By MH Rajesh December 22, 2014: The brutal carnage in Peshawar has shown the world a new nadir in terrorism. This was not a botched up hostage crisis like Beslan. This was a premeditated brutal massacre of innocent lives. When such tragedies happen, societies freeze, agonize and avenge. Statesmen however have a responsibility to rise above the ordinary and should play a larger role when faced with such catastrophe. There is much more to combating terror than instant retribution.
Gen Raheel Sharif as the head of the Army, whose school was attacked by Taliban with the specific aim of killing children of Army personnel, is the most affected party. He is duty bound to take action as an Army Chief. The role of the Army Chief in Pakistan goes well beyond the normal brief, and he is considered a large stakeholder in public and foreign policy. Therefore, he also has a large role as a statesman in Pakistan. He has tweeted that he has asked for the hanging of 3,000 terrorists who were awaiting the gallows since there was a moratorium on capital punishment. In effect, he has suggested that the technical legalities be removed and the punishments be effected forthwith within 48 hours.
Understandably, a society and army which has been struck by terrorists requires some instant retribution. This measure will send a signal both to his internal constituency, the army, whose morale would be most affected by the event. However there are some larger issues beyond the tweet and hangings.
The hanging of 3,000 will create the perception of instant justice and cater to a baser sense of revenge. Society may be satisfied for some time. In an age of shortened attention span, Peshawar would even be considered avenged, squared up and finished. It will be business as usual. That would not only be a myopic approach, if not gross injustice. The 148-small, yet heavy coffins of Peshawar tell Pakistan to do more. They tell Gen Sharif to rise above a medieval sense of revenge to look beyond the horizon, behind him and ahead of him. History has given Pakistan an opportunity to change its National Security narrative in an unprecedented manner.
It is a rare opportunity to sever the umbilical from jihadi elements, solely by internal action. This time it is not Hillary Clinton or an Indian talking head saying it. It is young Pakistani children saying it. Their parents saying it. Let the 3,000 terrorists hang in 48 hours, that’s a legal matter even though it may appear hurried to some. In the long run, Pakistan must get ‘even’ and not ‘mad’ at terror. Some balanced thinking will indicate that the need of the hour is to purge jihadi elements from all walks of society. The country has cohabited for too long with Jihadism. Gen Sharif will find it difficult to sever the links as they are too enmeshed with policy. Deep changes will be required in strategic thought.
He will face capability voids and face opposition from the very Army, who has lost its children when the mourning is over. But do it General. The 148 young souls are saying this. Listen to them. Be a helmsman to PM Nawaz Sharif and change the course and future of the region for a better tomorrow. History has given you that window and you must seize it!