Archive for the ‘Pakhtunkhwa’ Category
By the morning of May 12th, PTI’s tsunami had officially swept through Peshawar valley. This was a victory that was mostly at the expense of the ANP, thus prompting many to declare it to be a spent force, the strongest proof of which was the routing of Ghulam Ahmad Bilour on NA-1 and that too with a mammoth margin of 66 thousand votes. But yet, just two months later, Ghulam Bilour has reclaimed his seat.
So what happened exactly?
One explanation paints the PTI as being alone against an alliance of ANP, PPP, and JUI-F and thus overwhelmed by its experienced opposition. But then that is factually incorrect as PTI had its own set of allies, including the Jamat I Islami (JI) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP). Furthermore, the local leadership of PML-N had also announced its support for PTI. The strength of these two alliances can be assessed from their performance during the recent general elections. On May 11th, PPP and JUI-F had a total of 11,859 votes while JI, QWP and PML-N had 12,977 votes for NA-1. Based on these numbers, PTI actually had a stronger rather than a weaker electoral alliance when compared with ANP.
The selection of Gul Bacha is another reason cited for PTI’s defeat, as he was a “non-entity”. But then just two months ago another non-entity by the name of Javed Nasim defeated Haroon Bilour on PK-3. It should be mentioned here that this is the constituency of Bashir Bilour Shaheed, one that he managed to maintain even during MMA’s whitewash of 2002. But yet despite Bashir Bilour’s martyrdom, PK-3 preferred a non-entity to his son, perhaps because the non-entity came with the name of PTI; a name that generated trust and hope.
In my opinion PTI’s defeat in NA-1 is a weakening of its ability to generate trust. It was this particular ability that allowed PTI to sweep Peshawar valley with mere non-entities. But now that trust is being squandered because of the immature behavior of its leadership and more importantly through the inability of KP government to deliver on its promises.
The immaturity of PTI’s leadership was evident in the way it dealt with Samad Mursalin. This is the same Samad Mursalin who ran from PF-2 (now PK-2, a sub constituency of NA-1) on a PTI ticket in 1997. He was the face of PTI in Peshawar city back in the 90s. One would expect that considering Samad’s long time association, Imran Khan himself would try to defuse the situation, by convincing Samad in person.
However, it appears that Imran Khan was actually avoiding Samad, and that too in the most ridiculous of manners. Apparently when Samad tried meeting with Imran Khan at the CM house Peshawar, he was tricked into going into a waiting room and then was locked inside along with his workers. They were allowed to leave only after Imran Khan had left the premises. Samad’s angry press conference after this incident was reported in the national as well as local press.
Subsequently, the provincial leadership made a few half-hearted attempts, but then publicly announced the cancellation of Samad’s membership right before election. And just for extra measure called him a “back stabber” in an official statement. Samad’s reaction to this childish behavior needs to be seen as more of a response to an insult rather than a breach of loyalty.
But would a mere ticket allocation explain this defeat? Many claim an unofficial victory for PTI by saying that the sum total of Samad’s and Gul Bacha’s votes is more than that of the ANP. However, this claim is factually incorrect, as according to ECP; Samad received a total of 1,707 votes, while Gul Bacha received 28,911. Their total of 30,681 votes is still less than that of ANP at 34,386 votes. So even if there were no splits, PTI still would have either lost this seat or managed a very close win.
Surely this massive reduction of 66,000 votes and that too within a span of two months cant only be associated with the selection of a wrong candidate. A constituency of 320,000 registered voters must have had other issues that affected its voting decision.
In my opinion this is where PTI’s performance comes into play, and 83 days is more than enough of a time to assess promises that were made to be fulfilled within 90 days. It is very clear that PTI has been unable to meet the standards of governance and conduct which it demanded of previous Government and which it promised to its voters.
But besides not being able to meet its own set standards, PTI is also struggling to match up with its predecessors. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of terrorism, an issue that is central to the terror ridden constituency of NA-1, whose Qissa Khawani bazar has been a preferred target of the Taliban.
It is no coincidence that after the arrival of PTI’s government, there has been a sudden increase in Taliban’s extortion activities in Peshawar. This has mainly affected the business community a substantial proportion of which is based in the inner city, an area that falls under NA-1.
