Guns For Teachers in Pakistan a Healthy Concoction?

A Pakistani teacher holds a weapon during a two-day training session by police. The provincial government has decided to arm the teachers after recent terror attacks on colleges and schools.
A Pakistani teacher holds a weapon during a two-day training session by police. The provincial government has decided to arm the teachers after recent terror attacks on colleges and schools.

There comes a time in the life of every nation, especially one as prone to accidental and unwelcome scenarios as Pakistan, where opting for least evil of choices before it becomes unavoidable. It may just be that moment for Pakistan to bite the bullet


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he deadly terrorist assault at the Bacha Khan University (BKU) campus in Charsadda, last week, exacted a toll of 21 students and faculty, gunned down by the TTP marauders.
However, the young Chemistry professor who was also a fatality in the university carnage didn’t go down without a fight. He had a gun on him that he whipped out at the terrorists to defend his students. As it were, he laid down his life with great honor and dignity. What could be a greater act of bravado than standing up to blood-thirsty terrorists and not surrender to them without a fight.

The murder of innocent students of Charsadda at the hands of the terrorists immediately rekindled the nation’s sense of grief and hurt as acutely felt in December, 2014, when vandals of TTP had murdered in cold blood almost a 150 children at the Army Public School (APS) of Peshawar.
The Peshawar carnage triggered the military offensive, Zarb-e-Azb, against terrorists and their foxholes which is still going on and will not be stopped until the scourge of terrorism has been uprooted, warts and all, from Pakistan’s soil.

The military sources close to the dragnet against the monster terrorist recently came up with some impressive figures, according to which nearly 22,000 terrorists have so far been killed in the military offensive; more than 1700 of them—and their facilitators—have been caught in the net as part of the mop up.

However, the relative ease with which the murderers were able to breach BKU security—if there was any—is a disturbing pointer to it that terrorists uprooted from their sanctuaries in the no-man’s-land of the tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan have, apparently, infiltrated the urban areas and found refuge there. An even more disquieting auxiliary to it is that they seem to have turned their diabolical focus against the so-called ‘soft’ targets. BKU, in terrorist parlance, was as soft a target as was APS.

Sensing the outrage of the people across the country—and particularly in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KP) province where the monster of terrorism has visited twice in 13 months to script a horrendous tragedy in blood—the political leadership of KP has moved quickly to assuage and mollify the people’s hurt. So, in fitness of things, KP government unveiled its decision to allow teachers to arm themselves—with licensed weapons, of course—in order to fend off the kind of terrorist visitations at APS and BKU.

The KP government has sound logic to back up its maverick initiative of arming teachers of educational institutions: there are 68,000 schools and colleges in the province but only 55,000 policemen. In terms of cold statistics, the numbers of law enforcers and guardians of public security are inadequate, even to apportion at least one policeman per school.

And it isn’t just simply a case of inadequacy of numbers. The police force in KP is as poorly trained and equipped as police in any other province. Sindh may be even worse, given the morbidly corrupt predators masquerading as its rulers, and Punjab, perhaps, slightly better. Our policemen, by and large, are not trained for anti-terrorism tasks.

There’s, on top of it, the blight of our endemic—and sickening—VIP culture that relies heavily on legions of police guarding two-bit and worthless human beings donning the VIP garb. The police resources are being wasted, literally, on ensuring unscathed longevity of scums-of-the-earth in every corner of Pakistan. A safe guestimate consigns at least one-quarter of the total police force in each province to VIP-related duties.
The moral of this vicious story is that the state, across the board, is a dismal failure in the primary obligation of protecting the lives and properties of its citizens.

A concomitant lesson drawn from this state of affairs is that, denied the state protection they rightly deserved, citizens have little choice but come up with their own means and methods of saving their lives and ensure their survival against the terrorists stalking their land.

No open, democratic and civilized society should have any room for vigilantism. Guns in the hands of non-state actors aren’t, and shouldn’t be, tolerated. The US is an exception to the rule. It may be civilized, open and democratic and yet allows its citizens free and unobstructed access to guns. But because of it, US has tens of thousands of people murdered in its land because of gun-related violence and not in acts of terrorism.

No sensible and law-abiding Pakistani—in Pakistan or away from its shores—should be advocating for guns in the hands of non-state actors. We have suffered more than any other country in the world at the hands of non-state actors—Taliban and other militant and terrorist groups spewing violence in the name of religion—with free access to guns.

So, logically, Pakistan should be the last country in the world to allow its citizens easy access to guns and other tools of violence.

However, what KP government is mandating for its terrorism-scorched people is not a prescription to allow a US-type gun culture to enter its precincts. It’s a facility that would be only selectively extended to those engaged in the noble pursuit of educating the children and younger generation of Pakistanis in their province.

In other words, the spirit behind the KP government’s novel initiative is to make up for the gaping deficiency of conventional means to fight the chimera of terrorism, which has already taxed the capacity of conventional tools of security to their limit but is threatening to not go away. That’s the sad lesson learned from the repeated episodes of terrorist attacks: that the application of only tried and tested methods of enforcing the writ of the state against its blood-thirsty violators isn’t working.

Conventional wisdom says that when in-box methods don’t work, or deliver, out-of-the-box ideas deserve to be kicked into the equation to do the trick. That seems to be the long and short of this maverick move to arm teachers willing to fend for themselves and for their wards, their pupils who are morally their responsibility to defend as long as they are in the class room.
The facility will have parameters guarding against abuse or misuse, as far as the spirit working behind the scheme is concerned. There will be no compulsion on all teachers to arm themselves. But, there will be no bar against those who would want to equip themselves to take on the terrorists at their own game.

Yes, the idea will not work to perfection and could be prone to abuse. The fear of its misuse or abuse is at the core of voices already rising in denunciation of the idea. It will usher in vigilantism, the nay-sayers are objecting, and may lead to anarchy.

The answer to the first objection is that a restricted and regulated form of vigilantism will not be such an outrageous thing, given the dismal ground realities anchoring the state’s less-than-wholesome score card in the fight against terrorism. There’s reason to believe that when the word goes out that teachers are no longer sitting ducks—and their class rooms not soft targets—the predatory terrorists will think twice before attacking them.

As for the caveat that anarchy would be ushered in tow behind the arming of teachers it begs a question: aren’t we already in the jaws of anarchy stalking the land from one end to another? Will it be such a terrible, so much unpalatable, scenario if armed teachers were to fight terror with terror?

Arm-chair punditry would insist –with cold logic at its disposal—that no citizen out-of-a-uniform should have access to guns. But equally cold and convincing ground reality would argue in favor of letting in a limited and regulated culture of vigilantism—for want of a more suitable and appropriate title for it—to enter the fray and cut the Gordian Knot.

There comes a time in the life of every nation, especially one as prone to accidental and unwelcome scenarios as Pakistan, where opting for least evil of choices before it becomes unavoidable. It may just be that moment for Pakistan to bite the bullet.


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