Pakistan Ends Another Year With A Horrifying Attack
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Pakistan ends this year as it ended last year, with a horrifying attack. Yesterday, a suicide bombing at a government office left at least 26 people dead. In December of 2014, gunmen stormed a school that was attended by the children of the military and systematically massacred more than 140 students and teachers. That shooting shook Pakistan to its core. There were vows to crack down on militants and many at the time said, this changes everything. For more on this past year and what might be ahead, we reached one of Pakistan's best-known novelists, Mohsin Hamid, author of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist." He was on Skype from his home in Lahore.
MOHSIN HAMID: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: So when you read something like this and you think constantly about your country, what does that say about what's going on there? I mean, when you look over this past year, what has changed or not changed?
HAMID: Well, one thing that has changed is the number of people killed by terrorists in Pakistan. Civilians killed has gone down really quite dramatically. There was a newspaper article here about a month ago that got big headlines which said that civilian deaths from terrorism were down something like 80 percent or 90 percent from their peak of two or three years ago. So in many ways, as you've mentioned, the bombing at the end of this year and the terrorist attack of last year in Peshawar have bookended both those years in a very unfortunate way. But at a bigger picture since, the impression in Pakistan is that things are actually improving on the terrorism front quite dramatically.
MONTAGNE: Looking - you know, looking over your country, what do you see as the reason for this improvement that you're talking about?
HAMID: Well, I think that things were getting really very bad a couple of years ago, and there's been a very significant change in response to that on the part of the security forces and the government, but particularly the army. And you see Pakistan actually fighting terrorism and terrorists in a much more wholehearted way than had been occurring previously. It's not anywhere close to over yet, but you've seen a big change in the antiterrorism campaign here. And on top of that, I think that the external situation has also changed somewhat. The reduction of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has, in a sense, reduced how inflamed the situation on the Pakistani border regions was and is. And also I think the rise of other, you could say, destinations for international jihadis mean that Pakistan isn't necessarily the place where people from all over the world who want to engage in these activities gravitate to. They're going now to places like Syria or Yemen Libya, elsewhere.
MONTAGNE: Well, looking ahead to 2016, what do you think there in Pakistan?
HAMID: I think the sense you have right now in Pakistan is that the security situation is improving, the economy is improving. That said, I was having a conversation recently with my 6-year-old daughter and she was telling me about a nightmare that she had. And the nightmare was a dream in which bad guys came to her school. And I think, you know, for a 6-year-old to be having those kinds of dreams, you know, suggests that there really still is a deep wound, you know, in the collective psyche of Pakistan. And the violence has left enormous human and emotional and psychic damage. That's not going to go away. But that said, I think I'm cautiously optimistic that we're looking at a better future.
MONTAGNE: Author Mohsin Hamid, whose latest novel is the satirical "How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia."
Thank you very much for joining us.
HAMID: Thank you for having me.