The Government’s response has largely been ineffective as there are reports of a demoralized police force, with some officials blaming the PTI government for a lack of resolve in fighting the TTP. This lack is evident in the inability of PTI’s government to even condemn the Taliban.
On talk shows it has become a joke to get an unconditional condemnation of the TTP from KP’s ministers, with both opposition leaders as well as anchors daring PTI leaders to do so. Shaukat Yousafzai, on Nasim Zehra’s show, went to the extent of saying that he had not heard about TTP’s threats to the ANP, PPP and MQM and therefore will not condemn them.
While such wisdom buys safety for PTI’s leadership, it is also costing them the trust of the people who came out in droves to vote for PTI. It is very likely that the tsunami that began in Peshawar valley could very well end here as well and from the looks of it, the process for that might have already started.
In the aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jail break, Pakhtunkhwa’s minister for Revenue and Estate, Ali Amin Khan Gandapur visited the jail. Talking to reporters he expressed his frustration with both the army and police for being unable to thwart this attack.
He began by pointing out that despite the presence of two brigades in D.I.Khan cantonment, the army did not engage the terrorists. On this, the minister decently expressed some “tahafuzaat” (reservations).
But then he turned his attention towards the police, and out come accolades such as “Nikamay”, “Nikhatu”, and “Buzdil”. The good minister seemed disgusted with the fact that only 5 policemen were martyred. As body counts of “at least 50 if not 100” are decent estimates of bravery.
This disgust for the police and respectful grumbles for army is something not particular to Mr. Gandapur. It reflects the mindset of this nation. From political talk shows to comedy stage shows, castigation and ridicule of our police is the norm.
Those justifying this discrimination, do it by declaring Police to be corrupt, and therefore less respectable than army. But scandals like NLC refute the myth of an incorruptible army. Furthermore, our three military dictatorships can be accredited with most if not all of the problems we face today. Effects of Police bribery seems puny when compared with this.
But blaming the army as a whole is deemed offensive, because an institution should not be blamed for the deeds of some individuals. After all, Zia ul Haq and Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed were two completely different people. One was a traitor, while the other a martyr.
And I agree, while no institution should be above accountability, generalizations based on uniforms are unfair. Our army is composed of far too many patriots than those who exploit the leverage associated with their uniform. The ultimate proof of their patriotism is a willingness to embrace martyrdom and a long list of those who already have.
But then how is our police any different? Has it not offered its own martyrs? Pakhtunkhwa’s Police, alone has a list of more than 1000 in the last 10 years, add to it those from other provinces and you have many more.
Police constables across Pakistan man check points knowing very well that the next driver might be a suicide bomber. Many of us today owe our lives to a split second decision of some brave police martyr who chose country over life. How is this display of patriotism any different from that of the soldiers who man our borders?
Names like Malik Saad Shaheed, Sifwat Ghayur Shaheed, Fayyaz Ahmad Sumbal Shaheed and many others are no less in stature than names like Major Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed, Sawar Muhammad Hussain Shaheed, and Sher Khan Shaheed. Both groups were the sons of this soil, who died with their boots on and presented Pakistan with the ultimate sacrifice. But yet, there is no Noor Jehan to sing for the martyrs of our Police and no national day to celebrate their sacrifice.
On the 8th of August a bombing in Balochistan wiped out some of its top police officials, an attack which in its magnitude seems similar to the one on Malik Saad Shaheed that decimated the top brass of Pakhtunkhwa police, a loss from which the province is yet to recover.
But Pakistan, as a whole, did not care on that blood soaked eve. Instead what came to the fore was the face of Mufti Muneeb and the joys of eating vermicelli. The headline news on PTV at 10 pm began with the Eid announcement, followed by the PM getting a briefing on the LoC situation and then came the news about the 38 martyrs of Quetta. Private news channels were no different.
Any self-respecting nation would have flown its flag half-mast to honor this sacrifice. Instead these martyrs were honored with the cancellation of PM’s “Eid Milan party”, and that alone was deemed as sufficient.
