Feature: Less Terrorist Attacks Lead To Revival Of Fun, Festivity In Pakistan's Capital

by Misbah Saba Malik

ISLAMABAD, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Stephen Grabowski, a musician from Denmark performed in a chilly evening of Pakistan's capital Islamabad to an enthusiastic crowd of men, women and kids at a music festival organized by a private company.

"This is the first time when I visited Islamabad, I got a very warm response from people here, they love music, they said they wish to see my performance again. I also want to come again to perform in front of so many music lovers here," Grabowski told Xinhua.

The musician said that Pakistan is a country of peace loving people, and there are basically not many terrorist attacks in major cities, so he found it safe to visit the country and perform here.

The Dane singer performed at the three-day Islamabad Food and Music Festival held at the outskirts of the capital along with other famous local singers.

Talking to Xinhua, the show organizer Rashid Khan said that the response was not so good on the first day, but a large number of people thronged the festival on the second and third day due to positive word of mouth.

"The festival has been held at a 'secure location,' people found it 'safe' to attend it. We will hold the festival in other cities too to spread the message of peace," Khan said.

Naina Razzaq, a 19-year-old, clad in all western wear, said she visited the festival with her friends, adding that it is the first festival of this kind which she is attending in the city since she was born.

"There had been certain concerts in five-star or four-star hotels, but in open air this is the first festival I have attended. It is a quite different experience. I enjoyed a lot with my friends," Naina said.

Apart from Grabowski, Indian band Stereo Nations also performed at the concert, which is the first of its kind in the open air, since things have been brought under control after a 16-year-long tough battle against terrorism jointly fought by the country's government, armed forces and its people.

According to the latest data compiled by the country's National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the year of 2017 witnessed 426 terror incidents, mostly of small intensity as compared to 785 attacks in 2016.

The NACTA said that overall a downward trend in terrorist activities is being noticed in the country during the last few years.

The wave of terrorism hit the country since 2001, when the United States launched the NATO-led war against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan, and terrorist attacks hit their peak in 2010 in the country with some 2,061 incidents. Since then, Pakistan witnessed at least 1,300 attacks in each year.

The drop in the terrorist attacks is being ascribed to the armed offensive codenamed "Operation Zarb-i-Azb" launched in the restive tribal areas of the country in mid-2014, as well as intelligence based sting operations, the authorities said.

The army also launched operations in the Khyber Agency area in four phases between October 2014 and August 2017, to reinforce troops' deployment and effectively impede terrorist movement along the high mountains and all-weather passes.

It also launched Operation Radd-ul-Fassad and the National Action Plan to hunt down militants and their sleeper cells in other parts of the country through a vibrant and coordinated intelligence.

A rising pop sensation in the country Waqar Ahsin, whose recently sung song got more than 3.6 million hits on YouTube in less than four months of its release, said that improvement in law and order situation will also raise opportunities for local musicians to showcase their talent.

"There were not many concerts in the past due to extremism, which had a heavy blow on our pop music industry. Now the army has controlled the situation to a great extent, so music industry will also bounce back as normal cultural art of this land of the pure," Ahsin told Xinhua.

Local experts said that though the issue of terrorism has been controlled to a great extent, but there is still a long way to go for the government to make the people feel "fully secure."

Salman Ghani, senior journalist and political analyst told Xinhua that menace of terrorism has been controlled to great extent, but the situation is not so satisfactory yet.

"Recently, a university was attacked in northwestern Peshawar city, which left nine people including students killed. It shows that militants has their presence whenever chance arises for them. Things cannot be controlled fully until the issue is addressed at the grassroots level to change the mindset of the extremist elements as envisaged in the National Action Plan," Ghani told Xinhua.

To curb extremism, the government should include lessons against terrorism in the general curriculum of the students at school, college and university level to help cultivate the much-needed culture of tolerance and peaceful co-existence, said Yasir Malik, a professor of theology at the Government College University Faisalabad.

"People should know that terrorism is not only anti-state but also anti-Islam. Recently a group of militants had recruits from educated youth in Karachi city which shows that the country's academic system lacks proper guidance to show the right direction to the young minds," Malik said.

Despite all the reservations of the analysts, Pakistani public has started welcoming the small events being organized by government and private organizations by showing their attendance.

Muhammad Imran, owner of the company which sold all tickets for the Islamabad food and music festival, told Xinhua that they have sold more than 20,000 tickets, which is encouraging.

"Last month, we had the festival in Lahore where we sold 50,000 tickets, people come out of their houses to attend such events. They have already defeated terrorism, they tell us they look forward to more such events," Imran said.

In a nutshell, the festival forebodes well for a country of over 200 million. The residents of Islamabad at least feel satisfied to see the scourge of terrorism has been fairly subdued, but its complete annihilation is likely to take a little longer than expected.

Source : http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-12/12/c_136820197.htm

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