ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Antinomies behind the Peshawar Killings

The ruthless attack on schoolchildren in Peshawar has precipitated a clamour for stronger military action against the "terrorists", and the Pakistani army and government have responded by stepping up the Zarb-e-Azb operation and hanging a handful of incarcerated convicts. This article uncovers the tangled yet well-known roots of violence in Pakistan today to illustrate how the military-dominated State's designated ideology and political machinations have brought the country to this pass. The strengthening of democracy is the only way to prevent such incidents from recurring, but the Peshawar attacks have been used precisely to weaken democratic institutions vis-á-vis the military establishment.

The cold-blooded killing of almost 150 children in the northern garrison city of Peshawar on 16 December 2014 confirmed that, after countless “counter-insurgency” operations, and tens of thousands of deaths, the legitimacy of the so-called “war on terror” is as dubious now as when it began in 2001. While its major staging grounds remain Pakistan and Afghanistan, the “war on terror” has since the outset been depicted as a worldwide clash between the forces of modern “civilisation” and medieval barbarians. It is anything but.

Enough commentators have written about the historic collusion of western imperialist powers and the religious right in Muslim-majority countries that I need not go into details here (Amin 2007). In this article I will focus only on Pakistan, which has, in the eyes of many western journalists, become the epicentre of global “terror” networks, whilst also boasting of a State that has been amongst the most active patrons of such networks. That many of its own protégés have now apparently turned against the State may be the most notable element of this complex dialectic, but does not exhaust our understanding of it. Going beyond surface phenomena, then, is necessary both to make sense of Pakistan’s regional role, as well as the struggle for democracy within the country.

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