Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Friends Like These

Is safeguarding the life and rights of religious minorities a responsibility of the government? In the context of Pakistan, present or past, it appears not to be the case.

So is the targeted killing and persecution of religious minorities actually a credit to the government?

If you follow a certain Mr. Faisal Raza Abidi, it would seem so. For wherever Faisal Raza goes these days, he wears the badge of minority rights with great pride and greater pompousness. It’s quite mesmerizing actually.

For instance, I was dumbfounded when I saw him invoking the names of dead Shia leaders, at the top of his voice, to batter an anchor into submission. The fact that these leaders had been killed on the watch of a PPP government that seemed not in the least bit interested, or bothered, about their life or death, was lost on Abidi.

I mean we have seen a lot in the last 4 years or so, granted. But vying for political mileage over dead bodies? That too of people you were sworn to and failed to, or didn’t want to, protect. I really cannot come up with an analogy.

You may ask what allows Abidi and company to get away this. How can they stand by and watch as their citizens are butchered and then shout about it on TV? Well, it’s the media. Or a certain section of the media.

This is the section that lays claim to the moral high ground more often than WAPDA cuts your power. They are the champions of free speech, of tolerance and are great friends of the minorities in Pakistan. They are also great friends of the PPP, but don’t say that out loud.

It’s peculiar how these mild mannered folk, who believe in tolerance and abhor abusive trolls, love the slightly less mild mannered Faisal Raza. It’s also peculiar how they oversee, everyday, what the PPP has done to minorities in Pakistan.

How? The “Deep State”. It remains the refuge of the PPP apologist. They hide behind it, pleading that their liberal party is helpless. They say the party’s hands are tied.

Yet there is much they don’t say.

They don’t say how there is more sectarian strife in the country today than when the military was directly in power, under Musharraf. They don’t say how the siege of Shia-Hazaras in Balochistan intensified under the current regime or how the PPP Chief Minister can’t even feign pity for them. Let alone the President.

They don’t say how this government has failed to control growth of sectarian outfits throughout the country, from Sindh to Gilgit to Balochistan. They don’t say that the PPP has failed to introduce stricter anti-terrorism legislation either. Apparently the Deep State wanted to do away with the third time prime minister clause instead? It also demanded public office holders be granted immunity from contempt proceedings.

It’s not that these people don’t have a voice. They speak ferociously enough, just not when the “secular” parties are involved. Suppose one “Sheeda Tully”, classy btw, was involved in forceful conversion of Hindu girls. Nusrat Javed might have spontaneously combusted on TV. It was though a PPP MNA, so he's safe. Similarly, imagine if an Imran Khan government were to incarcerate an 11 year old Christian girl on blasphemy charges. Now imagine Sana Bucha. Exactly.

The fact is, an ulema council has actually come out to support the girl. In the meantime former Prime Minister, upholder of the constitution and champion of the masses, Yousaf Raza Gillani has claimed credit for Bhutto’s Ahmedi achievement.

Still there is scant chance Muhammad Hanif will find himself in a seat next to the former PM on one of his travels.

None of these champions of minority rights will ask the PPP why they have been this inhuman, this unmoved and this complicit in the atrocities committed. They will instead write one harrowing tale after the other, each ending before the victims can lodge a complaint against their government. A government that not only abandoned them, it persecuted them as well.

It is however a PPP government, so that must not make it to the papers. It doesn’t need to, man. You wrote a vague story from a distant land, such bravery would put a lion to shame. You outdid yourself sire. Your best article ever, for the third time this week! Bla bla bla.

Young “jiyalas” don’t grow up to be unbiased commentators. A Radio only broadcasts its feed. Institutes don’t fund themselves.

There is so much this county has given to minorities isn’t there. And prominent among our many gifts - are friends like these.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Of The Kamra Reaction

Here we are, ready for another wave of bloodshed. There was always the pressure, now there’s a provocation.

What actually matters to us? Blood? Lives? Huh. That’s cute. As Kamra was unfolding, so was the psyche of a segment of the Pakistani population, on social media and on TV. The war, and the blood, seems to have made them irritable, angry, and ready for the fight.

It only seems to. Modern man, or modern society, is incapable of independent thought. They eat up what is fed to them, and a certain narrative has been in great supply for quite some time now.

It’s not the killing that will serve as catalyst for what’s to come next. There’s plenty of killing everywhere in Pakistan. Is it the barbarity? Severed heads are used for football practice somewhere else. It is only the spotlight, the high profile and the politics. The politics is what drives us. Without the politics mutilated bodies don’t warrant discussion and without the high profile a bloody Ramazan night isn’t worth comment.

So spare me the emotion, and boy was there emotion. Abuse, not just towards the Taliban, but towards plenty of their “sympathizers” - mixed with grandiose declarations of war. We have a mess on our hands yes, but it’s a war that’s been declared before.

It’s been how many years since we grew tired of this war? If memory serves there was a yearning for peace and there were peace agreements. Then there was Swat, and we have been tugging along since. How long before we reach that point again?

Let’s be honest in our assessment of what’s going to happen. The long desired operation in North Waziristan, best case scenario, quashes the TTP presence there. They disperse into neighbouring agencies, but many go into Afghanistan, as was the case in Swat.

There they regroup, and attack us from time to time, as is the case with Swat. "Safe Havens" exist on both sides of the Durand Line.

The TTP is but one faction, albeit the most notorious one, while the Taliban are a different, more daunting proposition.

The most powerful nation in the world, with around 40 allied countries, sits across the border unable to conquer the Afghan version. In fact, the US has stopped trying to conquer, and is now more focused on containing. And if the strategy of containment is the best US and NATO and whoever else is there can hope for, what exactly is on our mind?

Since I am being honest let me state another fact, however ill timed it maybe. This was Musharraf’s war. A dictator’s war; the military’s war. Critiques of the military never do criticize it for this.

But now it’s getting personal. There is an ever more vocal outrage, there is finger pointing and there is plenty of animosity. Attitudes are changing thanks to years of dying and killing, and emotional rallying cries to boot.

So here we are; ready to fight a war that is “our own”. Here to prolong our dying and killing for a few more years. Rallying cries galore.

Just a little about that. The war won’t be fought by me or you, and it never mattered if it was ours or not. It was always going to be fought, and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s been going on for years.

Kamra wasn’t an isolated incidence and an act of wanton, unexpected, aggression by the TTP. There is trouble in Orakzai, in Kurram, in Khyber. North Waziristan isn’t exactly the last refuge of the TTP. However, it is an opportunity, an opportunity we look determined to squander already. As momentum gathers for the push against TTP, there is also confusion and infighting.

There are those who want to broaden the fight and take on all Taliban factions – because the more militants out to kill us, the better. As stated earlier, they believe that we are bound to succeed where the rest of the world has failed.

Others mock the very soldiers they eagerly want to “do more” because everything American, even a slogan, has to be our own. One group wants to eradicate the evil of militancy but they are not prepared to pay the cost. Apparently it’s shocking that the TTP would dare an attack, and that in itself is a failure of security forces.

Hate to break it to you, but it’s a bloody war! What do you expect? Your enemy will roll over and die because you are annoyed? War is ugly business, and this particular enemy now has a presence “Khyber se Karachi tak”. So this will continue. More attacks will take place, more finger pointing, more anger, more emotion; more death.

Meanwhile, talking about peace is sympathizing with the terrorists. So buckle up, “our war” isn’t going to get any prettier.