Are we so blind to realize that these men were targeted because of their uniform, a uniform they donned to defend this thankless mob of 180 million? But, forget the rest of Pakistan, even Quetta reverberated with joyous aerial firing on the eve of this massacre.
The aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jailbreak has also been marred by the same bias that underestimates the abilities and courage of our police. Its analysis usually starts with the Taliban arrival at the gates of the jail, ignoring their journey from Waziristan to D.I.Khan and back. By beginning from the gates of the jail, this version conveniently cites “low morale”, “cowardice” and a lack of training as probable reasons of failure. All of which implicate the police.
While there is no doubt that police morale has been lowered due to the inane policies of the current KP government, and that it can definitely do with better equipment and training. But using these excuses for the D.I.Khan incident is a bit of a stretch.
The terrorists originated from Waziristan and went back there unchallenged. If cowardice and low morale is to explain police reluctance to engage, then the same should explain the reluctance at several army checkpoints as well as that of the two brigades present in DI Khan cantt.
It does not make sense to say that thousands of uniformed men from both the police and army had a simultaneous and sudden attack of cowardice. It is possible that these men might have been ordered to stand down, and it is essential that this possibility be investigated. Making a scapegoat of the police will only demoralize them further.
Nations honor and celebrate their martyrs. It is one of those things that differentiates a nation from a mob. This Eid, Pakistan acted like a mob, a shameless and thankless mob. It is high time that we start acting like a nation because acting like one is essential for surviving as one.
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.
A hope was kindled in the hearts of many in the aftermath of the massacre at Quetta’s Alamdar road. In response to Lashkar e Jhangvi’s (LeJ) ownership of the killings, the leader of Pakistan Tehreek I Insaaf (PTI), Imran Khan, openly condemned LeJ by taking its name.
In most countries such a condemnation would be the minimum expected from a politician. But in Pakistan most politicians shy away from naming jihadi perpetrators, even when the killers are taking responsibility.
These politicians overwhelmingly belong to the parties from the center and right of Pakistan’s political spectrum. Imran Khan in particular has been called out by many of his critics for failing to condemn terrorism. Therefore, it was significant that he had condemned the LeJ, especially when one also considers his popularity.
But then, just days after his condemnation, Imran Khan repeated the mantra that has earned him the title of “Taliban Khan”.
In an interview, Khan Sahib offered this three-step solution to the problem of militancy:
Step 1: Disengage from the US led War on Terror (WoT).
Step 2: This will rob Taliban of their reason for Jihad, and most Taliban will renounce militancy.
Step 3: Use the tribes of FATA to take on the remaining Taliban.
This very simple solution is based on some very false assumptions. Consider this conclusion where he claims “Qabaili ilaqay k loag Mujahideen say nahi larain gay” i.e. “People of the tribal areas will not fight against the Mujahideen”. To conclude this is to assume the tribes of FATA to be in an alliance of sorts with the Taliban. It is important to analyze this assumption, because this is the cornerstone of PTI’s solution for militancy.
The implications of assuming a tribal-Taliban alliance are huge as it leads to the conclusion that the Pashtuns of FATA are partners in the crimes committed by the Taliban.
Now consider the fact that the TTP’s list of victims spreads across almost every sect and ethnicity in Pakistan. Try telling the relatives of a Punjabi victim of terror that the Pashtuns of FATA killed their loved one in order to avenge US drones. Sympathy is the last thing that should be expected. It is a highly irresponsible statement to be coming from a national leader.
But then this is not just about maintaining Pakistan’s ethnic harmony, as it is absolutely wrong to assume a tribal-Taliban alliance, because a majority of the people of FATA themselves are victims of the Taliban.
For the rest of us, Taliban rule is a fear that is still part of an uncertain future. But for many in FATA this is an every day reality. A whole generation is being raised without the hope that education provides or the lifeline that a health system extends. Ban on polio drops, enforced prayers and beards, lashings and beheadings. This is the life that no one would want, especially not the tribes of FATA who have always prided themselves on being Azad (free).
