A load of bull****

No human being could possibly think of justifying the savage attack on a 14-year-old schoolgirl. But many have tried

Today, and in the days and weeks to follow, much will be written on the subject that I will be attempting to address today. While each one of the right-honorable journalists, columnists and analysts who offer their two-cents on the subject will be more thorough and erudite than I can ever hope to be, I just want to make sure that you are listening. And paying attention. How do you argue with people who still think that the Taliban are just a bunch of ‘misunderstood’ people? Simple. You don’t. Instead, you show them images of Malala Yousafzai’s blood-soaked school uniform. If they have even an iota of humanity in them, they will need no further convincing.

Monday’s attack on the Sitara-e-Jurrat recipient is not just a grim reminder that terror knows no scruples, it is a call to arms. The government, that includes the armed forces of Pakistan as well, which has pussyfooted around the issue of dealing with these villains for far too long, has no excuse for their inaction anymore. No human being, no matter who they are or where they are from, could possibly think of justifying the savage targeted attack on a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

But many have tried.

At a time when the nation should have been united against a common foe, many were still bickering about who the bigger enemy is. The logic they present is horrendous. The United States is killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan; therefore, the Taliban are justified in seeking revenge for these deaths by killing and maiming even more innocent civilians. And besides, because the United States sends unmanned drones to bomb funerals, weddings and other gatherings; any Pakistani who does not support the Taliban automatically becomes the target of anti-US anger. And rightly so. Because they did not oppose the US’ injustices in Iraq, Afghanistan and a plethora of other geographically distant entities.

What a load of bull****.

Let me break it down for you.

Pakistan has been patronizing (with and without sanction from the US) a large number of militant groups for various purposes. These can be divided into two major groups: those who fight the ‘good fight’ in Kashmir and those who fight the ‘good fight’ in Afghanistan. On the Afghan side, Pakistan has been patronizing groups such as those of the Haqqanis, Molvi Gul Bahadur and Molvi Nazir, but they have never dared attack inside of Pakistani territory and concentrate their violence against US forces on the other side of the Durand Line. Of the Kashmiri groups, Hizb-e-Islami and its off-shoot Al-Badr, along with the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, have never carried out attacks within Pakistan or against Pakistanis. However, the Harkat-ul-Ansar and its offspring the Jaish-e-Muhammad (of Maulana Masood Azhar fame), have a stellar kill record inside of Pakistan. This is because they have linked up with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is a decidedly anti-Pakistan movement. Add to this mix the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and you’ve got yourself a recipe for bloodbaths and mayhem.

So who are the TTP and the LeJ? In truth, no one knows for certain. However, those who have reported on their activities and met with their leadership say that these are groups that are, in turn, supported, funded and armed by the Afghan and Indian governments (as revenge for all the stunts they pulled in the past). While all three states (Pakistan included) deny publicly any involvement with these ruffians, the truth is that each is using certain groups to its own advantage. Add to this mix the US, which uses drones to attack only Taliban not aligned with the TTP (with some notable exceptions in the cases of the two elder Mehsuds, who were enemies of both). The drone strikes occur on the Pakistani side of the border because all groups of Taliban, good and bad, have sought refuge here. Even the common criminals and thugs who comprise the LeJ and TTP are let off, simply because they are not a direct threat to the US. Confused yet? You should be.

There is a solution to this regional game of good-and-bad Taliban, but no side is willing to make the first move that will end this bloody stalemate. Pakistan, for one, needs to stop supporting all kinds of Taliban and abandon dreams of strategic depth through a friendly Afghanistan. The United States needs to realize that there can be no alliance until they go after all sorts of Taliban and terrorists, indiscriminately. Afghanistan and India need to stop funding and backing the TTP. But obviously, it is far easier and more convenient to keep the charade going and to let innocent Pakistanis suffer.

We need to realize that we are fast becoming our own worst enemies. As long as we keep kidding ourselves, a Malala Yousafzai will be shot every day in every part of the country. I, for one, will not stand for a Pakistan like that. Neither should you.

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Syed Hassan Belal Zaidi

The writer is a journalist currently working in the development sector. Tweets at: @mightyobvious_