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Martyrs or Vermicelli?

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There is one thing that you have to give credit to the Taliban for, which is that their brutality can exceed the wildest imagination of most fiction writers.

Consider the recent attack in Quetta. 38 people butchered of which 19 were police officials. The attack was on a funeral, which too was arranged for by the Taliban. For that they attacked an SHO who had taken out his children for Eid shopping. The children were injured but their father was dead. An eid gift from the bearded Talib uncle. Ramzan, children, funeral, and all of that planned to the finest detail, can one be more heartless?

These 20 police officials did not have any personal enmity with the Taliban. Their sole crime was to wear their uniform, the one that they had donned to defend the likes of you and me.

In other words, these men were killed in the name of Pakistan. And the motive most probably was to send a message to us Pakistanis.

But the vilest of villains might just have met their match, in the form of the most indifferent of victims. Turns out TTP’s thunder was stolen by Mufti Muneeb and his promise of vermicelli. Because what mattered to Pakistanis on the eve of 8th of August was if they will be waking up for sehri or will there be vermicelli for breakfast? Shaheed gai bhaar main.

In my opinion we probably told the TTP to try harder. The bond of the word “Pakistani” is not that strong to make strangers ache for each other. The people that they did impact were the immediate family and friends of the deceased and those are a pretty small proportion of the Pakistani population.

I mean we could actually calculate an estimate of the people that the Taliban did affect in their last ten years of carnage. A rough estimate of TTP related deaths stands at around 40,000. Lets assume a family size of 7, and they have actually affected about 280,000 immediate family members. Throw in a circle of friends and extended family of around 14, and that’s another 560,000. Add these up and it’s a total of 840,000, add in a few suffering from Pakistaniat and we have a nice total of around 1 million affectees.

In proportionate terms that is nothing, as it is only 0.5% of Pakistan. If the TTP thinks its hurting the 180 million strong Pakistani nation by bombing and decapitating an insignificant minority then they are being deluded.

To many, our ability to not care about such incidents represents defiance and it somehow shows our “resilience”. I agree that we cannot give up on our way of life by succumbing to terror. But did we really show our defiance this Eid?

Defiance would have begun with a complete official focus on the incident. The Prime Minister, President, Federal Interior Minister, CM Balochistan and Governor should have all reached out to Balochistan police in every way possible. Making sure that the enemy knows that the elected symbols of state stand by its uniformed defenders. Our flag should have flown half-mast for the entirety of Eid, and our PM should have announced that this Eid be dedicated to the martyrs of Quetta.

Our clergy should have made a point in mentioning this incident in the two khutbas that day and castigated those who use Islam in such actions. Duas should have been dedicated to these martyrs and also to the families that they have left behind.

Our media should have focused on the sacrifice that our police is rendering, with the aim to galvanize this nation into honoring its defenders. It would have made these martyrs household names for the nation to cherish.

And with all that, we could have eaten our vermicelli, worn news clothes, and hugged each other Eid Mubarik. In doing so, we would have sent a strong message of resilience and defiance, that we still remember those who sacrificed their lives for us but we are not going to give up on our way of life. We are grateful to our martyrs and we will bring their murderers to justice.

But was it this way?

Well, not even close.

The Government’s response was pathetic at best. Nawaz Sharif, fresh from his umrah trip, simply sent his condolences and said that his Government is committed to eliminating terrorism. As usual, this “promise for future action” failed to name the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan who had proudly taken responsibility of the incident. While the flag flew full mast on his office, the PM sahib was gracious enough to cancel an “Eid Milan party”.

Our Interior Minister saw it fit to spend Eid with his family rather than to rush to Quetta like he did after the Balochistan Medical Complex (BMC) attack. He showed up in Quetta on the 11th, i.e. 3 days after the blast to give this statementI pay tribute to the martyrs and the deceased who have lost their lives in the recent attacks and we want to assure everyone that an investigation is underway.” I wonder if someone could tell Chaudhry Sb, that the guilty have admitted to their guilt for the 100th time now. What exactly would he be investigating?

