These are precisely the lyrics of an Ali Azmat song that’s been sailing high on the video charts. Why? Because they reflect fear based on reality; on how life has come to be lived in our cities, towns and far off mountainous valleys alike. The suicide bombing targeting the CID SSP’s home in Karachi’s DHA district on Monday morning during the school-rush hour is but the latest case in point.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan hurriedly claimed responsibility for the attack which left eight dead, including a schoolboy and his mother who were on their way to school. This and many other such assaults in our cities, on schools and shrines, are not the handy work of CIA drones which Imran Khan and others, like the Jamaat-i-Islami and Shahbaz Sharif, are so worried about. The last mentioned had requested the Taliban last year to spare Punjab because his government was opposed to the American action against the extremists hiding in Pakistan. One has yet to hear a word of condemnation coming out of such leaders’ big and loud mouths when it’s Pakistani extremists targeting their own innocent people. Is the killing by US drones more lethal and thus an attack on our sovereignty than that carried out by our own, home grown militants? It is the latter for the most part who have taken away much of the state’s sovereignty within its own borders by eroding the state’s ability to enforce its writ, to protect its citizens from the enemies within.
How many such terrorists from our own midst have we been able to nab and bring to justice thus far? Even when they are caught and arraigned in a court of law they manage to be set free by the judges for lack of evidence, and because of sloppy prosecution cases prepared against them that will not stand the court’s scrutiny. Not only that, known militant leaders spouting hate and venom, like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar, are left to preach hate and intolerance, along with nutty televangelists like Zaid Hamid and Aamir Liaquat Husain.
People like Farhat Hashmi and her Al Huda deputies, too, are free to hold forth, openly declaring Muslims not so puritan in their way of life heretics. On another bizarre plain, the media’s darling also remains Fauzia Siddiqui, the venom-spouting sister of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is now out, together with the JI on a fundraiser, to collect 15 crore rupees to defend her convicted sister in the US, this at a time, when money should be raised to alleviate the sufferings of the flood-hit people in Sindh. In Punjab, where the Dengue epidemic has spread, the Punjab Assembly meets only to call the virus God’s wrath visiting upon us for our sins. President Zardari too called for a day of prayers to ward off the curses of floods and Dengue! This is precisely what ‘Talibanisation’ (radicalisation) of society is all about. While in Afghanistan it was the illiterate masses who were Talibanised, it is the urban middle class in Pakistan which is becoming the tool of such rapid mass radicalisation. This has to be stopped, and here’s how: the state should declare war on anti-social elements. To start with, hate speeches must be banned on all public forums, and more so on television that beams straight into our homes. Hate-mongers must be apprehended and brought to justice using due process of law, and not through summery prosecution by some special courts that have little credibility with the public and which in turn add to sympathy for them. The state needs to come out clean and put its resolve before the public that it is doing this in public interest and not at the instance of the US or any other foreign power.
As for the army establishment, which makes it its business to comment on foreign policy all the time, perhaps it too is required to tell the people that if ordered to assist the civilian security apparatus, as it did in Swat, it is willing to fight terrorists who are out on a killing spree in our own cities and towns. How could there be any external security when internal security stands so compromised, and of which the army itself has been a target, as the militants’ siege of the GHQ in Rawalpindi two years ago made it so very clear.
Before looking for strategic depth in Afghanistan, we should be reclaiming that same depth in our own country. This cannot be done by pursuing only the CIA sleuths that are there in Pakistan, but also through getting on the tracks of home-grown militants who have terrorised the average citizen.