Peshawar’s Bravest Son
Bashir Bilour’s speech filmed by: Irfan Ullah Paracha
Election is a time of promises. Promises backed up by past deeds. Deeds which assure of virtues. In these days of terror, courage is one virtue that everyone with a microphone is trying to sell. Some do it by likening themselves to big scary cats, while others claim to be natural disasters.
But talk is cheap as it is the walk that counts.
Fear is an inclination to avoid unwanted consequences. Courage helps overcome that inclination. The more drastic the consequence, the higher is the level of courage required to overcome it.
Consider two individuals; Asif Ali Zardari and Baitullah Mehsud. One has allegations of corruption against him, while the other has proudly owned the killing of thousands. As Pakistanis we have the right to criticize both and it should be a no-brainer as to who deserves more.
But then consider the consequences; call Zardari what ever you want and there are none, but the same isn’t true for Baitullah Mehsud.
In today’s Pakistan, death is a likely consequence for politicians who dare to criticize the Taliban. This particular fact creates a threshold that separates the lions from the goats.
Recently there has been an acute shortage of lions among our political leadership and Bashir Ahmad Bilour was one of those very few we had.
To understand Bashir Bilour’s contribution, one has to consider the plight of his region, i.e. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. This area has been subjected to one of the deadliest terror campaigns in recent history, and Bashir Bilour’s Peshawar is one of the worst hit in this region.
For his people the flash of a “breaking news” sign is a cue to panic. Panic about the loved ones who are not in physical proximity. The mangled up car shown on TV suddenly starts to look familiar, and a non-responding cellphone raises fears of injury or even death. The unlucky few realize their ultimate nightmare while the lucky majority makes a vow to submit to terror and curtails its personal freedoms.
Bashir Bilour tried liberating his people from this psychological grip of terror. And he did that through his own courageous behavior. When other leaders would mince their words to denounce Taliban massacres, Bashir Bilour would be one of the very few to boldly step forward and point his finger at the villains. After almost every bombing in Peshawar, he along with Miyaan Iftikhar (both serving ministers) would be present on the scene. A very courageous act, especially in a country where security protocols for civilian as well as military VIPs resemble small armies.
It was with this established ethos of courage and dedication that Bashir Bilour used to address his audiences. This video is of one of his last speeches; he was martyred approximately two months after this.
His speech is about hope and encouragement. He praises the people of Peshawar for their courage and unity in the face of terror. He takes on the stereotyping of Peshawar’s Hindko speakers as weaklings and tells his audience, that they should not take that from anyone because their leaders have been as steadfast as rocks in this crisis. He narrates how he refused to cower while facing a suicide bomber and how he ventured into Darra Adam Khel despite security warnings from officials.
And then he shares the secret of his strength; which is a simple belief, that the time of death has already been decided. It is a belief that is shared by most in this country, albeit with varying degrees of strength. With his own actions Bashir Bilour probably aimed to strengthen this particular belief among his terror stricken people, to a level that would enable them to live normally.
But his enemies finally got to him, and Peshawar lost one of its bravest sons.
They say fear is contagious but then so is courage, if Bashir Bilour’s targeting was intended to instill fear, then it definitely has had the reverse effect. In his martyrdom, Bashir Bilour has become a symbol of fearless defiance whose ownership has gone beyond the ANP. If the plan was to make an example out of him, then that plan has failed. He for sure has become an example, but not one to take heed from, rather one to be emulated.