spine. But since we are not serious about implementing the harder part of NAP and striking the root cause of pseudo-religious terrorism, let’s brace ourselves for watching the same people who initially preached this twisted ideology, talking about how hurt they were when they saw the dead bodies of our martyred students from Bacha Khan University.

Shar

Shar

The author holds an MPhil in Public Administration and has taught Politics and Public Policy at the University of Karachi.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Joshi Kannekattu

    Because , these two places are with no security and easy for targetRecommend

  • Bana Post

    Deep condolence. Pakistan can use good terrorist against bad terrorist.Problem solvedRecommend

  • Rohan

    Yesterday’s allies are today’s terroristsRecommend

  • Parvez

    Hard hitting article.
    The questions you have asked would be very hard for the government to answer. One more you should have asked ‘ Why has no one demanded the resignation of our Interior Minister ? ‘Recommend

  • Hameed

    > Why schools, colleges and universities?
    Not in Punjab they are not. I wonder why?Recommend

  • siesmann

    Pakistan needs to follow Tajikstan in order to stem the extremism.Ban public display of religiosity.They are shaving beards of men,having women take off scarves,closing shops selling Arabic dresses,and banning Arabic- sounding names.The parliament had passed laws banning cousin marriages.They ,also,banned the only registered Islamic political party .

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/tajikistan-shaves-13000-men-beards-radicalism-160120133352747.htmlRecommend

  • Nasser

    This is another form of extremism. Cant support your thinking. If beard has anything to do with terror India would have been worst off due to it’s very tough Sikh community. Likewise the Christians would have been labelled as the biggest supporter of,terror as they worship a VEILED Mary in the churches. It is indeed sad that you and your ilks trying to oversimplify everything.Recommend

  • siesmann

    TAJIKS are not blind like Pakistanis Recommend

  • Sane

    And today they are allies of India.Recommend

  • Sane

    Yes, they are not blind but disillusioned. Why not India also follows Tajikistan.Recommend

  • Rohan