The war has begun

‘Terrorism’ is defined as, “The calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) by a person or an organised group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological, political or religious reasons.” For us Pakistanis, the definition of terrorism varies. The sad thing is that most of us have got it all wrong, though not for any fault of ours. It is more so because of our government’s skewed foreign policies.

In the 1980s when the Afghan jihad was being supported by Pakistan, we were led to believe that the jihadis were not terrorists, they were ‘mujahideen’ (one who is waging a jihad in Allah’s way) since they were fighting the ‘godless’ communists. After the Afghan jihad, Pakistan started supporting the Kashmir insurgency. Despite killing many civilians and driving away many Hindus from the region, the Kashmiri mujahideen were not terrorists either, they were ‘freedom fighters’.

But after the events of 9/11 and the consequent war on terror, lo and behold, suddenly the Afghan mujahideen became terrorists. The same mujahideen that had been trained by our own intelligence agencies were now declared our enemies. When such a sudden policy U-turn is taken, everyone is bound to get confused. And confused we are.

In an attempt at confusing the others, namely the West and the US, the Musharraf regime launched a half-hearted crackdown on the jihadi outfits operating in Pakistan. Although we handed over many al Qaeda men to the US, not many Taliban (local or otherwise) were captured. Conspicuous indeed! The West thought so too. A military operation in the tribal areas was then launched to show the West that we were ‘with them’ in this fight against terrorism. This strategy was changed after Pakistan lost 700 or more troops there. Peace deals with the militants were signed, giving a lot of leeway to the militants as long as the military was safe from their attacks. It did not matter whether the militants had illegal FM stations spitting venom against the ‘infidels’ and talking of imposing the Islamic Shariah as per the tribal interpretations of Islam, or blew up video/music CD shops after declaring them un-Islamic, hurled threats at girls schools if the schoolgirls and their teachers did not cover themselves from head to toe, issued warnings to the barber shops if they shaved any customer’s beard and intimidated the social workers. All this was allowed to go on, as long as the military was safe!

And then Lal Masjid happened and everything unravelled. As soon as ‘Operation Silence’ ended, the militants launched their own operation – operation suicide bombing. Since most of the madrassas' students in the Lal Masjid were from the tribal areas, the military had to pay the price for killing them as per the tribal customs: an eye for an eye (notwithstanding that it makes the whole world blind). The militants were now after the military’s blood. A bomb attack inside the Kohat cantonment mosque, a few suicide bombings targeting military convoys in Waziristan, a suicide attack at Tarbela Ghazi targeting the commandos of the Special Security Group (SSG), more suicide attacks near GHQ, soldiers being killed and maimed in Waziristan, etc. The war had begun.

Today, when our military is fighting one of the most ruthless wars in our tribal areas, our so-called ‘leaders’ are asking the army to ‘stop killing their own countrymen’. Not only the mullah leaders but also others like Imran Khan are lending credence to this fallacy. This argument has now permeated the army as well. If the local Taliban (our very own Frankenstein’s monster) should not be killed because of being our countrymen (even though a lot of these local Taliban are foreign militants!), then by the same principle, the local Taliban should not be killing their own countrymen either, i.e. the soldiers. It is high time these political ‘leaders’ stopped playing politics at this crucial juncture in Pakistan’s history and started thinking of Pakistan’s future instead of their own vested interests. It is no more the West's war, it is our war now. This is our only chance of breaking free from the shackles of extremism.

The creators of this monster – the military and the intelligence agencies – must now exterminate this menace from our society. It is true that military might is needed to root out terrorism, yet the political forces must lend their full support to the military in crushing extremism. This is not to say that the military must stay in power. In fact, the military would be able to perform better if it goes back to the barracks and brings genuine democratic forces to the forefront. A strong military and a strong democratic front would be able to combat extremism more powerfully than the military alone.

An aside, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) demanded an end to the attacks on militants in the tribal areas because “they are our own countrymen”. If the sole criterion for not killing the ruthless militants is being ‘one of our own’, how come the MMA never uttered a single word denouncing the military operation in Balochistan? Are the innocent Baloch not ‘one of our own’? Why are they being labelled as ‘terrorists’ when the real terrorists are being labelled anything but terrorists? After all, the Baloch nationalists have never targeted any civilians and are fighting for their rights. They even joined the national mainstream by contesting elections and sitting in Parliament to voice their complaints, but were constantly regaled with accusations of being anti-state. The same label was used to denigrate the Bengali nationalists. Ironically, when the army was busy maiming the Bengalis in the then East Pakistan, the student wing of the religious Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) was its holy partner. Use of religious militancy for its own peculiar ends is an old prescription that the military has used with much abundance. If the nexus of the mullah and the military has now apparently broken, let the latter finish the job of cleansing the Augaen stables of religious extremism, in tandem with the political leadership. A word of advice for those who are describing it as a case of ‘killing our own people’: they must not lose sight of the fact that the country is up against a real threat of rampant Talibanisation, which must be stopped NOW!


Avik said…
It's a well articulated article.Though I find it little bit emotional,but the writer must be appreciated for her wide range of thinking.No doubt it's a tough task to give a definition of 'terrorist' especially in a time when consciousness of the mass is largely manipulated by the main stream media.It will not wise to think that balooch fighter in Pakistan and the Kashmirs fighter in India will be taken as the just fighter for their rights.The the very definition of state itself is the main barrier for this.
I personally think,here our duty comes in the picture.By exposing the vandalism of the both the sides,like state and religious fanatics who try to utilize the popular sentiments.Constant confrontation with the both the side is the only way out.

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