Friday, 19 October 2012

Numbers of Terror.

A while back I came across a claim regarding Pakistan’s human loss in the so called War on Terror; 43,733 Pakistanis have been killed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Nothing startling, the TTP have all the requisite appetite for mass murdering, not to mention the tools and the 40,000+ figure has been doing the rounds for a while. Yet this was not just anyone stating the figure, it was a retired army brigadier and current “security analyst”.

Here is the claim.

Since the man had some security credentials, and since he had the number down to the last digit, I thought he would be a good person from whom to inquire about the source of the figure and break down of the casualties.

Mr. Munir however instructed me to use Google and find out myself. I did what I was told, and I would like to share what I found.

Google showed that the 40,000 plus innocent Pakistanis killed by terrorists figure is used basically by the who’s who of Pakistani journalists, which meant it couldn't be true. Predictably enough, I wasn't able to find any article quoting the source. The first source I found with any detail of the data was a blog by the name of FATA Awareness Initiative.

The FATA Awareness Initiative blog has data till the mid of 2011 and claims that terrorist attacks across the country have left 10,268 civilians and 3,549 security personnel dead since 2003. Total therefore comes up to near 14,000. The method for data collection isn’t clear.

The South Asia Terrorism Portal was seemingly more credible. At the time of quoting they had data till October 14, 2012.

The SATP believe that since 2003 14,510 civilians and 4,687 security personnel have been killed in Pakistan by terrorists. This would add up for a total of around 20,000.

The SATP website claims that figures are compiled from news reports and are provisional. The website also states that for the years of 2011 and 2012, these figures include killings in Karachi.

Note that in both cases, the FATA blog and the South Asian Terrorism Portal, very high numbers of terrorist fatalities are reported. SATP reports as many as 24,930 terrorist/insurgents killed by the Pakistani security forces.

It is not clear if this number includes civilians killed by the security forces. A report titled “War Related Death and Injury in Pakistan” by Neta C. Crawford, Boston University, available on the internet could suggest so.

According to the report, in the three years of 2008, 2009 and 2010 around 12,000 Pakistani civilians died at the hands of their own military. The number of dead terrorists in the SATP data also spiked against these three years.

The report cites two sources, the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies and the US National Counter-terrorism Centre, to suggest that during the same 3 years somewhere in the range of 7,000 to 8,000 Pakistani civilians were killed by terrorists.

In short, more Pakistani civilians died at the hands of Pakistani military during the operations than by terrorist attacks, for the 3 years.

The data thus far, however well researched, is still not official and mostly based on media reports, therefore the deviations. It wasn't until I came across a report by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute for any official data to come to light. In the IPRI’s report titled “Pakistan: A Victim of Terrorism - III”, the Government of Pakistan, Interior Ministry data is presented.

According to the Interior Ministry of Pakistan statistics quoted in the IPRI report, up till January 2011, 7770 civilians and 2704 personnel of Law Enforcing Agencies had been killed by terrorists, or the TTP.

This amounts to a total of 10474 Pakistanis killed by the terrorists, till January 2011. Either they have killed over 30,000 more in the last year and a half, or some people in the media have their facts horribly wrong.

Speaking of horribly wrong facts, there are some to be found about the terrorism in Karachi, aka target killings. A conservative estimate presented in the Friday Times by A.K Chisti suggests that in the year 2011 approximately 1,891 people were killed by in the city, bringing total death toll to around 7,000 from 2007-2011.

I call it conservative because according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan 1,138 people were killed in Karachi just in the first 6 months of 2011. The figure for the first 6 months of 2012, according to HRCP, is 1,257 dead.

That means over 8 thousand people have been killed by Karachi terrorist groups. The Pakistan Body Count website tracks suicide bombings and drone attacks in the country. PBC puts the death toll from suicide bombings at 5,246 and from drone attacks at 3,028.

What that means is that the Karachi terrorists have killed roughly the same number of people as killed by suicide bombings and drone attacks, combined.

The most significant figure in all of this though is 0.

0 is the number of times drone strikes have been suggested as a way to tackle the deadly terrorists in Karachi.

0 is the number of military operations conducted during the last 5 years to flush out the terrorists from Karachi.