One wonders what happened to the Chaudhry sb, who only a month ago lashed out this strongly at the security agencies for the BMC attack? He has been awfully silent after that outburst.

And if you thought that the straight shooters of the nationalist government of Balochistan would come to the fore and reply to the TTP, then that too would be a pretty high expectation. When IG Balochistan did his press conference, there was no one from the federal or the provincial government by his side.

This was such a contrast to this press conference after the BMC attack, in which Nawaz Sharif was flanked by Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Mir Hasil Bizenjo and accompanied by DG ISI and DG IB. Where were these same people after this recent massacre? Didn’t they promise us the world after BMC?

This Friday gave our clergy that rare opportunity to give two khutbas. From what I could gather on twitter as well as from relatives and friends, almost every other mosque had nimazis chanting “ameen” for success of “Mujahideen”. Conveniently forgotten was the fact that the “success” of Mujahideen was in splattering the innards of these very nimazis on the floors of their mosques.  And that the sole hurdle to that success was dressed in a police uniform and standing guard outside, ready to sacrifice his own life for the safety of those who were praying for his death.

PoliceNimaz2

Pakistani media was no less disappointing than the clergy that prayed for the success of our killers. On the day of the bombing, by 9 pm the news had become the second most important news of the day i.e. before the martyrs were even buried. Here is GEO’s 9 pm bulletin and here is Dunya’s. Notice that in Dunya’s bulletin, the story of Quetta attack comes at around 27th minute. It was preceded by reports such as Reshma taunting Meera and interviews of people coming out of aitikaaf.

Media anchors were a mixed bunch on the 8th of August. Talat Hussain, Abdul Malik, Ejaz Haider and Javed Choudhry, canceled their regular Eid shows to cover this incident, and perhaps represented the only concerted and dedicated effort from our electronic media on this issue. Nadeem Malik and Abdul Moiz Jaffri added the incident to their regular topics.

But then we had Mehr Abbasi who was out on the streets talking about Eid shopping. Fareeha Idrees cashed in on the comic value of Sheikh Rasheed which has become so necessary for getting a rating push these days. Mr. Kharra Such, Mubashir Luqman invited two palmists. He actually began the show by claiming that he invites palmists when he has “no other topics to cover”. Asma Sherazi did a “gup shup” eid show to do “khushi key batain” while Moeed Pirzada focused on India Pakistan LoC tension. And then Waseem Badami along with Junaid Jamshed pondered if their “Shaan e Ramzan” show was as good as the show that they were trying to copy.

Talat especially pointed out the absurdity of our media in focusing on Eid shopping and Mufti Muneeb. Ironically, his own program got interrupted to facilitate Mufti Muneeb’s announcement. Watch his show, at around 4:25, when the reporter from Quetta is cut off mid sentence to beam Mufti Muneeb’s announcement live.

The owners of all media channels who make tall claims of bringing about a revolution in this country seemed very reluctant to cancel on their money making plans of fun and masti for the next three days. There were no exceptions. As from the 9th of August, the Quetta incident simply disappeared from all programming and gup shup shows featuring our giggling media anchors came to the fore.

But what takes the cake for me is this cartoon from Roznama Nai Baat on its Quetta edition for the 9th of August. This was on the back page, while the front page carried the news of the Quetta massacre.

Policecartoon

This pretty much sums up what we think of our police. A bunch of corrupt thieves whose sole aim in life is to rip us off of our money. Forget about this being in very bad taste because that would be too much to expect. But the irony is that this concern about corruption, that clearly outweighs the sacrifice of our police martyrs, is coming from a nation that has one of the lowest tax/GDP ratio in the world, i.e. a nation of tax thieves.

If this Eid signified our resilience then we need to redefine this word. We need to redefine it as the ability to not give a damn about tragedies befalling those who are neither friends nor family, the word Pakistani should not matter.

