It was his sheer presence of mind and some luck that journalist and television commentator Raza Rumi ducked down in his car on hearing gunshots and survived a terrorist attack while his driver died from multiple bullet wounds. Rumi, of course, was targeted for speaking the truth about TTP, its aligned sectarian groups, and opportunistic policies of some past and present politicians. Within the wider perspective, the attackers may yet have achieved their aim of creating fear and terror. Take for instance the advice Raza got from the police that he should stay at a safe location in order to be protected. Think of his family who would be scared to death about his safety, and would want him to tone down his criticism of the forces of darkness so he stays alive. Same would be the case with other outspoken critics of the Taliban and sectarian terrorists.
Taliban representatives and apologists, on the other hand, enjoy complete freedom to defend the use of violence against innocent people, and indirectly encourage targeting of those who question them through civilised discussion and debate. These people get ample time and space in the news media to publicise their narrative while downplaying the TTP’s indiscriminate killing of citizens in suicide bombings (an estimated 50,000 Pakistanis have died at their hands), and butcheries like the beheading of soldiers and playing football with their severed heads – all in the name of a religion that places a lot of emphasis on compassion and forgiveness.
The challenge for the legitimate inheritors of this State is to reclaim its eroding foundational ideals from religious parties/groups and their militant cohorts. Part of the responsibility lies on the media to stop unregulated airing of the extremist narrative. Freedom of expression has its limits.
Civil society groups too have a role to play in confronting violent extremism by making concerted efforts. Complacency is not an option. For, silence and inaction at this point can gradually condition people to start accepting the extremist narrative. Pakistan needs to be saved from the Taliban and their ilk who opposed it tooth and nail at the time of its inception.