Contrary to the preposterous claim by the Chairman of PTI, the tribes of FATA are actually already fighting against the Taliban. The proof for that is overwhelming; anti Taliban Lashkars have been raised across FATA and around 1000 tribal elders have been massacred by the Taliban. A survey conducted by CAMP in 2010 asked the people of FATA about their views on the Pakistani Taliban; mere 11% had positive perceptions, similarly only 20% approved of the Afghan Taliban. Another survey of FATA respondents conducted by the New America Foundation in 2010, whose results have widely been used to oppose drones, also showed a mere 20% support for Pakistani Taliban, while only 29% for Afghan Taliban.
Ironically, this 23rd of March, when the PTI was heralding the beginning of a “Naya Pakistan” in Lahore, the assumptions of its anti terror policy were being blown up in the valley of Tirah (FATA).
The people of Tirah were being driven out en masse. But neither were they being attacked by CIA drones nor chased by US marines. Instead, they were under attack from the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The same TTP, which the Chairman of PTI assumes to be in alliance with the people of Tirah.
Not only were these “Mujahideen” fighting against the Qabail, but they were fighting in a most despicable manner. Horrific stories are coming out of the area; of an old father shooting his disabled daughter because he could not carry her, and neither did he want to leave her at the mercy of the Taliban. Of men getting beheaded even after they had surrendered.
Imagine being one of these IDPs from Tirah; chased by the Taliban, losing your home and relatives to them, and then being told by a “FATA expert” that you are an ally of the Taliban; just because the US has invaded Afghanistan, and also because your grandfather fought the British. One can only imagine the response.
To an extent the problem also lies in Imran Khan’s romanticized perceptions about Pashtuns. It is very common to hear Khan sahib talk about the tribes of FATA as one would about the Klingons from Star Trek; warrior nation, ready to fight, fearless, undefeatable etc.
Well Tirah was a test case for those abilities; the Qabail did fight but were completely routed by the Taliban. After which they fled to save their lives, just like humans would in any other part of the world. Contrary to popular racist humor, the Pathans of Pakistan are as much insaans as the rest of Pakistan.
The vulnerability of these Pakistanis from Tirah is obvious from their current status as IDPs. Romanticizing their warrior skills is good for works of fiction, but would be ridiculous if done as a policy statement to absolve the state of its responsibility to defend them.
The Pakistanis of Tirah have as much a right to be defended by the state as do the Pakistanis of Bani Gala or Zaman Park, a defense that has very conveniently been declared as “futile” by the architects of Naya Pakistan.
Can we declare our personal freedoms to be not worth fighting for? Would we be ok with a “peace” that comes at the price of polio and illiteracy for our children and of beheading, amputations and lashings for ourselves?
If our freedoms are not worth fighting for then why have we been apportioning the bulk of our budget for defense since independence? What exactly were we planning to defend if not the future of our children?
If our military has failed to contain the Taliban threat, then that asks for the military’s performance review and not that FATA be put up for sale to the buyer with the sharpest knife or the biggest gun. If collateral damage is an issue then that demands a closer scrutiny of military operations and not that our people be handed over to a band of ruthless thugs.
While many Pakistanis are crossing their fingers for a Naya Pakistan, we already have a Naya Tirah. It is a Tirah that is empty of its people, and reeks of rotting dead bodies. It is also a Naya Tirah that is making its residents yearn for the old one.
Lets not end up in a Naya Pakistan that will also make us yearn for this old one.
In the terrorist’s arsenal, the bomb is perhaps the most devastating and cost effective. Its cost effectiveness is apparent when compared with armed assaults or other types of attacks. Detonate a bomb from a distance, and you don’t lose any of your people, strap it on to one of yours, and that turns him/her into the worlds smartest smart bomb, one that is capable of doing the maximum damage by fine tuning its target till the final moment.
As a country that has been rocked by bombings since the 80s, Pakistan is one of the worst victims of bomb attacks. Such has been the death toll from these attacks, that bombings with single digit causality figures hardly make it to our 9 pm headlines.
There is no doubt that Pakistan is the front line state in the war on terror, but then, is all of Pakistan a front line state, or does this front line of ours have corners of bliss? Ones where the sound of a bombing comes only through the ticker on news channels?
