Even in the most elite hotels and accommodations where politicians and intellectual royalty are in attendance the security protocols are laughable. I know exactly when the personnel are at their least effective: who takes off for long prayer breaks and who is really slow in taking charge after change of duties. Everything oscillates between two extremes – on good days I get a rough body search when there is a beep in the security gate and on bad ones the power is out on the security gate and the body searching team is looking at the Shahrukh Khan look-alike that walked in. On good days my identification check and Q and A at entry points take ten minutes and on the rest the guards are too hot or too cold to stand on duty so they let everyone pass. What I am trying to point out is that there is no escape from human error or the uncanny thing called boredom. No amount of training or security funding can wipe out the small and tiny or even large gaps between the alertness required by security personnel to prevent a terrorist attack.
As evident by the Charsadda Bacha Khan University attack the onslaught from the terrorist’s side is relentless. They have such a vast canvas to spurt blood on – so many cervices between seemingly beefed up security and barbed wire across Pakistan’s expanse. They prefer targeting children and young adults who are pursing an education so they can cultivate fear right in the places in their hearts where idealism and ideas grow. They fire at point blank so these students go to the next world silent and without the protest their education worked long and hard to instil. After the Army Public School attack there have been hundreds of other attacks till now. No amount of fortification around schools can make them impermeable.
In Charsada, terrorists attacked under a think fog blanket so they could hide like thieves. Not only is there no honour in their war it is typical of all religiously motivated terror – there is no playing by the rules of war. However, they are not the only ones that lost the plot of the teachings of Islam. We have lost the overall plot too. The Punjab IT board came out with an app that made a game out of the APS attack. How do you score against an enemy that already salvaged 144 little souls? The government instructed schools to mount higher boundary walls and install guards with more menacing looking weapons. They contemplated and then even provided teachers weapons training. We released feel good videos about taking revenge from terrorists by proposing that we educate terrorist’s kids. All this is ineffective and just all plain wrong. You can’t go to war against actions, you have to go to war against the idea.
We hate to admit it but there have been so many lost boots on ground by the Pakistan army in Zarb-e-Azb. We also hate to admit it but we are losing the war on archaic tribal ideas prevalent in society at large. As evident by the boy who is being paid homage for cutting off his hand and presenting in a plate to a cleric who accused him of blasphemy, we truly are not winning. We are not going to win until we open to figuring out what the answers are to the big questions.
The big questions answers are the following: No, Pakistan was not created in the name of Islam, that was a state in your head; Jinnah as its founding father was a liberal who believed in everyone having access to highest offices of this country regardless of religion; we have no place excluding any sect from the realm of Islam while we sit on a state pedestal; yes, we need to stop using our soil to cultivate covert wars; yes, we need to cut down on unaccounted military spending; we need to reform our curriculum and we need to also stop teaching our kids that we can only define our own Pakistani identity only by creating and recreating our enemy.
We can open up trade routes with the mighty China and the grand markets of India and elsewhere but if we don’t transform our intellectual ideals the prosperity will only fuel hate and exclusivism instead of levelling the playing field for the marginalised. The youth budge we tout when counting what’s bright for Pakistan will end up being a malignant tumour.
In any event, there is no such thing as fool proof security. We can only fortify the progressive values of humanity, scientific thinking and critical analysis. We need reform not revenge.