Once the initial shock subsides and the immediate job of calling for strength and solidarity is over, the public’s gaze inevitably turns inwards; it asks for explanation, attributes blame and demands action.
Following yet another terror attack in Lahore, the citizenry is asking hard questions and our politicians must answer. On the dock is also the military, which is quick to declare victory and claim credit for triumph, but stands bereft of responsibility when things go wrong.
Collectively the state must answer, why has it been unable to eliminate Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, why do religious extremists still enjoy the state’s leniency, and who is to blame for the state’s constant failure to protect its people?
The opposition believes the government is to blame.
Almost in a single voice, most political parties have condemned the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for failing to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) in its full potential, and pinned the blame for the residual traces of terrorism on them. While this criticism rings true – seminary reform was abandoned and extremists in Punjab still move about with impunity – this automatic blaming of the government for every attack by the opposition is an overly simplistic picture.
The provinces administered by the opposition have fared no better, and in the case of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf has actually given millions to actively militant seminaries such as Madrassa Haqqania. Seminary reform and other anti-terror laws are the responsibility of the opposition too, who has to push the government in the right direction, but it was too busy skewering the Prime Minister for the Panama scandal to care about what really matters.
However, it is difficult to sympathise with the government when its leaders maintain such a shameful dismissive attitude about their own people. A day after the attack, with the carnage still fresh in the streets and the victims struggling for life in various hospitals, the Punjab Minister Rana Sanaullah has blamed the victims for the attack, saying “had there been no protest demonstration, this incident would not have occurred”.
Not only are such comments highly inappropriate and disrespectful, but also emblematic of the problem – instead of thinking how it could protect the people better, the government’s first instinct is to protect itself, by blaming the victims no less. This is a shameful move, even by Rana Sanaullah’s standards. The government has to own up to its responsibility as must the military.
The nation has been told a narrative of success in the military operations but attacks continue to happen regularly and effortlessly. The military must reverse is narrative of victory, or get back to work eliminating the militants left. The state is responsible for this senseless loss of life, and the state must answer.