Denialistanis are all around us, they look, walk and talk like us. Most have a green passport and quite a few have maroon and blue ones as well. But what sets denialistanis apart from the rest is the way in which they process bad news; Muslims can never be culprits and thus the infidel is at fault. Let it be a suicide bombing or a flood, it must be the Jews/Hindus/Christians, as they are all out to destroy Muslims.
Who could forget that supposed absence of 3000 Jews from the World Trade Center that implicated Mossad and not Al Qaida for 9/11? And that “RAW conspiracy” to malign Pakistani cricketers? Not to forget Ajmal Kasab’s saffron wrist band which certified him as a RAW agent?
As things stand, Al Qaida has taken responsibility for 9/11, our cricketers were conclusively found to be guilty and Hafiz Saeed has offered funeral prayers for Ajmal Kasab. But despite these resounding slaps on the wrist, what still remains is the quest for more denials in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Denialistanis, it seems, view the world through a special prism; one that shows every thing as a struggle between a feeble Muslim David and a towering infidel Goliath. The eventual victory of David is foreseen to be the proof of being on God’s side.
If one is to look for a prototype of a Muslim David, then one shouldn’t beyond the Taliban. Ill equipped, rag tag, religious and ready for war. For many, cheering them on becomes a religious obligation of sorts. And we Pakistanis did that cheerleading very effectively. At a time when Afghan Malalas were being whipped in public and Afghan Bilours executed in football stadiums, Islamabad proudly declared the Taliban to be “our boys”.
But things changed when from being the official cheerleaders for Afghanistan’s Taliban we became victims of our own Pakistani Taliban. Ideally it should have been the infidel Goliath to blame, but instead the villain turned out to be our own beloved Muslim David.
So how does one explain that?
Accepting the Jihadis as our enemies, poses substantial costs for some. Because at stake is the narrative that fuels Juma sermons, shapes our school curricula and forestalls any cuts in our military spending. Any exceptions to this will simply rob many people of their raison d‘etre. Therefore there is no other option but to twist the obvious and defend the narrative.
Consider the aftermath of the Malala incident; first came the regular “Who did it?” The Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan (TTP) proudly replied with a “We did”. This was responded with; “Who are the Taliban?” “How can one be sure that the TTP exists?” “This must be Black Water.”
Discussion is futile, because these statements are backed with a total distrust in the profession of journalism, and an unwavering faith in the magical powers of video & audio editing. Media reports that implicate the TTP are declared false, and video confessionals are attributed to video editors sitting in Langley Virginia. Interestingly these resolute shoulder-shrugging-fact-checkers are usually the same people who embraced Agha Waqar and his water kit with arms wide open.
The Malala incident was unique in the response that it got from Pakistanis. Here was a girl so focused on education that she defied the Taliban for it. A dream child for any parents worried about the education and future of their children, and thus the sympathy came pouring out.
It is exactly that sort of a response, which is needed to build a much-needed national consensus on tackling the Taliban. But a necessary victim of such a consensus would be the denialistani narrative and naturally the big guns came out to defend it.
Qazi Hussain Ahmad accused Malala’s father of bad parenting. The product of Qazi sahib’s parenting; Dr. Samia Raheel Qazi used doctored shots from a documentary to show Malala colluding with CIA officials. Maulana Fazl ur Rehman brought out the surgeon in him to declare Malala’s wounds to be fake and her recovery a drama. With the leadership stooping so low, the rank and file of these parties stooped even further and launched a hateful smear campaign against Malala.
But Malala doesn’t pose the biggest threat to the denialistani narrative, it is actually the Taliban who do. Every time TTP takes responsibility for the wanton killing of Pakistanis Muslims, it smashes the façade of, an infidel threat and a united Ummah, that has been so painstakingly created by parties such as JI, JUI-F and more recently PTI.
Imagine how smug the leadership of these parties would have been had the Taliban denied involvement in these acts of terror? But while these political parties are in the business of winning votes, the Taliban are in the business of selling fear. Incentives don’t align between the two, as JUI-F and JI have also been victims of Taliban violence.
But despite victim-hood the response of JI and JUI-F has been very different from that of the ANP. Perhaps because for the ANP this carnage is a realization of what Wali Khan had predicted back in the 80s. But for the JI and JUI-F this is a case of the chicken coming home to roost, a taste of the medicine that they prescribed for Afghanistan.
ANP’s vindication and the religious right’s embarrassment come out very clearly in the aftermath of every terrorist attack. The ANP is very clear about naming the TTP and the need for bringing it to justice. However, for the religious right even condemnation comes with reluctance about naming TTP and often the blame is put on CIA/RAW/Mossad etc. The end result is a national confusion in which TTP’s clearly worded confessions are ignored and instead the focus is put on ridiculous conspiracy theories or the futility of a military response.
This national confusion is the TTP’s biggest asset. They can spread fear by owning it, but then don’t face the consequences.
The failure of our State in delivering these consequences is a failure of our army and security agencies. This needs to be dealt with as the failure of any other Government institution. Simply initiating a new military operation would not do, seeking performance review on past military efforts is key in answering effectively to the Taliban threat.
To investigate these failures is to take on the deep state and its strategic calculus, and for that the PPP would need support from all political quarters. But this prevailing confusion robs the Government of the public support that it needs for doing so.
Despite its clarity on the Taliban issue, it’s the ANP that is paying the biggest price for this national confusion. So far the TTP has martyred more than 600 ANP members. No other political party comes close to this sacrifice.
Bashir Bilour Shaheed once said “For the love of God, please embrace this as your war. If you cant, or are too afraid to do so, then please remain silent. Don’t create confusion amongst the people.” No one listened and he paid the ultimate price for his own ideals and someone else’s political expediency. One only wonders how many Bashir Bilours would we have to sacrifice, before those spreading this confusion start paying the price for it as well. Maybe that will bring some clarity?