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Have we learnt our lessons?

Dr Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur

Kung Fu Panda or someone equally famous said, “life keeps serving you the same obstacles again and again until you learn to overcome them.

Those who learn from mistakes and take remedial steps, move on to higher and better goals, thereby achieving progress.

People and nations that failed to recognise and accept their mistakes and preferred to stay in denial, never accepted where they went wrong and never learnt from their mistakes.

In the greater scheme of things, failure is a milestone to success. Each successful endeavour has tens of failures behind it.

Successful people, endeavours and nations learn from their mistakes. The process of learning requires analysis of what went wrong, discussion and identification of key issues and finally a plan forward to address the deficiencies or gaps.

December 16, is a black day in the history of Pakistan. The fall of Dhaka in 1971 and the terrible tragedy of the Army Public School, Peshawar in 2014 are painful memories that hurt us terribly whenever we think of them. Our humanity makes us feel the pain of grief and a sense of black emptiness.

It has been 50 years since 1971, enough time to review, analyse, understand and take remedial steps. Most of the players involved are either dead or no longer in active service. Somehow, to me as a citizen, it does not seem that we have discussed the reasons or the related issues openly.

Our shame prevents us from talking about it or owning the blame. So many inquiry commissions, committees, analysis and recommendations were made but perhaps not enough debate or acknowledgment was done in the public space; until we own up openly, I don’t think we can move on.

The fall of Dhaka, its discussion and its players continue to be a taboo subject. I am not aware of university debates, research or PhDs on it.

Until we do so, we may not have learnt some of the lessons we needed to.

Psychologically there are five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is not necessary that we go through all the stages in that order.

Whatever the sequence it is important for us as humans to go through loss , mourn, grieve and finally put a closure to the episode through acceptance. The greater the loss the more difficult it is.

When it comes to Army Public School Peshawar, we seem to have done a better job. We were finally able to declare all terrorism bad and go after the perpetrators.

The National Action Plan we came up with did have some impact, though a lot still needs to be done. It is time today to reaffirm our vision of a peaceful and safe Pakistan and take the bold steps necessary to get there.

As a mature nation, every December 16, we need to reassess what needs to be done, revisit the National Action Plan to come up with constructive and positive actions to make sure these gruesome incidents never occur again.