Define it like that, and yes, we might be the most resilient nation in the world.

A salute to our martyrs who have definitely been spared from this particular national trait.

I just wonder how many more of them are left?

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Written by Imran Khan

August 12, 2013 at 6:52 am

Media Priorities and the Caskets from Bara

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The memory of the martyrs of the Alamdar road massacre in Quetta is still fresh in our memories. The trail blazers of Alamdar Road, did a unique protest that struck a cord with all of Pakistan. So effective was this effort that the provincial government of a province was sent packing because of it.

Well that trend has caught on. Currently, around 5000 protestors from Khyber Agency have descended upon Governor House Peshawar carrying the bodies of the 18 martyrs who were killed as mercilessly as those in Alamdar Road.

There is a chance that you might not have heard about it, and that is because the Pakistani media has different priorities. Apart from the Pashto language Khyber TV, no other channel is giving it as special as a priority as they gave to Tahir ul Qadri today.

This is a look at the major news channels of Pakistan at around 4 pm on 16th of January 2013, only hours after the protestors brought their dead to Peshawar.

1- PTV – Lahore protest against TuQ

2- Express News – Tahir ul Qadri

3- Dunya TV – Lahore protest against TuQ

4- Aaj – Tahir Ul Qadri

5- Geo News – Tahir ul Qadri

6- ARY News – Tahir ul Qadri

7- Waqt News – Tahir ul Qadri

8- Samaa – Tahir ul Qadri

9- NewsOne – News Bulletin

10- Dawn News – Tahir ul Qadri

11- CNBC – Ghar key Baat (Flower decorations)

12- Channel 5 News – Tahir Ul Qadri

13- Din News – Tahir Ul Qadri

14- Apna News – News Bulletin

15- Khyber News – Peshawar protest #JusticeForTribesmen

The 18 dead of Bara demand the same attention, as the ones from Alamdar road.

Lets listen to their complaints as well, not all of Pakistan is lucky enough to only be worried about load shedding and corruption.

Written by Imran Khan

January 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

Posted in Media, Pakhtuns

Tagged with ,

Ostriches and Drones

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These days ostriches come in two varieties; feathery grey, and hairy green. But the difference between the two stops at outward appearances, because the two react very similarly when faced with danger, i.e. by burying their heads. So, as Pakistan faces rising terrorist attacks  our very own green ostriches dig their heads deeper and concentrate on drones.

Consider this interview by one Sardar Saurang Singh from Bunair. Speaking at an anti drone rally arranged by PTI, Mr. Singh uses the cliches of “Mulki Salimiyaat” and “Ghairat” etc and as a Pakistani Sikh proudly makes a vow that he will not allow any “bud amaani” (chaos) to prevail in Pakistan.

But this “bud amani” is a pretty tricky word. For most of Imran Khan’s supporters residing in Pakistan’s urban centers, this “bud amani” does not necessarily mean a beheading in Liberty Chowk Lahore, or a public lashing in Kohisar Market Islamabad. This relative safety then gives them the luxury to sit back and ponder about the “real” reasons behind this “bud amani”, and can actually afford to buy the opium laden choran that is being sold by PTI.

But being a Sikh from Bunair, Mr. Singh’s threat perception is certainly very bewildering. I mean, he must recall the threat that Bunair faced from the Taliban, right after the Swat Accord. He must also realize that The Swat Accord is exactly the sort of a thing, that Mr. Khan of the PTI has in mind when he proposes his solution of “talking to the Taliban”.  Speaking of “Mulki Salimiat” did Mr. Singh think of the security of the Sikhs of Pakistan? I mean its okay for some one like Zohair Toru to dare the blistering sun when it comes to the issue of Raymond Davis while at the same time be completely indifferent to the Sikh exodus from FATA. But for a Pakistani Sikh like Mr. Singh, does the threat really come from drones? or does it come from the Taliban who would want Sikhs like Mr. Singh to be reduced to jaziya paying dhimmis?

