by Hasan Shakoor
Dear Mr. Khan
I was rather disappointed to read your latest article entitled “How to clear the mess.” In Pakistan’s political wasteland, many still remain optimistic that someone of your background, education and high standing in society will maybe provide a viable option worth supporting, or at least say the right things at the right times. You have, time and time again, failed to do either.
Pakistan faces a crisis of colossal proportions. More than ever before, Pakistanis need to hear voices of reason…..strong and firm voices telling them that they are not alone in their fear and loathing of the Taliban threat. I for one am tired of people like you making excuses for these barbarians. Your arguments are simplistic, if one is to be polite. Why can’t someone like you just say what has to be said. These people are savages and don’t represent the Islam we grew up practicing.
Shatter the myth that lurks in the Pakistani subconscience. There is nothing remotely muslim in the taliban’s preachings. They are a band of semi-literate neanderthals who know nothing about Islam and the shariat. The only way forward for Pakistan is to call them out for the hypocrisy and anti-Islamic practices they engage in.
What Pakistani in his right mind would claim that the militancy is not a threat to Pakistan. “How does it concern us?” you ask rather naively. For one, Al-Qaida and the Taliban were given refuge by the Pakstani state, so we weren’t exactly the silent observer you would make us out to be. The army and ISI were aiding and abetting the taliban’s spring incursions into Afghanistan. Most sensible observers are willing to admit that, Mr. Khan. So, unfortunately, this was always our problem.
What’s more, it amazes me to think that human life is still considered such an expendible commodity in out unfortunate country. You seem to ignore the fact that about 900 Pakistanis died last year alone as a result of suicide attacks. I fail to see how this does not make it our war.
You call the Lal Masjid incident “a slaughter”. Pray what would you have the government do? These people were directly challenging the writ of the federal government, engaging in kidnapping, vandalism and seizure of public property. They had amassed a huge stash of guns and ammunition and had fired upon and killed several security personnel. Yet there are those in the media and individuals such as you who insist that innocent blood was shed. I am sure you must have offered your “Shukrana” prayers this week when the government decided to release Abdul Aziz on bail. A great day for justice, indeed! The Musharraf government did botch up the Lal Masjid episode. They should have acted earlier with brute and unambiguous force to reassert its control over the federal capital. This would have sent the clear signal that no one can impose their version of law or morality over any area of the land, unless it be the rightful government of the time. Abdul Aziz should be tried to endangering the lives of the madrassa students in his seminary and for terrorism against the state itself. Neither of these charges can possibly be challenged in a court of law.
Musharraf’s actions were egregious on many fronts, but allowing the US to “replace a pro-Pakistan Afghan government with a pro-Indian one” was not one of them. First of all, the Taliban are as anti-pushtoon as could be possible. The Pakistani establishment has been using religious fundamentalism as a buffer against pukhtoon nationalism almost since independence. The puritanical form of Islam the Taliban imposed on Afghanistan was alien to pushtoon culture. The Pakistani state has allowed this rabid wahabi/deobandi form of our religion to be exported from the deserts of Arabia to both Afghanistan and to their own country. We are now reaping the rewards of this insanely short-sighted policy. The military establishment continues to propagate the jihadi policy in hopes that it will one day finds its way back into the corridors of power in Afghanistan once the west washes it’s hands of the region. In the meantime, Pakistan will burn to the ground.
Almost as ludicrous is your claim that the Taliban brought about “law and order” to Afghanistan. I have heard this argument in many an air-conditioned Pakistani drawing room. The Taliban’s form of justice is obviously something armchair fundos like yourself would rather admire from afar than experience first-hand.
Public floggings of criminals and stoning to death of those who engage in sexual misconduct in the middle of a soccer pitch certainly taught the common criminal (and sexually frustrated couples) a lesson! Let’s try to forget the fact that heroin production actually went up several fold in Afghanistan, with the Taliban actually claiming that since it is mainly an export to the west, it should not be outlawed. Women were treated like livestock and education was ignored completely. Ethnic minorities like the Hazaras were brutally massacred and towns like Mazar-e-Shaif and Bamiyan were destroyed. How on earth does this marauding group of savages represent “law and order” to you ?
