Thursday, December 11, 2008

Are we all advocates of terrorists?

One 2nd December 2008, Nazeer Naji wrote a column in Urdu, published in Jang which can be accessed at Though the article omits the mention of the very recent Mumbai attacks, it can’t go unnoticed that it has been written in the very backdrop of it. Not only is the context in which it is written around ‘terrorism’, but its title, body and the final conclusive remarks are all unambiguously about terrorism and that’s why I wonder whether this omission was deliberate or unintentional. The article first takes us back in history and while depicting what role institutional influences played in alienating the Bangladeshi people before 1971, the author equates the actions taken by the then Pakistani regime and Army to terrorism like we see it in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq today by the so-called Islamists. He goes even further and claims that the partition of East Pakistan was justified and done in the name of Islam and patriotism “uss waqt bhi hum ne Islam aur hubul-watni ke naam par un dehshatgardon ki waqalat hote dekhi”. This, I must say is not only a gross misrepresentation of facts, but also is a very contradictory duo of words, packed together in one sentence. Patriotism is a very base emotion which, like nationalism, is divisive in essence, uniting only those belonging to a specific part of land to the exclusion of all others and that too only as long as there is a foreign threat. In case of nationalism, the common denominator is a specific race, tribe or ethnicity. By far, Islam is not reconcilable with these parochial ideas and actually fought and obliterated them from the hearts and minds of its followers. This is not to say that there is no history of people using Islam to justify all kinds of heinous crimes, but the fact of the matter is that the escalation of East Pakistan was not seen as an Islamic issue and in no way as one comparable to the issue of fighting occupiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, which the author is artfully suggesting.

The second anomaly which is worth pointing out is the claim that all Pakistanis are in one way or the other advocates of the terrorists (“dehshatgardon ki waqalat karne waale”) which he divides into two distinct categories, and further claims both are originating from FATA “aj fata ki kamingahon mein bethe chand dehshatgard saari dunya mein issi tarha begunahon ko marne ke mansoobe banate hein”. The first category, according to the article, is of those terrorists who carry out attacks against Westerners in their own countries and the second category is of those who carry out attacks in Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the victims are innocent Muslims. I wonder whether the author left out the third and most happening category of ‘terrorists’ who carry out attacks against Western soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan because he doesn’t consider them to be terrorists or because their mention would have weakened his case against the other two categories of terrorists. Whatever the reason, I won’t focus on what was not mentioned, even though it is that which is actually supported by the masses in all Muslim countries and most Islamic political parties. Coming to his two claims, let me pose the questions here, are the people, media, government and political parties of Pakistan, or for that matter any other Muslim country supportive of or sympathetic to the terrorists of the above mentioned two categories? Leave aside the mainstream political parties and media, even the more ‘radical’ groups and people (to the exclusion of the few mysterious ones like al-Qaeda, about which we are not even sure if they exist beyond the records and think tanks of pentagon) are never heard of rejoicing in attacks like 9/11, 7/7 or the Marriott blast! Similarly unfound is the claim that all the planning, logistics and finances are taking place in and from FATA, a region which is the least developed in any sense of the word and is being combed by Pakistani security officials, together with their American counterparts with the help of most high-tech technologies like GPS, gunship helicopters, drones and guided missiles for the last 7 long years!

Based on these baseless claims, the author is convinced that American rocket strikes in FATA are justified. He brings the escalating security situation in and around FATA as an evidence for his claim, simply ignoring the direction of causality, to his theory’s benefit. Is it not true that all this fighting erupted and worsened only after the Musharraf regime bowed down to the Americans in 2001 and agreed to fight its own people in the tribal areas under the pretext of ‘war on terror’ before which ‘suicide attack’ was an unheard of phenomenon in civilian Pakistan?

I feel deeply saddened by the fact that instead of asking where the British and Americans draw their moral, ethical and legal legitimacy to bomb and invade Iraq and Afghanistan from, he ends his article by asking about the legitimacy of fighting the occupiers and their supporters. Again, almost nobody including myself is suggesting that attacks of the above mentioned two categories are justified, but shouldn’t we expect our intellectuals to be talking about the causes of this evil rather than its symptoms?

A. Baseer Qazi

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