Some time back, the Chairman of PTI declared all the news about the Taliban’s destruction of schools as well as beheading at their hands as mere Government Propaganda.  A “propaganda” that also included the beheading of one Jaspal Singh, a sikh from Khyber Agency. From the point of view of the Taliban there is no difference between Jaspal Singh and Saurendar Singh, and for this reason, I personally am wishing that Mr. Saurendar Singh is one of those marketing gimmicks planted by our agencies to support their new blue eyed boy, because if that is not the case, then we surely are doomed.

Written by Imran Khan

August 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Cant wait for Moharram?

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The Taliban strike again, while Peshawar and other cities in Pakhtunkhwa had been targeted frequently, this time they decided to hit the big cities, i.e. Karachi and Lahore. 11 people have died so far with more than 50 wounded.

An interesting thing to note is the statement of claim from the Taliban, here is how it has been reported by Express Tribune

“We claim responsibility for the suicide attack on police in Lahore,” said Azam Tariq, spokesman for the TTP, in a telephone call to AFP in Miranshah.

We regret the loss of civilian lives in the attack and warn people to keep away from security forces and government property,” he said.

“The attack was in retaliation for drone strikes and military operations in tribal areas. We have more than 3,000 trained suicide bombers,” he added.

The statement by Mr. Azam Tariq is something that would make the likes of Imran Khan (PTI) et al say; we told you so.

But a few points to ponder; why is it that for these two coordinated strikes, that were supposedly aimed at “security forces and government property”, the TTP chose the Chehlum of Imam Hussain? If they “regret” the loss of civilian lives then why didnt they just barge into one of the hundreds of police stations or army camps that dot Pakistan. Why a Shia procession specifically?

It is obvious that Mr. Tariq is lying, he by no means will ever “regret” the death of a Shia, so why do the drama then? Why not put an Alhumdulilah about killing Shia Kafirs?

In my opinion, statements such as these are to leverage the efforts of all of those who are presenting the Taliban as freedom fighters. This “regret” would probably be enough for many to declare this as a legitimate reaction to someone else’s war.

But, these attacks signify the inability of the Taliban to coexist with anyone who is theologically different from them. With Shias constituting around 20% of Pakistan’s population, this expression of hate should be enough to convince many about the necessity of containing the Taliban ideology.

But the hindrance to this obvious consensus is provided by baseless explanations that declare these actions as mere reactions. The scary thing is that the Taliban has evolved to leverage these ridiculous explanations. An evolution which is exhibited by this new found “concern” about civilian causalities.

Its also not the case that sectarian violence is a post 9/11 phenomenon, which would magically vanish once the war in Afghanistan is over. In the period between 1989 to 2000, around 1000 Pakistanis died and around 2500 were injured due to sectarian violence. A report by the International Crisis Group, claims that 70% of the deaths related to sectarian violence since 1985, were of Shias.

This expression of  “regret” by the Taliban shouldn’t mean anything, but the way the whole debate around the Taliban issue is being carried out, to many out there this is yet another incident to blame on outsiders.

Written by Imran Khan

January 25, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Our Unsung Heroes

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By claiming responsibility for lashings, public beheadings and suicide bombings, the Taliban have declared themselves villains of the caliber that can not be found even in the goriest of movies. But like anywhere else, the emergence of these villains has also prompted the rise of heroes.

Take for instance the case of Liaqat Ali Khan, of the Dagai village of Matta in Swat. On October 17, 2008, Liaqat received an unexpected guest at his house; the guest was Zhang Guo a Chinese telecom engineer, who had escaped the captivity of the Taliban. They were holding him hostage to secure the release of their own fighters. With the Taliban searching frantically, Liaqat knew his options very well; he could hand the Engineer over and score a favor with the de facto rulers of Swat, or he could hand Zhang Guo over to the Army and face the consequences. But despite knowing well about the wrath of the Taliban, Liaqat chose the later option, he smuggled the Chinese engineer to a nearby army checkpoint and braced himself for the consequences. He didn’t have to wait for long, because on November 20th 2008, Liaqat Ali Khan was killed right in front of his house, as a punishment for interfering with the Taliban.

