Pakistan: Essay: "Why aren't we fighting terrorism?"
Let us consider why ordinary people do not have the ownership of this war on terror and why we don't see protests against suicide attacks.
Criticism levelled against religious parties for their complacency is understandable because not only are such parties silent but also because of the uncertainty regarding their continued partnership with some militant groups. This partnership dates back to the Afghan War that these parties and militants had fought together. Moreover, religious parties would have little problem with the political agenda of the militants which is the imposition of sharia in the country.
Of course, there is the problem of the problem of innocent people being killed, but then religious parties find an excuse to remain silent - the terrorists have not really started a battle against the general public. Security forces remain the terrorists' main targets. This is also one of the reasons that common people have not really stood up against the killing of police and military officials. The security forces are the terrorists' main targets. This is also one of the reasons that common people have not really stood up to the killings of police and military officials. Why start battles against violent people, especially when there are old and deep connections between government agencies and the militants? After all, how can ordinary people stand up against forces which were nourished and nurtured by intelligence agencies? The government has not even used all its efforts to stop Maulana Fazlulah's radio channel. So, why blame the people?
There is something even more sinister in the silence of the civil society. It denotes apathy and cynicism. People are not only afraid of taking action, but they also believe that they do not have any capacity to change anything. Policies are either made at the top in Islamabad or in Washington. Such a perception is obviously ridiculous but then why blame the general public when the country suffers from a dearth of leadership or people are made to believe that there is nothing beyond pragmatism and realpolitik.
Ordinary people are afraid of the terrorists and are scared to take risks when the top leadership or the elite wants to play it safe. Can people forget the fate of three mullahs from the frontier who were killed for the sin of sticking their necks out and condemning honour-killing, leave alone suicide bombing?
Why should people come out on the street and protest against the killing of innocent security officials, who have nothing to do with erroneous policies of the top leadership, when they are being constantly brainwashed to comply with authority, even in the face of highly questionable decisions? The state of apathy and cynicism in society can be ascertained from another incident that took place in Islamabad recently. Reportedly, Professor Khwaja Masood, who is a teacher to many in the country, was recently insulted during a literary gathering in a government institution. He was called names by a federal minister and an army officer for talking about hypocrisy in the society.
The tragedy is not that a retired brigadier and a serving minister insulted him public and asked him to get out of the hall, but the fact that the audience failed to react to the old professor's humiliation. There was no one except one brave young woman, Samar Minallah who got up and tried to cajole the conscience of the people that included retired bureaucrats, military officers and other civil society activists. Instead of letting her be, some government functionaries tried to ask the brave woman's contact probably to harass her for committing the sin of annoying an arrogant minister.
Has this society come to such a sorry state that people will not walk out in protest against the insult of a respectable educationist? Where is the sense of honour and self-respect of the people? Most probably, most of the people sitting amongst the audience just sat there out of fear of not spoiling relations with a serving minister and a retired military officer. After all, Khawaja Masood is a retired professor. A serving minister and that too a favourite of the president is a more important figure. Others might have said to themselves: why should we stand up and fight? As long as our honour is secure and we are not being insulted, why get up and fight. Unfortunately, today this is the mindset of most people. Everybody wants to secure his or her own space without bothering to stand up for the other.
I am reminded of the story of a king who ordered all his subjects to bring a pail of milk and empty it into the pond in front of the castle before dawn. Next morning when the king woke up, he found the pond filled with water and no milk. Everyone thought that others would bring milk so a bucket of water would suffice. This is pure realpolitik and pragmatism. People are encouraged not to fight for norms, values and principles but to save their interests. Power is the name of the game and people are meant to respect that.
How, then, can we expect a society, which could not snub two extremely arrogant agents of the state for insulting an educationist, to stand up against terrorists that kill innocent security personnel? This is not to justify the society's complacency but an effort to understand the sickening apathy. Both the individual and the society he lives in do not have the strength to stand up to often violent humiliation at the hands of all sorts of rogue elements.
The underlying lesson of pragmatism that is being taught to the people says that they should not protest against anything wrong for the sake of creating limited opportunities. People must not condemn corrupt politicians and should support deals condoning corruption because those at top believe this to be the only way to stabilise politics and return to democracy. However, such short-term stability is at the cost of the honour and strength of a society. Then why blame the people of this very society for not standing up against terrorism? After all, isn't this also an aspect of pragmatism face of pragmatism that people are afraid of standing up to the brutal force of the terrorists?
The ordinary people are afraid of further victimisation at the hands of the terrorists. The good and honourable people in Waziristan or other parts of the country have systematically been silenced through the killing of those who opposed the terrorists or protested against such forces. The militant, on the other hand, either has contact with some segments of the state or is getting strengthened due to the inefficient policies of the state. For years, powerful agencies have created rogue elements that have later turned into local heroes and are now propagating their version of Islam. Such people are the result of a policy that aimed to use the militants as a tool of security and foreign policies. While creating these characters the state did not think about the long-term costs.
Unfortunately, the state still does not think of long-term costs of terrorising people at the hands of militants or its functionaries. A fragmented and terrified society cannot have the strength to stand up for itself or its martyrs."
November 05, 2007
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