Horror, of which I am dying

On May 22, reports broke out late night that Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Mehran in Karachi had been attacked by terrorists. When images of the attack on the naval airbase started streaming on our television screens, no one was left unaffected by its horror. At least 10 soldiers were martyred in the ensuing fight, with 15 injured. Grenades, rockets, gunfire, suicide vests – the terrorists resorted to everything. That this attack was the result of a huge security lapse cannot be denied. Four attacks (two on April 26) against the naval forces within a month; the latest one carried out despite warnings of such an attack in recent intelligence reports. The PNS Mehran attack was reminiscent of the GHQ attack back in October 2009. Such attacks cannot take place without help from the ‘inside’. This should be a cause for worry. If elements within our armed forces are aiding the terrorists in carrying out attacks against the security forces, they need to be identified and dealt with.

The operation to secure the naval airbase ended after more than 15 hours. There was no ‘joy’ in this ‘victory’. There was only sorrow. Our brave jawans, firemen and Rangers who laid down their lives to make this operation a success must be saluted. And those responsible for the attack must be condemned unequivocally. Interior Minister Rehman Malik did not mince any words when he called on those mourning Osama bin Laden’s death and sympathising with the Taliban to have mercy on Pakistan and realise who our real enemy is. One simply cannot comprehend how some of our ‘leaders’ continue to say this is not our war even though we have lost more than 30,000 civilian lives in terrorist attacks and thousands of soldiers have been martyred in the war on terror.

Why is it so difficult to denounce the Taliban, al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations for some people? The same people are ready to point fingers at the ubiquitous ‘foreign hand’ as soon as a terrorist attack takes place. Yet these very people are found wanting when it comes to condemning the terrorists operating from our soil.

On top of all this, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are revered in Pakistan despite the fact that, as per WikiLeaks, “financial support estimated at nearly $ 100 million annually was making its way to Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith clerics in south Punjab from organisations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, ostensibly with the direct support of those governments.” Most of our leaders will either deny these reports or ignore them. The petro-dollars coming from our Arab masters are apparently worth far more than the lives of innocent Pakistanis.

There are many reasons why most people in Pakistan continue to live in denial but the main one is our security paradigm. For decades we have been fed lies by our military. The military has overtly and covertly supported terrorist networks. A large chunk of our budget goes to defence without anyone questioning our armed forces on where it is spent. Between loan repayments and the defence budget, hardly any money is left to be spent on education, healthcare, development, etc. India is made out to be enemy number one. To counter the ‘Indian threat’, we need the vile Taliban on our side in Afghanistan since they are our “strategic assets”; we nurture terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) to carry out militant jihad in Indian Kashmir and cross-border attacks inside India; we are soon going to be “the world’s fifth largest nuclear weapons power” as per some reports. Lest we forget, we have lost all official and unofficial wars against India (most of which, by the way, were started by Pakistan). An atomic bomb and stockpiles of nuclear weapons is no guarantee that we can win in the unlikely event of another war. The only reason why our military has kept this threat perception alive is because it is hard for them to part with the moolah that keeps coming their way and the power they wield over this country. It would not be wrong to say that the military is holding our nation hostage to its vested interests. Our country’s survival is at stake but there seems to be no visible shift in the military’s posture.

The Pakistan military’s double game in the war on terror was never a secret yet the US keeps pouring in billions of dollars in military aid to secure our help in the war on terror. Young soldiers continue to sacrifice their lives in combat and terrorist attacks because of the flawed policies of the military establishment.

The day Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad by the US, the world’s suspicions were confirmed. Our intelligence agencies claimed incompetence, but not many buy this excuse, given how bin Laden was living in such close proximity to the Pakistan Military Academy. The world turned on our military and intelligence agencies but our government chose to give them a clean chit. Mian Nawaz Sharif, for whatever reasons, was the only one who took a principled stance as far as civil-military relations were concerned but he found no takers in the current democratic set-up who stood by him. After decades our civilian leadership had a golden opportunity to take the military to task but in order to pursue their political interests, the government and its allies let them off scot-free.

The problem is that, however much we try to hide our flaws, the world is not blind. Our security establishment cannot keep on harbouring terrorists. It is time to wake up to the reality that we cannot go on like this forever because it is a sure-shot recipe for self-destruction. Pakistan’s name has been tarnished by those who claim to be our ‘guardians’ and ‘protectors’. As Pakistanis, we must vow not to let anyone wreak havoc in the name of ‘strategic depth’.

Victor Jara, a Chilean political activist and revolutionary poet, was arrested and taken to the Chile Stadium in September 1973 following a military coup. He wrote a poem – ‘Estadio Chile’ – which spoke of the horror in front of him. His words, though written in a different context, haunt me every time a terrorist attack takes place:

“How hard it is to sing,
When I must sing of horror.
Horror which I am living,
Horror which I am dying.”

Pakistanis are living and dying a horror of which we must all sing. Let’s stop this horror now. It may take years but we must break our silence and speak the truth for once.

(Originally published here)


Kamal @kamaal_hai said…
This could not have been put in better words. A bold and brilliant piece! Keep it up. God Bless Sis.

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