APS and the Inconvenient Truth

Let me be honest with you. I didn’t remember that the APS attack happened today two years ago. They say you block out bad memories and traumatic experiences. My mind was probably trying to do the same. But, I had a very bad dream last night and I woke up screaming and sweating. Breathed a sigh of relief that it was just a dream. But couldn’t sleep again.

I dreamt that I saw on tv: my son’s school under attack. Shots were being fired. There was blood on the walls. Blood was flooding out the doors. I immediately ran to the school, where I was stopped by soldiers from going any further. It looked like Islamabad – but wasn’t. The shooting continued and there was a huge explosion. Everyone was dead. I saw my son’s body in pieces. His face was half blown away and the other half expressing extreme pain. I saw bodies of young children all around me. Mutilated. Bleeding. Lifeless.

I am sure ever since the terrible incidents of 16th December 2014, all of us have had similar dreams. We as a country have been haunted and hurt. All of us have wounds which nothing can ever heal. Pain that the passing of time doesn’t ease. But, it just isn’t about APS. It just isn’t about those souls. It’s also about the countless children whose childhood has been stolen from them as IDPs who are forced to live in camps. It is about all those children in FATA and Swat who had their lives taken by barbarianism.

APS wasn’t the first attack on our children. It was the first one that hit home. It wasn’t the last attack on our children either. We saw that just a year later another attack happened in Charsadda. More of our children died.

At the second sad anniversary of this attack we live in a Pakistan where we see terrorism to have lessened. We feel more secure and at ease. Yet, we forget the inconvenient truths that always come back to bite us, haunt us and destroy us.

The APS attack was our own doing. We are responsible. We are responsible when in the 80s and 90s we supported a movement in a proxy war that would ultimately go out of our control. We are responsible that we didn’t quell terrorism swiftly and quickly when it reared its ugly head almost 8 years ago. It is our own doing when we wanted to negotiate with murderers and barbarians who defamed our religion and killed our fellow countrymen.

The lives of these kids, their sacrifice at APS did one thing that hadn’t happened for three decades. They united us all of us. We pledged to let go of all our power struggles, our greed for corruption, our inaction. We promised to get revenge. We released anthems and we made a National Action Plan. No terrorist was to harm another Pakistani boy or girl ever again.

It hasn’t been two years and we are back again to where we were. Our institutions fighting for power. Our government sweeping its corruption under the rug. An opposition that doesn’t care much about terrorism at all, just about removing the Prime Minister. Our National Action plan remains unfulfilled. We have had no reforms for Madrassas. We haven’t developed a counter narrative to the false religious ideology of the terrorists. We haven’t educated our own children let alone “dusham ke bachon ko parhana”.

We did kill terrorists but did nothing to kill the thought, the process that radicalises them. We released three songs to try to remind us of what happened. We bought ourselves some time. That’s all we did. But our time is almost up.

Unless we do something and do something fast. Unless we implement and not just introduce reforms. Unless we eradicate all support for terrorism. Unless we work with our neighbours to ensure their soil isn’t used against us. Unless we wake up and say fighting terrorism and getting rid of it is our number one priority and we will work day and night to do it. Unless our institutions stop fighting for power and our leaders stop being selfish. APS like events will happen again. I am scared. I am scared that my worst dream about my son will be my nightmare-ish reality. So, let’s remember those who died in the APS attack. But, not remember them to insult them by doing nothing to make sure that what happened doesn’t happen again.

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