Peshawar school attack ‘Martyrs’: Failures pawned for legitimacy

By Rajesh Ghosh

Last year, speaking at the sad occasion of the Peshawar attack Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, vowed justice for the Shaheeds (martyrs) of the attack. It was a dastardly act, no doubt, that compelled Pakistan to fight terrorism with renewed seriousness. But were the school-going victims martyrs?


Ordinarily, a martyr is one who chooses (in full consciousness) to sacrifice his or her life, fighting for a higher purpose. The children, who were remorselessly gunned down, were neither fighting for a higher purpose nor were they knowingly in the line of fire. Rather, the students were pursuing their duty of learning when they were struck. They were not in a battlefield for they were not supposed to be in one.

But for the victims to be labeled as martyrs purports to an acceptance by Pakistan that the entire country is a virtual battlefield. The government and the all-powerful military are incapable of providing security to its own citizens and, therefore, all must be prepared to fight the scourge of terrorism. Consequently, any life lost as a result of terrorism is not a failure of the government or the security forces but only a minor loss in a larger war.

The government has very skillfully changed the narrative of growing concerns, from national and international quarters, of its capability and willingness to fight terrorism to one where it portrays itself as being in the front line of an otherwise protracted battle. It is unwilling to acknowledge its own failures and erroneous policies of breeding and nurturing so-called ‘non-state actors’.

Following the attack, the government renewed its support for the ongoing Zarb-e-Azb, a military mission in the restive region of North Waziristan where the TTP has a stronghold. Immediate claims of success were made by the military, with the Peshawar attack still fresh in the minds of the people. The government and the military succeeded in creating a superficial sense of security in the minds of its people.

It was superficial because terrorism is deeply embedded in Pakistan and in many sections institutionalized. Generations of Pakistanis have been radicalized and the nature of extremism has only hardened over time. They cannot be expunged from society in a short period of time. Moreover, they should not only wage war against terrorists but also against terrorism.

For terrorism is an ideology borne out of the complex interplay of many facets, not the least of which is state patronage. Pakistan has for long followed a policy of breeding so-called good terrorists to use them against India and Afghanistan. This policy has had unintended consequences as, like Frankenstein’s monster, it has lost its effectiveness in control.

Therefore, the Peshawar attack was an unaccepted failure of a doomed military policy. Those, innocent children who lost their lives were not heroes but victims. They should not have had to lose their lives to acquire that honorific. They should have been alive and been heroes. (image courtesy: ibtimes,