On October 20th 2009, a suicide bomber headed for the cafeteria of the International Islamic University. He had already killed a security guard, and was now aiming at the University cafeteria, which at that point had around 300 to 400 students. Pervaiz Masih, who worked as a janitor at the Univeristy, intercepted the bomber at the entrance of the cafeteria. There was an argument between the two, while there are no exact details of the argument, one thing is for sure, which is that the bomber would have warned Pervaiz of the consequences of standing in his way. But, the unarmed Janitor, didn’t budge and the bomber detonated his vest, but because of Pervaiz, the bomber could not achieve a higher death toll, which he could have, had he entered the crowded cafeteria.

On 15th November 2009, a police check point near the village of Pishtakhara at the outskirts of Peshawar was attacked by a car bomb. The vehicle had 50 to 60 KGs of explosives and was spiked with artillery rounds. The probable target could have been the crowded Saddar Bazar, where the explosives could have delivered a massive death toll. Similar to Pervaiz Masih, a policeman by the name of Fazl ur Rehman thwarted the car from passing the checkpoint. According to witnesses, an argument ensued between Fazl ur Rehman and the bomber, but this brave policeman also chose his own death to save probably scores of other lives.

There are more, many more such instances, where our fellow Pakistanis have sacrificed their own lives for the rest of us. In all three cases our heroes did not have to lose their own lives, neither were they aiming to save the lives of their family. They sacrificed themselves for a common good; call it Pakistaniyat, or insaniyaat, but that innate feeling ensured that these martyrs saved the live of strangers at the cost of their own.

So how do we, the faceless strangers, for whom these sacrifices were made, treat our selfless benefactors? To begin with, I myself only had a vague memory of these instances, and couldn’t recall any of the names when I started writing this article. The background searches revealed brief details of the instances in which these sacrifices were made. Liaqat is mentioned only in one news report. Fazl ur Rehman is mentioned by The Nation, as simply a “policeman”, while Dawn does mention his name, it too fails to mention his village or his rank. For Pervaiz’s family the Government announced Rs. 10 Lakh as a compensation for his sacrifice. But the payment had not been made till October 2010, i.e. even one year after his sacrifice. There was no news on awards of gallantry for these brave sons of the soil, neither  on any schools or roads being named after them.

It is very easy to blame the politicians for being incompetent, or the Media for being insensitive, for not honoring these heroes, but the fact of the matter is that Politicians as well as the Media play to the demand of the people. The ungratefulness that is exhibited by both the politicians as well as the Media is in effect the ungratefulness that is felt on the street.

The sacrifice of these unsung heroes saved many lives, this noble behavior needs recognition as well as encouragement; our disregard for these contributions might result in many potential Liaqats, Pervaizs and Fazl ur Rehmans looking the other way. It is high time we Pakistanis proved ourselves worthy of such sacrifices.

Appeared in Pakistan Today on the 4th of January 2011.

Written by Imran Khan

January 4, 2011 at 4:36 am

Discriminating Among the Dead

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In an ideal world all lives should be valued equally, but when the reaction to the loss of a life varies with the ethnicity, nationality, color or religion of the deceased, then for sure we have reached a less than ideal state of affairs. We Pakistanis are very quick to protest such behavior, especially when it comes to the Western media’s response to issues involving the death of Muslims.

But it so happens that for us Pakistanis, showing indignation is limited to issues where it doesn’t mean much. Many among us were heartbroken by the plight of the stranded in Gaza and fully supported the forced breaching of their economic blockade, but at the same time we are completely oblivious to the plight of our fellow Pakistanis in Kurram agency, who have also been cut off from essential supplies.

