Prem Anand Mishra
On December 16, 2014, the massacre of 132 children in Peshawar’s Army Public School by Taliban terrorists shook the world to the core.
Most of the children were shot from point blank range including young Khaula Bibi (6) who had come to school for the first time. For young Khaula, tomorrow never came.
The story of Nobel Laureate for Peace, Malala Yousufzaui, does inspire many, but beyond the inspiration, her story showcases an unending holocaust in which hundred-thousands of children have lost their lives since 2001 when Pakistan as an American ally entered war against terrorism.
Since 2001, nearly 50,000 civilians, mostly children have died in various terrorist attacks in the country; and until this strife ends, thousands more will die.
It’s difficult to be a child in Pakistan as he or she lives and survives against the scores of odds.
If a child manages to escape from the bullet or bomb kept at any random square or mosque, he is bound to fall prey to sexual abuse. Even if he gets lucky and gets away without getting sexually abused, he is destined to be ruined by the country’s education system.
The Main Cause:
Today’s Pakistan is at the crossroads of culture where the young Pakistan inspired by the progress in West is at loggerheads with its erstwhile yet quite relevant self of Islamic Pakistan.
Be it Malala or other innocent children anywhere in Pakistan, they represent a country which desperately seeks development, education, or anything children in West are enjoying.
But the Pakistan of yesteryear which believes that scientific education or anything which comes from Maghreb (West) is unholy and un-Islamic isn’t going to give them an easy passage.
These so-called saviours of Islam don’t want a society that doesn’t fit into their world view. This is also true that education is the real enemy for the terror groups and it becomes more potent when education is attained by girls. Malala is an inspiring example.
Pakistan, a state that failed its own future generations and has became a society where hope for the children is ageing before its time.
Demons made by Pakistan itself:
The post 9/11 world order compelled Pakistan to forsake it’s once upon a time protégé whom the Pakistan establishment used against India. It is a fact that Pakistan has lost almost 50,000 lives to terrorist violence and billions of dollars since 2001 but the state’s owns duplicity failed their own people.
Nothing can be more tormenting for any society where children have become the main target. On the eve of Easter in Pakistan, Islamic terrorists detonated a bomb at an amusement park in Lahore that killed 70 people and injured more than 300. According to a Pakistani Taliban spokesperson, they “claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter”.
Either Lahore blast where kids just played for the last time or a Peshawar school attack- attacking and killing the children has become a new strategy. The terror groups justify their acts by telling their master in Islamabad that Pakistan Army in order to appease US and its allies is killing their children. Therefore, for both sides, children are the soft targets.
But these groups backed by the Islamist fundamentalists of the country are making children of Pakistan their target because fighting with a well equipped army is getting tougher for the resource starved militant outfits.
The terrorists might position themselves as a revenge seeker by killing school children in Pakistan well off societies including an Army school. They call it as the state also should feel their pain.
A flawed education system:
The killing of children in recent times might arouse many sentiments all over the world, but deep within the monster lies in the shadow of how Pakistan’s public education has played a horrible game with their own children though a manufactured education system where children are taught jihad.
In January this year, a sinister piece of news came from Punjab province in Pakistan where 15-year-old boy (real name not revealed) chopped off his right hand believing he had committed blasphemy. He was attending a celebration of the Prophet's birth at a mosque where local cleric hosting it called out: "Who among you is a follower of Muhammad?" Everyone raised their hands. He followed it with another question: "Who among you do not believe in the teachings of the Holy Prophet? Raise your hands!" The poor boy misheard and, inadvertently raised his hand.
Witnessed by about 100 worshippers, the cleric immediately accused him of blasphemy and the boy returned home to prove his love for the Prophet by cutting off his own hand. His entire village celebrated his act of devotion. The extreme nature of this ‘devotional’ act earned him a revered figure.
Most textbooks reveal a fault line, how generations of children have been brainwashed. Though attention has always been paid at Madrassas in Pakistan for creating sectarian and binary worldview, but the significance of religious education mixed with giving rise to the narrow vision that breeds hate and irrationality.
However this horrible idea doesn’t stop at Madrassas. Madrasaas are not the only institutions breeding hate, intolerance, a distorted worldview, etc.
The educational material the state curriculum and textbooks in Pakistan in the government run schools do much more than Madrassas and make a catalogue of disaster in one.
The textbooks tell lies, create hate, and incite feeling for jihad or martyrdom in the name of religion and much more.
Sex abuse and children:
Beyond the sorry stages of terror and distortion in education system, there is another side of horror: the sexual abuse.
A report by an agency named Sahil which is working for the last 20 years on child protection especially against child sexual abuse tells a wicked sense of situation.
The agency reports that in 2015 alone there were almost 4000 such cases of sexual abuse; and more than half of them fall into the category of gang rape.
This report also manifests that Pakistan is also among the rare countries where male child is a major victim. More than physical, these cases of repeated sexual abuses leave a catastrophic impact on the psychology of the children.
In August 2015, Pakistan was rocked by busting of a gang which used to abuse and film the children at gunpoint. The members of the gang used to threaten the parents of the children of releasing the videos of abuse on internet. As many as 270 children were abused by this gang.
Pakistan has been in news for being one of the major countries where child sex abuse is quite rampant.
After the scores of incidents of child sex abuse came to fore, Pakistan government came out of slumber and in March 2016, Pakistan Senate passed a bill that criminalised the sexual assault against minors, child pornography and trafficking.
Author is a research scholar at Centre for West Asian Studies in School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi. He is a freelancer and his area of research is Islam. He is an ex-correspondent Busiuness Standard and also contributed to Unicef as a consultant in the past.