December 16 is a date that both India and Pakistan remember with a lot of pain. While for the former, it was a gruesome gangrape and murder of a young medical student in a moving bus on this day in 2012 that had shaken its conscience; the latter today observes an agonising first anniversary of the massacre at an army school in Peshawar that claimed 144 lives, including 132 students.
While for India, the social menace called rape stormed the headlines after that horrific incident and even saw changes in rules to tighten the noose around the culprits; Pakistan faced the worst backlash of terrorism, a political menace, which it is often accused of allowing to flourish from its own soil.
December 16: Infamous anniversaries for both countries
On this anniversary of an infamous date, how are these two countries are placed in fighting the two challenges that had claimed an individual in India and an entire school community in Pakistan?
Civilian govts have disappointed in both countries
There is one similarity between the ways the two nations have gone about in responding to these challenges and that is: the disappointing performance of the civilian governments in tackling the evil with iron hands.
Army has taken lead in Pakistan after the Peshawar massacre
Speaking about Pakistan first, emergency steps were taken after the Pakistan Taliban based in Afghanistan had carried out the attack.
An all-party meeting held by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Peshawar decided on a 20-point national action plan to combat terrorism. The country's army had already been carrying out a mission to eliminate the Taliban from North Waziristan and in the aftermath of the massacre, the army intensified its operation in other border areas like Khyber and Kurram tribal agencies.
But as renowned Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid as observed, the civilian government of Sharif displayed "a chronic lack of will" in implementing the plan's social and political features like madrassa reform, checking the spread of extremism through social media, improving education and building the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) which was established in 2008 but has remained effective since then.
The Nacta Act was passed by the country's parliament two years ago and it was supposed to bring all intelligence agencies on a common platform but the plan was never realised. The onus lied, as Rashid said, on the civilian administration.
On the positive side, the number of militant attacks in the country has come down as a result of the army's strong operation and peace also prevailed in cities like Karachi which is known for its disturbances. The moratorium on executions in Pakistan was also lifted after the Peshawar massacre and to the utter dismay of the West and the country's human rights groups, the number of executions in Pakistan has gone up substantially (although most of them, as Rashid said, are not convicts of terrorism).
All these outcomes post that horrible attack point out that the army has led the response mechanism while the civilian administration is yet to catch up on many counts. The Sharif government might have avoided a collision course with the army but its slow and ineffective moves have given the army an upper hand in influencing many key areas post the terrorist massacre, which is a worrying trend.
The Pakistani Army is a powerful institution in that country and it has gained more weight after the Peshawar massacre. But if the civilian authorities do not play out its role effectively in making long-term changes in the country's legal, police and security policies, then it will be a major opportunity lost for the nation in putting up a tenable fight against terrorism.
India is yet to see a safe environment for women
Turning focus on India, the gangrape of December 16, 2012, had led to such an uproar in the country which was more fed by a noisy media and the growing anti-incumbency against a hapless UPA government at the Centre then that the authorities were forced to change laws to try criminals involved in such acts. But three years after the incident, women still don't feel safe in this country.
A new government led by the BJP has taken over at the Centre but yet the will to tackle the social menace of rape is not visible.
The Nirbhaya Fund, which was set up with accompanied with a lot of claims, is not a success story yet. Different ministries have made different proposals to improve the safety conditions for women but nothing has reflected on the ground so far.
The Juvenile Justice Act to try juveniles aged between 16 and 18 as majors in case of heinous crimes is still pending in the Rajya Sabha. The rates of conviction in crimes against women are still abysmally low. Such crimes occurring in distant parts of the country do not even get reported, let alone the delivery of justice.
Currently, the focus is on the release of the convict who was a juvenile at the time of the crime. The victim's parents have been pleading to stop his release but it was made little appeal to those in power, irrespective of the party.
Media has led in India just like the army in Pakistan
Just like the army in Pakistan, it is the media in India which is leading the campaign against the menace of rape while the civilian administration has displayed an awful inefficiency in improving the safety situation, even after that eye-opening gangrape case. Priorities are more on political slugfest and personality clashes (we see the Delhi government more interested in locking horns with the Centre instead of trying to better the city's name as the Rape Capital) than working on key steps like police reformsa and utilisation of funds and technology for a better tomorrow.