0 is the number of media houses, or personalities, willing to even name the Karachi terrorists.

Chances of Pakistan winning its fight against terrorism with such blatant hypocrisy crippling the discourse?


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Saroop’s Moral Nihilism

This is regarding Saroop Ijaz’s latest masterpiece; Game of Drones. While I enjoy baseless allegations as much as the next person, I could not help but notice that Mr. Ijaz was particularly flamboyant in labelling Imran Khan “cowardly” and accusing him of not only surrendering before the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, but also “elevating their ideology of murder to the mainstream”.

The esteemed lawyer, however, has based his rather unsavoury characterization of Imran Khan on two flimsily constructed falsehoods.

For one, Saroop claimed that Imran Khan “has sought and successfully received the permission of the Taliban” for his march. This is tantamount to taking most indecent liberties with the truth and there is no story filed by this newspaper that suggests otherwise. Second is the claim that the PTI received an “offer of protection from the militants”, which is also a, blatant and most obnoxious, lie. This newspaper carried a story confirming that it is indeed a distasteful falsehood.

If the exalted lawyer had spent a little less time looking up words like “nihilism” and a little more time checking facts, the glaring errors and their implied apocalyptic consequences could have been avoided. There is though scant evidence to suggest Mr. Ijaz wasn’t familiar with the facts, i.e. the lying wasn’t on purpose.

These two utterly incorrect statements allow Saroop to go on what is a thinly veiled slandering rant against an imagined foe. As unmerciful as he is dishonest, Mr. Ijaz creates a whole host of hypothetical scenarios where Imran Khan is colluding with the Taliban in every atrocity imaginable, and adds yet more lies along the way.

For example, at one point in his grand stand against the forces of evil, Mr. Ijaz claims “Mr Khan and other anti-drone activists lump them together with terrorists”, them being the “innocent who died as collateral damage to drone strikes”.

Let me belabour the obvious; not only is Saroop astonishingly nonsensical, he is also despicably dishonest. It takes a special kind of demented Neanderthal to make such an accusation.

The activists who have worked to highlight civilian deaths while Mr. Ijaz watched with glee as drones fought “these militants” (Yes, he turns drone apologist and labels everyone militant IN THIS VERY ARTICLE) do not deserve such vile slander. Neither does a leader who called on the USA to reveal identities of drone victims so we know the militant from the innocent.

It is no doubt “contemptuous and contemptible” to accuse the very people struggling to separate innocent and guilty of doing the exact opposite. Shame, or for that matter dignity, appear alien to Saroop.

Now, the lazy explanation for these factual inconsistencies would be that Saroop Ijaz is a pathological liar with an unhealthy bias against the barbaric Imran Khan. However, we must not rush to conclusions, as there are other plausible explanations for Saroop’s latest intellectual obscenity.

Consider the fact that Imran Khan asked for security from the tribes of Waziristan. Now it wouldn’t be wholly unreasonable to assume that Saroop is a CIA operated drone and mistook the tribals for militants, a very common issue with these mechanical remote weapons of destruction. If that is the case Saroop should be taken into custody by the relevant authorities for reverse engineering.

In the highly unfathomable circumstance that Saroop Ijaz is steadfast in his statements; an even more disconcerting scenario arises. Saroop Ijaz then most probably is a member of the TTP, for how else would he be privy to secret TTP information not available in the public sphere. With a heavy heart, ET should hand him over to the police for questioning.

An interesting theory that cannot be ruled out is that this was the first in a series of “what if” columns from Mr. Ijaz. In that the events he mentions have no basis in this reality, they might have taken place in an alternate universe and Saroop feels most obliged to decipher their impact and implications on that parallel dimension. So vociferous is the man’s appetite for knowledge that our single, linear version of reality appears most discombobulating to him.

All so fascinating.

In closing it must be stressed that printing an article that is no less than an accusation of aiding and abetting terrorism, against a public figure on a peace march no less, is a very serious matter. Doing so relying on assumptions, based in turn on complete lies and invented facts, not to mention Neanderthal logic, is graver still.

It is therefore to be expected that Express Tribune check the alarming quantity of lies and appalling quality of bias in their columns. Hiring thesaurus savvy delusional hate-mongers is a most inadvisable endeavour.