The last time I visited Pakistan was over a decade ago, when I was in elementary school. My grandmother lived in a relatively nice neighborhood, across the street from a park and a convenience store, where I would be allowed to walk to without a chaperone.
Three years ago, in 2011, my uncle was mugged at gunpoint in broad daylight on the street. No one helped him, and the police officers that tended to roam the streets were nowhere to be found. This was in the same neighborhood, a mere half a block away from the same park I used to comfortably walk to.
When my mother told me about the mugging, I knew that Pakistan wasn’t the same Pakistan where I had spent so many summers and winters. Since then, everything I read in the news about Pakistan showcased its deteriorating politics and collapsing society.
Today, Taliban gunmen seized a military school in Peshawar, Pakistan, and systematically shot 132 students and 9 staff members.
No hostages were taken. No demands were made. This was an act of sheer brutality.
“My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now,” said one parent. “My son was my dream. My dream has been killed.”
These depraved acts highlight Pakistan’s increasing deficiency, instability, and socioeconomic and political struggles. In a better world, these attacks would force the Pakistani government to reconcile their petty disagreements and unite against extremist Islamic groups. Yet, the 800+ other attacks on Pakistani schools between 2009 and 2012 failed to prompt any serious action, so it is almost naive to expect leadership from the government during this time. Still, perhaps the degree of terror inflicted in this particular attack may compel the Pakistani government to resolve their inconclusiveness regarding the Taliban.
Many are questioning the motive behind the attack. Some say it was retaliation against the anti-Taliban operation Zarb-e-Azb. Others claim the attack was propelled by the Taliban’s condemnation of education. A Taliban commander went as far as to attribute their attack as vengeance for their own children.
However, understanding the Taliban’s purpose is not (and should not be) our primary concern. The group has repeatedly proven itself to be erratic and inhumane. We must take action to ensure that no Pakistani parent should ever fear for their child’s life when they send them to school. As Malala Yousafzai said in response to the attacks, “Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this.” No one should even consider negotiating with groups that massacre innocent children with impunity.
Although I am in the United States, I still see Pakistan as my country. It is devastating to see such a large part of my identity overrun by murder, corruption, and cruelty. It’s painful to think that when I return, it will not be anything like how I remember it. The constant atrocities that plague the country have turned it into a place of tragedy.
It is crucial to remember that this is not simply a Pakistani or Muslim issue. It is concern of human rights. It is our job not to forget. We cannot forget this attack the way we have forgotten the others. No more inadequate government. No more buried schoolchildren. No more injustice against the innocent.