The notion that the Afghan Taliban were a spontaneous movement for justice and order is actually dangerously untrue. It was a regime foisted upon the people by the Pakistani state to further its own interests in Afghanistan. What we are experiencing in Pakistan now is blowback. The chickens, sir, are coming home to roost. We have no one but ourselves to blame for this. Pakistanis need to stop trying to differentiate between the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, the TTP, the LeJ, the LeT, the Jaish-e-Muhammed and all other such organizations. The amount of cross-pollination and cooperation between all of them should be enough to convince us that the state should employ the same policy towards them all.
Most of all we as Pakistanis need to realize that the overwhelming threat to our existence as a sovereign nation comes from within our borders. It is foolhardy and naive to expect our enemies to sit back and not take advantage of our plight. I am sure the BLA and even the TTP is getting help from the Indians and maybe even the present Afghan establishment. Any third grade student could tell you that the long term solution is increased investment in development and education. That is only stating the obvious.
I am sure the Swatis don’t appreciate the media continuously implying that they have pined for the speedy justice that the so-called shariat promises them. The Pakistani state has failed its citizenry miserably and has failed to provide law, order and justice to every region, not only in the Swat valley. To suggest that this form of warped, uninformed justice is the only viable solution is a slap in the face of all the judicial system in Pakistan has recently been through.
You seem to be enamored by the jirga-panchayat system that is still prevalent in large parts of Pakistan. It seems quite a paradox that you on one hand try to pass yourself off as a champion for the movement for a free judiciary and on the other hand keep calling for the validation of jirga justice. I am wondering what form of “village jury” you would like to see flourish in Pakistan? The kind that sanctioned the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai? The kind that allows honor killing across Pakistani villages? And how is this jirga or panchayat possibly going to be anything but subservient to feudal interests? In which parts of the country are the senior members of the “village-jury” not the most prominent and therefore economically well off members of the community?
Your naivety boggles the mind! A system that submits itself to the whim of the mob is hardly what Pakistan needs at this point. A natural follow-up to helping restore the higher judiciary of the land is to ensure that this form of constitutional justice permeates to the lower levels of our society.
Unfortunately, your argument against myth number 4 (”That the next terrorist attack on the US will come from the tribal areas”) falls flat on its face. Almost every terrorist attack since 9/11 can in some way be traced back to Pakistan. There is no shortage of proverbial ostriches in our country, unfortunately. Most of the world views us as the fountainhead of Islamic terrorism. People like you can go hoarse blaming the US for its tilted policies towards Israel and India, but the problem remains a Pakistani one. The ISI and the military have been playing a double game ever since the so called war on terror was declared. Musharraf’s problem was that he carried out ill planned attacks in the tribal areas and aided and abetted the taliban and other jihadis at the same time. Misguided commentators like yourself, Ahmed Qureshi, Shireen Mazari and others are doing a fine job perpetuating the myth that India remains our biggest threat. The three headed Hindu-American-Zionist monster lies licking its chops at our borders, ready to slice up the Pakistani state and devour the remains. The monster, however, need not gets its hands dirty, it seems. We are doing a fine job doing the slicing ourselves.
The threat from India is miniscule compared to the threat we harbor within our borders. Unless the military establishment realizes that a clear U-turn in our priorities is needed, the battle is lost. They must realize that the jihadis they still harbor and encourage within Pakistan will devour the country. So what if India is able to extend its influence into Afghanistan? At least Pakistan will still have a chance of surviving the challenge posed at both its major borders. Our quest for “strategic depth” into the Afghan territory needs to be dropped for the betterment of the country. If they can’t have Afghanistan, the fanatics will have Pakistan. Our state has failed us in every imaginable way, but the real roots of this failure need to be understood and pronounced with no ambiguity.
The ground realities are far from what reactionaries such as you claim they are. We are our own worst enemies. We ourselves have managed to radicalize the state to such an extent that there is an almost complete lack of outrage at the current events in our North West. The tragedy of Pakistan today is that no one has the guts to speak out against the hypocrites who kill our own citizens in the name of Islam. The only people speaking out are apologists and appeasers such as yourself. “ The taliban act because of a lack of justice and order, they act against the elite and economically advantaged in our society” is what you seem to be suggesting. Strangely enough, I can think of few who would be better poster boys for the Pakistani elite than yourself. I wonder how the taliban and those you would have sit on this so-called village jury you so vehemently praise would view your former life before you so fortunately found the path to eternal salvation.
Like most of my depressed generation that watches these events unfold and our country hemorrhage to death in front our eyes, I have admired you for your services to cricket and the pride it gave us to be Pakistani. I for one wish you would go back to busying yourself with the task of reviving cricket in Pakistan.