The most patient nation on earth

A line was crossed on Tuesday, and there is no going back

The most patient nation on earth
Some things are common sense, and common sense in Pakistan is unabashedly uncommon. A consolidated national security policy, which may be considered a basic, fundamental, taken-for-granted tenant of the social contract in most countries, is a luxury in Pakistan. In the last twelve years we have lost tens of thousands in this conflict. The enemy has targeted shrines, mosques, hospitals, civilian buildings, military infrastructure and bases, airports, bazaars, and border ceremonies. They targeted soldier and civilians, servicemen and communities, indiscriminately, incessantly. For twelve years, Pakistanis watched in shock and awe, lamenting the loss, organizing rallies, chanting slogans, demanding answers, and then moving to the next big tragedy.

On Tuesday, December 16, 2014 the most patient nation on earth lost its patience.

There is a Pashtun saying: “When your children die, you bury them in your heart. They die when you die.” Most of us, however, feel that there is no more room in our hearts. A child dying in conflict zones is not a new phenomenon. It has happened the world over and it has happened for centuries. Pakistan itself has lost thousands of children in the War on Terror before.

But a line was crossed on Tuesday. Now there is no going back.

These children were murdered by Taliban, who proudly claimed responsibility, claiming that this was vengeance for Operation Zarb-e-Azb. But as Muhammad Hanif suggests, all of us should take a closer look at our own hands when we raise them in prayer. They are all stained with blood. Blamegaming is the national sport of Pakistan, but this tragedy requires some serious introspection, because while the bullets may have been fired from Taliban guns, we are all responsible.
When your children die, you bury them in your heart. They die when you die

We have collectively let our children down.

For the politicians and the military, ever unable to set aside their differences, rise above the reindeer games, backdoor politics and personal hubris, and come up with a consolidated national security policy. This conflict has raged on for well over a decade. Yet our democratically elected leadership since 2008 and our military command since before that, has been unable to devise a strategy that improves command and control structures, enhances communication and cooperation, and tightens intelligence nets around the enemy and all those that harbor the enemy, including our own. Remember: these are the animals our politicians wanted to negotiate peace with. Our leadership have let our children down.

For the media, ever pursuant of the smallest edge in rating points, feeding on tragedy and thriving on misery, that moves on to the next big catastrophe, which never takes long in Pakistan. We have faced and survived an incredible volume of national tragedy, numbing our senses, dulling our empathy, and rendering us unable to focus on one mishap for too long. We have let too much go. We can’t let this one go. But if history is any indication, our media will harp on this for the 48 hour news cycle, and then swiftly shift to the next calamity. Our media has let our children down.

For us, the people, ever willing to wage social media wars from the comfort of our couch, and crying foul whenever tragedy strikes, and replicating the same apathy that meanders in the corridors of power, forgetting about it when the channels tell us it is no longer important. We claim to be shaken, and suffer sleepless nights, but unless the tragedy strikes home, we care little past the initial shock. We don’t demand answers from our elected representatives. We don’t demand the plan for the way forward that brings results. We don’t fight for the fallen. We, the people, have let our children down.

We need action in the short-term. We need planning in the long-term. The retaliatory bombings and the Prime Minister’s decision to lift the moratorium for terrorists on death row are tangible steps to satiate the national bloodlust. But by itself, it is insufficient. We need a consolidated national security policy that has some modicum of practicality, and perhaps more importantly, hope.

It will take time. That is a given. Change takes time. The most patient nation on earth has lost its patience. Pray we never find it again.

The author is a journalist and a development professional, and holds a Master’s degree in strategic communications from Ithaca College, NY, USA.

Email: zeeshan[dot]salahuddin[at]

Twitter: @zeesalahuddin