An area that is in desperate need of Pakistani indignation, is our media’s discriminatory coverage of the Taliban onslaught; a bomb blast in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or FATA somehow does not result in the same level of urgency and priority as a bomb blast in other parts of the country.

An example of this is the difference in coverage between two recent suicide attacks, one of which was in Darra Adam Khel on the 5th of November while the other was in Karachi on the 12th of November. If the loss of human lives is the measure of the importance of these incidents, then in that respect our media associated a much lower weight to the dead in Darra Adam Khel.

The 16 dead in Karachi resulted in dedicated talk shows, awareness loops and the suspension of regular programming. On the contrary, the 61 dead in Darra Adam Khel, were met with a considerably colder response; the suspension of regular programming was for a much shorter time and none of our major media pundits chose to dedicate their shows to the issue.

Back in 2009, I had the opportunity to put this question to the owner of one of our leading news channels. He simply replied that since he was running a business, he had to cater to his demand, implying that the indifference that comes on the screen is a reflection of the indifference that is felt by a majority of Pakistanis.

The probable reason for this could be the smoke screen that is created by Taliban apologists in politics as well as media. At its core are misperceptions about the supposedly stubborn nature of Pakhtuns. These perceptions have gone beyond the realm of racially motivated jokes, and are fast becoming an explanation for the persistence of the Taliban phenomenon. The Taliban conquered FATA is still seen by many as being the land of the free, where people are so angry with drone attacks that they have decided to head to Karachi and Lahore to exact revenge. While these points could result in short term political gains, in the long term the persistence of these beliefs has major consequences for the future of the Pakistani identity.

This selective indifference i.e. shoulder-shrugging on bombings in the North and revulsion on those in the South, is creating a divide between the Pakhtuns and Non-Pakhtuns of Pakistan. It is no secret that the Taliban are predominantly a Pakhtun movement. Naturally, in case of bombings in non Pakhtun areas the first response is to blame Pakhtuns for the attack. However this realization could be countered by equally highlighting the death and destruction brought about by the Taliban in Pakhtun areas. A lesser emphasis on these attacks robs the ordinary Pakhtuns of a legitimate defense that rather than being the perpetrators, they are in fact the biggest victims of Taliban atrocities, accounting for almost 70% of the dead in 2009. Furthermore, on the other side, this selective indifference causes resentment among Pakhtuns, who feel abandoned by the rest of Pakistan.

The fight against Talibanization is being fought on two fronts, i.e. the physical and the ideological. On the physical side we are dealing with an enemy that is becoming increasingly sophisticated; the number of killed per attack has risen from 1.3 in 2006 to 3.31 in 2009. This increased devastation, which is predominantly caused by the Taliban, should have resulted in a major victory on the ideological front, i.e. in terms of a loss in Taliban popularity. But according to the latest PEW research survey, Taliban approval has actually increased from 10% in 2009 to 15% in 2010.

The provincial breakup of the survey shows that at 22%, Punjab has the highest approval rate for the Taliban, a feat that could not have been achieved without the Taliban-neutral stance of its main political parties. The emphasis on drone strikes and indifference towards terrorist attacks within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, wrongly paints the Taliban as Pakhtun resistance to United States and thus creates support for their antics, but then the extra emphasis on attacks in non Pakhtun areas turns that misguided sympathy for the Pakhtuns into resentment against them.

Some might argue that comparing Karachi to Darra Adam Khel would be to ignore the importance of the former to Pakistan. While this argument would make sense if we were talking about natural disaster, in the case of the Taliban, the destruction between the two is interlinked. A peaceful Darra Adam Khel is a pre-requisite for a peaceful Karachi.

Appeared in Pakistan Today on December 7th, under the title “Disparity in coverage”

Written by Imran Khan

December 7, 2010 at 7:26 am

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