India and Pakistan, two countries, untied by centuries of civilisational history are also united by a culture of hate and terror. At this moment, when 132 innocent school children have been massacred in Peshwar, and not too long after we marked the anniversary of 166 innocent people killed in Mumbai, we must introspect and ask ourselves--how can this stop?
For all those on either side of the border that see blame elsewhere, this is the moment to acknowledge that terror affects both our countries equally wherever it originates. Terror does not represent any religion. It doesn't represent any country either--it represents the rise of fascist forces globally that feed on fear and distorted notions of religion and nationhood and threaten democracy and freedom everywhere.
The ordinary Pakistani or Indian, however, brainwashed with hatred, do not send the terrorists to another country. They are too busy struggling with the persistent problems of poverty, hunger, a lack of health services, education and safety.
Terrorists, on the other hand, need guns and bombs that cost money. That kind of money only comes from governments. Whether due to religious affiliations or regional problems, the biggest patron of terror are governments themselves--even though they constantly bemoan it. What helps is a deftly manufactured culture of hate--a result of disturbing and hateful interpretations of religious or national identities and sustained demonisation of the "other".
Combine this with it the burden of colonialism, its associated politics of divide and rule and accompanying culture of violence. This problem is exacerbated by continued interference from the West and others with vested interests (Afghanistan and Pakistan?). Of senseless wars on terror, which achieved nothing but create more terror (Is America listening?).
Yet, truth be told, there has been continued support from many quarters, including the general public in Pakistan, for the 'good' Taliban. Historically, in many other national narratives, terror and violence has been justified but with catastrophic consequences. Pakistan's terror industry, supported by state and out-of-state actors has now come to result in this inhuman massacre in Peshawar.
There is no good or bad terror--there exists no such demarcation in real life. Terror is an all-consuming monster, you cannot give birth to terror without it effecting you eventually. The birds, as they say, will eventually come to roost.
This enormous tragedy has several messages for this subcontinent. The culture of hate and narrow religious and national identities will continue to fan terror somewhere, somehow. Our hate-spewing politicians and media will try and distort the discourse to breed more hate and justify terror. In the long-run, this terror will not discriminate between the religion, nationality or age of its victims. It will kill indiscriminately, and ruthlessly and those killed will always be the innocent--whether in Peshawar, Dhaka or in Mumbai.
Its time we recognise terror is our common problem, and only then will common solutions follow. The era of empty promises, of false, misleading and violent national identities must end. This horrific incident must be followed by a zero-tolerance policy on terror in the entire subcontinent. Our failures to work together will leads to repeats of December 16th and December 6th.
This, however, is easier said than done. The bail of Lakhvi, the mastermind behind the Mumbai terror attack has already challenged our belief in Pakistan's commitment to fighting terror. Nawaz Sharif's words on no differentiation between 'good' and and 'bad' terror seem empty. More than the Indians, this development, should worry the Pakistani's for not even two days after this horrifying tragedy, the mastermind of an equally bloody terror plot will probably walk free. How long before another Mumbai or Peshawar?
We the people of this subcontinent, also need to recognise that the answers do not lie with chest-thumping politicians or men with holy books.They lie with all of us and our common bonds of humanity. Today, millions on either side stand in solidarity with each other. Its important to sustain this solidarity when terror erupts--wherever it erupts. Its important to recognise that despite a culture of hate given to us by the colonisers and our current leaders, thousands of years of civilisational history and bonds bind us. We should recall Peshawar and Mumbai when we vote, when we hear the poisonous political speeches and biased media reports. We can no longer wait for others to act for us, we must act against terror ourselves--a beginning would be ending this culture of hate within ourselves.