In my search for answers, I stumbled upon this excellent data source: the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP). It has statistics on terrorism in Pakistan as well as other countries in the region.
One such data series was the number of bomb blasts detailed according to cities. Using this data I mapped* the bombings for 2012.
One thing to remember is that this mapping is limited to just bombings and not armed assaults like the ones that happened in Gilgit Baltistan, when Shias were lined up outside buses and shot. Its important to point out that target killings, ambushes, beheadings as well as kidnappings occur frequently in Pakistan. Especially the violence in Karachi appears much low when only bombings are taken into account. According to SATP for 2012, the highest number or terrorism related deaths amongst the provinces were reported from Sindh at 1553, followed by Balochistan at 954, KP at 656, and Punjab at 104. But I could not find the district level breakup of this data, any leads to other data sources would be much appreciated.
What I mapped is an indicator for the overall damage. Since the website provides the number of dead and injured for each bombing, I randomly assigned weights to these numbers; 0.8 for the dead and 0.2 for the injured. So a bombing with 10 dead and 20 injured gets a damage score of 12. While one with 10 dead and 40 injured gets a higher score of 16, thus differentiating between their level of damage.
The figure below shows the cumulative annual district wise scores across Pakistan. A total of 648 bombings were reported across the country in 2012 leading to 1007 deaths.
The mapping points out three zones of high incidence of bomb attacks. Districts marked in red fall in the “Very HIGH” category of damage. In total the districts/agencies marked in red account for 61% of the incidents and 79% of the deaths. These red areas are concentrated in three distinct zones.
Zone 1 includes, Peshawar, Kohat, Nowshehra and D.I.Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Orakzai, and Mohmand agencies from FATA. This zone accounts for 39% percent of all the bomb blasts in 2012, and 59% of the deaths as a result of bomb blasts. The worst bombing of the year was carried out in Jamrud bazaar on the 10th of January 2012, in which 35 people died while 78 were injured.
Zone 2 includes the districts of Quetta, Mastung, Dera Bugti and Sibi from Balochistan, where the damage is in the “Very HIGH” category. This zone accounts for 16% percent of all the bomb blasts and 16% percent of the deaths in 2012.
Zone 3 includes the various districts of Karachi and Malir, this accounts for 7% percent of the total bomb blasts and 4% percent of the killings.
The provincial break up of incidents and killed vs injured also reveal the share of the damage between provinces.
If we lump FATA and KP together, then it accounts for 65% of the incidents and 71% of the bombing related deaths in 2012.
There is a big difference among incidents in terms of impact; a cycle bomb and a C4 laden water tanker would both be qualified as “incidents” in our listing but then in terms of impact and the ruthlessness as well as capabilities of its planners, there is a huge difference. So which districts are at the mercy of the worst villains?
For this we look at the damage per incident or the average damage for these districts. I am keeping districts with less than 15 bombings out of this calculation, as a lower denominator is not good for a representative average. Again the districts from Zone 1 show the highest damage per attack.
|DIST_NAME||KILLED||INJURED||INCIDENTS||DAMAGE = (0.2*Injured) + (0.8*Killed)||Average Damage|
|South Waziristan Agency||19||41||10||160.2||16.02|
|North Waziristan Agency||11||35||12||95||7.916666667|
Here is the district wise list of incidents and damage, ranked according to damage. Only those districts are included that came under atleast one bombing attack during 2012.
|DISTRICT NAME||KILLED||INJURED||INCIDENTS||DAMAGE = (0.2*Injured) + (0.8*Killed)|
|Rahim Yar Khan||21||27||1||173.4|
|South Waziristan Agency||19||41||10||160.2|
|D. I. Khan||18||51||5||154.2|
|North Waziristan Agency||11||35||12||95|
|Tribal Area adj Tank||1||1||1||8.2|
|Tribal Area adj Kohat||1||0||1||8|
|Tribal Area adj Bannu||0||6||2||1.2|
* One thing that I want to point out here is that I am using a .shp file for mapping. I got this file for free from the good people at citypulse.com. The file is a bit dated, and it does not show the latest district break up. For some of the newer districts, I am using their older parent district.
