Stories, fables and frightening tales
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.