Sto­ries, fa­bles and fright­en­ing tales

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Kamila Hyat

WE read re­ports, hear strange sto­ries and come across new tales al­most ev­ery day. Some ap­pear in the me­dia, some are flown across cy­berspace into our in-boxes and some come to us by word of mouth.

Col­lec­tively they add to the sense of con­fu­sion swirling through minds and mak­ing it harder and harder for peo­ple to recog­nise the truth or see things with any de­gree of clar­ity.

In­deed, we seem rapidly to be los­ing that vi­tal abil­ity to form opin­ions on the ba­sis of ra­tio­nal­ity and logic and moral­ity, and this could lead to dis­as­ter. Per­haps it has al­ready un­folded, and it is too late to turn back. Let’s take a se­ries of ran­dom events: At Toronto, Im­ran Khan is ques­tioned by US au­thor­i­ties, on the ba­sis of his stri­dent stand against drone at­tacks, be­fore be­ing al­lowed to board a plane into Amer­ica. At a Birm­ing­ham hospi­tal, where Malala Yousafzai con­tin­ues what doc­tors hope will be a near-com­plete re­cov­ery, her tear­ful fa­ther ad­mits the fam­ily had at one point planned her funeral. E-mailed mes­sages, pic­tures and me­dia broad­casts at home in­sist the 15-year-old was a US agent.

It is clear she will not for a very long time – per­haps never – be able to re­turn home; in for­eign em­bassies and of­fices in the coun­try var­i­ous safe havens are be­ing con­sid­ered.

In Rawalpindi, a teenage boy who lost both par­ents and five sib­lings in the Oc­to­ber 2009 Meena Bazar blast in Peshawar which killed 100, strug­gles on, liv­ing with dis­tant rel­a­tives.

An out­stand­ing stu­dent be­fore the tragedy, he to­day strug­gles to over­come de­pres­sion. On a street cor­ner in Ko­hat a bus driver maimed by a Tal­iban bomb holds out a steel beg­ging bowl into which coins oc­ca­sion­ally drop.

On June 18, 24-year-old Ghaz­ala Javed from Swat, who had con­tin­ued to sing de­spite a Tal­iban de­cree, was shot dead in Peshawar.

And to­day a war of words rages be­tween Kabul and Is­lam­abad over the ex­tra­di­tion of Maulana Faza­lul­lah, the Tal­iban leader in Swat.

These events may ap­pear to be un­linked. But they are held to­gether by a thread that seems in cer­tain places to have be­come al­most in­vis­i­ble, rather like the sil­very strands of a spi­der’s web.

The fo­cus on drone strikes means that acts of vi­o­lence com­mit­ted by the Tal­iban are not con­demned as openly as they should be. Yes, vig­ils have been held for Malala. But at the same time a ter­ri­ble cam­paign of slan­der has been ini­ti­ated against her, im­ply­ing that she was planted on us by the US and is be­ing used for their pur­pose.

It is as­ton­ish­ing how sim­ple hu­man­ity fades away on such oc­ca­sions. Those killed in ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence com­mit­ted by the Tal­iban are rarely re­called; nor are other vic­tims of their vi­o­lence, such as the boy in Rawalpindi or the fam­i­lies de­stroyed for­ever by the loss of a wage-earner.

Those who talk of ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence in­spired only by US ac­tions should re­search the fig­ures which show the at­tacks on schools, on help­less peo­ple and on per­sons op­pos­ing mil­i­tants be­gan far be­fore the first drone strike in 2004. The as­sump­tion that the Tal­iban will calmly lay down their guns, un­wind their tur­bans and sim­ply van­ish into thin air if the Amer­i­cans go away is sim­plis­tic and com­pletely un­real.

No one who has lived un­der their com­mand be­lieves it. The peo­ple of Swat, those of Ba­jaur, the tribes of Waziris­tan and other ar­eas know that the Tal­iban are en­gaged in a strug­gle for power.

The Is­lamic Emi­rate of Waziris­tan, as some groups call it, al­ready ex­ists, with its own flag. There is no rea­son to be­lieve the quest for power driven on by a dis­torted ide­ol­ogy will van­ish any­time soon.

This is all the more so since the Tal­iban and other groups which back them have al­ready suc­ceeded in cre­at­ing a mind­set which sees the west as evil and in­sists that a 15-year-old girl was a spy.

This way of think­ing is not easy to change. It is tied in to the broader is­sue of in­tol­er­ance and ex­trem­ism and leads to episodes such as the ouster of em­i­nent physi­cist Dr Pervez Hoodb­hoy from the Lahore Univer­sity of Man­age­ment Sciences (LUMS).

Dr Hoodb­hoy claims it is his ide­ol­ogy that has cre­ated this prob­lem. He was re­cently asked to teach a course on sci­ence and re­li­gion. His ra­tio­nal views on such mat­ters are well es­tab­lished. The univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion de­nies this.

The prob­lem of elim­i­nat­ing the Tal­iban is a com­plex one. It can­not be achieved by our na­tion alone, es­pe­cially in a sit­u­a­tion where the state has lost much of its abil­ity to pro­tect it­self or its cit­i­zens.

It has be­come an en­tity that strug­gles to con­trol its own ter­ri­tory or the events within it. The bat­tle against mil­i­tancy will then need to in­volve other play­ers. Afghanistan is key among them.We all know that groups fight­ing in both coun­tries are closely linked. They move back and forth across the Du­rand Line freely and with lit­tle check.

Some­how a re­la­tion­ship of greater trust with Kabul needs to be de­vel­oped to de­feat them. For this to hap­pen, the ques­tion of In­dia, and Is­lam­abad’s fears of its grow­ing hold in Afghanistan, need to be dealt with.

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