If the loss of a Pakistani life is the ultimate damage inflicted upon this country, then the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been far more devastating than any other enemy of Pakistan. Whether its burning buses full of Shias, beheading soldiers, murdering politicians or shooting little children, the TTP has done it all and shamelessly taken responsibility for it. Such has been their onslaught that it has raised our national threshold for shock; bombings with single digit casualties have become somewhat of a norm these days.
But that’s not it, after murdering us in our thousands; the TTP now has the gall to make demands from us. This includes distancing our self from the United States’ War on Terror (WoT) and also that we reform our constitution on more “Islamic principles”.
On the face of it, these demands could seem pretty reasonable to many, as the same is being demanded by parties such as JI, JUI-F, PML-N and PTI. But while all of these parties would agree on the issue of US’s WoT, one wonders if the Islamic overhaul of the constitution as demanded by the Taliban is the same as that proposed by our political parties?
Afterall, TTP’s Islam doesn’t allow women to get modern education, but the Late Qazi Hussain Ahmad’s daughter has a doctorate. TTP declares democracy to be haram, but Maulana Fazl ur Rehman and his brother are seasoned politicians. TTP considers polio vaccination to be an infidel ploy, but I am very sure that Imran Khan’s sons have been vaccinated.
With these violations the loved ones of these leaders have been guilty of sins as per TTP’s Islam. But then these are “crimes” that we Pakistanis consider to be our basic rights. Conflict is obvious, and so is TTP’s preference for violence as a means of conflict resolution. So then does this threat to our basic freedoms turn this into our war? or is fighting for Atta ur Rehman’s political freedom, Samia Raheel Qazi’s education, and the health of Imran Khan’s sons someone else’s responsibility? While luckily these freedoms are intact for most of us Pakistanis, but that certainly is not the case for many in FATA living under the TTP as well as the “good Taliban”.
However, the emphasis right now is on “negotiating” with the tormentors of FATA. If you listen to the chairman of PTI, it seems like he is suggesting something that has never been tried before. His disappointment is so immense and the look of triumphant vindication so strong, that you wish our rulers had the wisdom to listen to him.
But the Swat accord is not that distant a memory. The people of Swat who had voted for the most secular of political parties were suddenly assumed to be in favor of Shariah. No one ever thought about asking the Swatis, because probably the real fear was that Liberty Chowk or Jinnah Super might become the next Khooni Chowks. Therefore, in the name of “peace”, the Malalas of Swat were handed over to the wolves, just so that the rest of the country could be spared.
It was the TTP’s eagerness to bring speedy justice to the DHAs, E-7s, and Gulbergs of real Pakistan that led to decisive action against them. Ironically it even rang alarm bells among the non-Swati proponents of Nizam i Adl. The TTP apparently had reneged because the deal was to keep the beheadings, lashings and amputations limited to Swat, and NOT Pakistan-proper.
If this is the “negotiation” that we have in mind, and if the Malalas of Waziristan are now to be permanently sacrificed at the altar of the TTP, then we for sure are redefining the word Pakistani.
The freedoms of FATA should be as defense worthy as that of Punjab and Sindh. If the collateral damage from drone strikes is an outrage, then using the same shock algorithm, the subjugation and terrorization of Waziristanis should be a sacrilege. Love for the pathans of FATA shouldn’t only come out when the aggressor is the United States, but also on their continued butchery at the hands of the Taliban, which has been far more devastating than drones.
If military operations are not bearing fruit, then why is it such a taboo to review the army’s performance? Are our freedoms up for sale just because we can’t question our generals? If WAPDA can be blamed for electricity outages, and the police for a lack of crime control, then why can’t Pakistan army be blamed for failures in its military operations?
Lets negotiate but lets not make a distinction between a Waziristani and a Pakistani. Lets think of them as one and then lets choose for Wana what we would choose for Lahore and Islamabad. If it is futile to defend our freedoms then for sure it is futile to have a standing army.
Bad policing requires police reforms, and not that victims be handed over to criminals. Similarly, failures of military operations highlight the needs for accountability of our armed forces. Handing over Waziristan to ensure the peace of Islamabad is not a sustainable strategy, because there is only so much of Waziristan that can be handed out.
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?