It’s pure terror, no holy war
Fatal bombings, brutal murders of MPs and foreign tourists, destruction of mosques and icons have racked the nation. The stench of death is a torrid welcome to the new governments within weeks of their installation. It is a horrific, heartless and expensive way of extremists and terrorists very quickly attempting to enforce the pecking order on the new structure. To most it comes as a complete surprise because the parties making up the new administrations have been and are proponents of peace and parlay with these treacherous elements.
Adjectives fail to convey the impact on the feelings of the Pakistani people at the senseless loss of precious lives in the Nanga Parbat disaster. Those killed were our guests. They were visiting our country and spending hard earned money on their sense of adventure. Pakistanis are renowned for their hospitality. And this is what we give them? A sense of shame hangs upon all our heads and our hearts reach out to their dear ones. And a bigger sense of responsibility and shame must be borne by the politicians, leaders and officers that have actually allowed this behemoth to feed upon our souls for so long.
Holy war, if there is such a thing today, ought to be restricted to the battlefield if at all. Not against harmless young girls in school buses, not against Malala Yusufzai, and not in markets and streets where innocents are heinously slaughtered. But then there is nothing holy about this war of terror. It is pure terror. Muslim butchering Muslim! The sanctity of prayer is impudently violated and mosques are blown to bits including the Holy Books housed there. It is a desecration of the House of God. This is nothing short of blasphemy, as per the law prevailing in this country. Yet no enforcing authority has dared to assign this oft dubiously used law where it is most needed, to these extremist organisations running amok here.
Parliamentarians elected by the people are being swatted like flies, daringly and in broad daylight. There is neither fear of apprehension nor a damn given for retribution. Law enforcement agencies are rendered toothless. The two KP MPs killed fought as independents and then joined the PTI, a party committed to stop drones and engage extremists with the intention of bringing them into the mainstream. It makes no sense. In Karachi an MP is killed outside a mosque, his young son too. It is horrendous. The three-day shut down does not bring them back to life, but at least it hopefully, brings realisation to the horror of what happened. Surely, these murders must trigger a rethink on part of the PML-N and PTI leadership. It has quickly become a ‘lose lose’ situation.
The government is now left with little alternative but to urgently express its avowed intentions and policy in dealing with the situation. There is little time for delay and none for ambiguity. The interior minister’s appeal in the NA requesting he be given time, having been in office only 10 days, is perhaps valid. He mentioned certain, what he termed, positive steps taken, but he fell short of declaring open season against terrorists and terrorism. The new word that has replaced consensus today is ‘one page’. You hear and read it everywhere. Tell me as a Pakistani, and of course Pakistan observers feel free to comment, what are the chances of this ever being realized? If at all, it will take forever. By then we will be overrun.
This discussion of ‘talks’ is meaningless. For once, there is consensus on the fact that there are too many groups and sub-groups that have emerged within the terrorists. So for the authorities to be on one page is relevant only if all those groups arrive at one page on their side. The answer lies in the executive, as authorized by the constitution, to take the bull by the horns and ram the spear home. And for all stakeholders in Pakistan to provide support! Even silence can be support.
The proceedings of the NA as reported, portray an Imran who appears to have nuanced his view towards the drones, ‘don’t shoot them down’, evoking a complimentary response from the otherwise aloof and arbitrary Nisar. Trouble here is that they are equally tethered in their respective environments. There are two factors governing thinking on both sides directly connected with current events. The first neither has a confirmed, administrative policy to deal with the situation. Primarily they lack the will to take the issue head on. Trial and error is all they have on offer. And second they have bashed drones and the US to such a point that a different perspective will appear as backtracking and cost them political mileage. “Statesmanlike” Nisar termed Imran. Okay then as the first step, governments, federal and provincial should take on that role.
In this context, the Punjab government’s allocation of funds to an Hafiz Saeed led organisation, whatever the name or whatever the amount, is seriously distressing. I personally recall a moment in Lahore 20 odd years ago, sitting on the lawn of a very senior member of this government discussing a madressah in Larkana that was said to house a massive arsenal. This gentleman said to me, “Forget that, right here in Muridke there is a colossal one. They can take us out, right here and now”. So far the Punjab is safe. Let it remain so.
The media’s, especially vernacular, glorification of terrorists is a monumental disaster. It has distorted thinking and created massive confusion, especially in the mind of semi literates, contributing wittingly or unwittingly towards a mindset reflecting bravado in committing senseless acts of brutality. Photographs and video clips are shown without any warning of ‘viewer discretion’ with minor viewers probably being scarred for life. The news item following a heart-rending report from a crime scene will refer to something nonsensical and the presenter, as required, will wear a big smile while presenting it. A horrible insensitivity towards death has developed. There is no remorse or sorrow. No democratic government can allow continuance of a rabid policy that damages the bulk of its citizens.
The media, even in context to the current energy crisis, is creating an unnecessary negative hype. The nation knows there is a crisis and it is the responsibility of the media to convey the truth regarding the gestation period required to address this issue. To present random street interviews, doctored to a large extent, that say we thought Nawaz Sharif would cure this problem and we have now ‘X’ hours of load shedding as opposed to ‘Y’, is irresponsible. No one is a magician. There is a crisis and yes, it will take time. That is what media reporters interviewing people should be telling them: Have patience.
Even in this perceived insensitivity, there is a rapidly developing hatred for terror in the country. Perhaps this is selfish towards protecting life and property but that is peoples’ right. The government must be sensitive and ride that wave. The people of Pakistan eagerly await an unambiguous declaration that reads terrorism, extremists and their supporters will not be tolerated. The PML-N and PTI are done with elections, or very nearly done anyway; it is time a different perspective fills their radar screen. Frankly that perspective can only be one.
If there is fear of gaining support or arriving on ‘one page’, the constitutional way of addressing the issue is going to the people with a question and seeking their support. A referendum on the aspect of whether terrorists should be tolerated will revert with a resounding ‘NO’! It is a question of courage and will. So why beat around the bush and have the country beaten up by thugs? Either go get them or corner every possible resource by gaining the peoples’ support. Don’t forget for a moment, the Pakistani people shun terrorism. Why doesn’t their government?
The writer can be contacted at: [email protected]