While I, like everyone else, remain fully engrossed in the political circus of Pakistan and the shenanigans of messers Musharraf, Bhutto, Sharif, Rahman, and Co., there is, as we have suggested before, a real war – a terrible war – that Pakistan is involved in right now.
The bigger crisis in Pakistan today is the increasing assault of the Talibal-like extremists on the very fabric of Pakistan society. They are using the unpopularity of the government, of the military, and of USA as a camouflage to attack and kill Pakistanis. These murderers and criminals have no interest or allegience to Pakistan and are the true and real enemies of Pakistan. What is truly frightening is how many Pakistanis are willing to defend or ignore these thugs and murders either because they themselves do not like the government, the US or the military or just because these murderers are supposedly acting in the name of Islam and therefore should be ignored. Such attitude – which is becoming widespread – is deeply worrisome.
As Pakistanis we have to decide whether we stand with Pakistan and or with those who are killing Pakistanis. We must not let these extremist Talibans use our dislike for the government or for USA or for the military nor our love for Islam as a tool to divide us. We can settle our other political scores elsewhere and at another time. Right now it is clear who the enemy of Pakistan is and we must speak out against them.
The killing of soldiers, the attacks on security services, and the kidnappings of Pakistani soldiers makes the news, but it is the smaller news that slips by which shows the true extent of how deeply the fascist tendencies of these new Taliban are and how grave a threat to the fabric of Pakistan and to our Pakistaniat these people are.
Here are three recent news items which I find truly frightening and very very disturbing.
First, this this disturbing news from Bajaur, reported in Daily Times and all other national newspapers:
Suspected militants blew up a tailor’s shop on Thursday in northwest Pakistan for making Western clothes, an official said. The pre-dawn blast also damaged two other nearby shops in Kasi, a village in the tribally governed Bajur region, the AP quoted Mohammed Khan, a local government official, as saying. No one was hurt. Khan said militants recently warned the tailor to stop making Western-style clothes, which they view as ‘un-Islamic’.
Online reported that a bomb exploded along the roadside in Saliarzai tehsil. No casualties were reported. In Bannu, police and a bomb disposal squad defused three powerful remote-controlled bombs on the Bannu-Miranshah roadside near Masoomabad. Bannu DPO Dar Ali Khattak told APP that the police were probing the matter.
Staff reports add: Swabi police defused a bomb planted at the building of the population welfare office. People found the bomb packed in a ghee tin. They called the bomb disposal squad in Mardan, which defused the bomb. Militants destroyed a narcotics shop with a bomb late on Wednesday in Pusht bazaar of Salarzai tehsil in Bajaur Agency.
In a grim reminder of destruction of world famous Buddha statues in Bamiyan by the Afghan Taliban, blasts in Swat’s Buthgarh Jehanabad historical site on Tuesday damaged rocks engraved with Buddha’s images. The Gandhara civilisation site was attacked with two explosive devices early on Tuesday morning.
The area is about 20km from here, near the tourist resort of Malam Jabba. Before the recent deterioration of the law and order situation in the valley, hundreds of tourists, mainly Buddhists, used to visit the site. Local people said one explosive device had been planted on top and another in the foot of the rocks. The images were not damaged but a portion of the rock was. They believed that it was the handiwork of local militants.
Finally, this most disturbing and harrowing news about militants beheading two women just because they thought they were ‘prostitutes’. The parallel to Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa is haunting. No evidence, no trial. Just an accusation and then a brutal beheading. This is not my Islam, this is not my Pakistan. Swift and clear action needs to be taken against these fascist murderers. I think The News editorial is exactly right in saying:
The beheading of two women in Bannu, allegedly because they were involved in “immoral” activities is shocking and reminds one of the infamous Salem witch trials of 17th century North America where dogma was used to target and burn at the stake women whose actions did not conform to the boundaries set for them by a conservative and rigid society. Those behind the beheadings are sadly mistaken if they think that they, by brutally killing a person without trial, are acting in a pious and virtuous manner if anything they are afflicted with a perverse mind themselves and acting no different than beasts. To say that the beheadings require a swift response from the government in that such mercenary acts by extremists have to be checked and those behind the murders caught and punished is to say the obvious. This is in fact the least that one expects from the authorities. The women were reportedly abducted by local militants for allegedly being involved in prostitution. The militants, of which there is no dearth now in certain parts of the country, have taken upon themselves to enforce a rigid version of the Sharia. However, what they did with these two women is nothing short of deliberate and pre-meditated murder. That they should act with impunity, and that too in a district which is the home of the NWFP chief minister, speaks volumes of the government’s inability to act against such marauding vigilantes. Till now, the normal targets were music and CD shops and there was little or no loss of life. This was followed by lethal attacks on NGO workers and a female social worker some months ago and she too was killed. Had the government acted against these militants at that time and not been ambiguous and uncertain in its response to the growing Talibanisation of the region, perhaps the gruesome act of beheading two women would not have taken place.
In fact, one can also draw parallels with what happened in Bannu and the abduction of women by the Lal Masjid vigilantes some months back. The only difference is that those women, also alleged to be involved in “immoral activities” were released after being forced to ‘acknowledge’ their so-called misdeeds. The women who were abducted in Bannu were obviously not as lucky. What will happen next. Will any woman who is seen walking without a veil or talking to man be a legitimate target for abduction and eventual beheading by these militants? It should also be remembered that the perception or understanding of what constitutes immoral behaviour is by no means uniform in Pakistani society.
But that is still beside the question, which is: what gives the right to anyone to label a woman a ‘prostitute’ and then proceed to take away her life? One isn’t living in the Dark Ages, despite the wishes of some in society to push Pakistan to that era. And there is a head of state who never tires of saying that extremism in the country needs to be tackled head on and that the whole nation needs to support him on this. Unfortunately, it is the government itself which often fails to come good on this, usually falling short of taking the fight to the extremists. The result is before us- parts of the country, especially FATA and some settled districts of NWFP adjacent to the tribal areas falling under the influence of the militants who go about forcing others to live according to their own rigid version of Sharia. The militants do not have any altruistic motives, they rather want political power, which is what they will continue to see grow as long as the government fails to act and apprehend those behind such moral policing and vigilante acts.
These are just a sample. One reads every day of these Taliban kidnapping soldiers, blowing bombs in large cities,trashing video shops, killing Pakistanis. What they are doing is not just criminal, it is an attack on Pakistan. But equally disturbing is the silence or consent of the many who are willing to ignore or condone these acts just because they have bought into the extremists agenda about how all of this is really against the USA or Musharraf. Killing Pakistanis is an attack on Pakistan and it is time for all to stand up against the extremists and for Pakistan.