On December 16th I was in an auditorium in Toronto waiting for my son's music recital to begin. As the one hundred five and six-year old students shuffled in, lining up on stage, my phone started to vibrate with a news alert. My son smiled, shyly waving at me, while holding and pulling on the side of his mouth as he wiggled a few fingers in my general direction. His eyes were bright with excitement. It was his first recital. I stood up and waved -- blowing him a kiss. A girl beside him was excitedly jumping up-and-down. I sat down and looked at my phone. I blinked -- not quite fathoming the depravity of the scrolling news-ticker, "Taliban Besiege Pakistan School, Leaving 145 Dead." I look up just as the children start singing, "Let It Go" -- a song from Disney's 2013 animated feature film Frozen. The double entendre was chilling -- "Don't let them in, don't let them see...conceal, don't feel, don't let them know. Well, now they know."
This attack, according to a Taliban spokesman, was in retaliation for Pakistan's ongoing military operations against them. The assailants launched their assault, starting in the auditorium. Gunmen, obeying their orders, went from classroom-to-classroom shooting students. Gruesome photographs show upturned chairs and blood stains everywhere - utter destruction in the path of the attack. Will these children ever recover from such psychological trauma? Likely not.
Journalist and ex-colleague of mine, Mohammad Hanif, eloquently wrote for a local newspaper - "Pakistan's civil and military leadership need to examine their own bloodstained hands when they raise their hands in prayer for the murdered children." He is right. This December 16th attack that killed 145 people, of those 132 were children, is the direct result of Pakistan's dysfunctional national policies. These policies fund ideologically inspired combatants, domestic divisiveness and sectarian violence. Pakistan spends almost all its resources on state security, leaving little for education. If Pakistan really wants improve its long-term security it should be funding educational initiatives -- which is the best way to eradicate terrorism. Otherwise, Islamic parties galvanize an apathetic youth to obstruct reforms to discriminatory religious laws that provoke violence.
For over 60 years, Pakistan has failed to provide its population with primary education -- a basic Constitutional right enshrined in Article 25A. The Article ensures the State will provide free and compulsory education to all children aged between five and sixteen years. Pakistan has instead chosen to focus on implementing penal measures that are based on Islamic principles of jurisprudence. Many of these principles run counter to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights requirements for the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The Prophet Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his son. Abraham agreed to sacrifice his son to fulfill God's command. Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, wrote, "A modern moralist cannot help but wonder how a child could ever recover from such psychological trauma. By the standards of modern morality, this disgraceful story is an example simultaneously of child abuse, bullying in two asymmetrical power relationships, and the first recorded use of the Nuremberg defence: I was only obeying orders."
Pakistan should ensure these extremists never claim they are not guilty of these heinous charges. Killing children is never justified. "Only obeying orders" - divine or otherwise is simply not an excuse.