Dawn News

Comparing Malala with drone attacks

Right-wing political parties and some religious groups appear to be trying hard to somehow confuse the issue by interlinking the TTP attack on teenage Malala Yousufzai with drones attacking North Wazirstan. Drones may be blind and deadly, yet there is a profound difference between the two. But the feverish attempts by the religious right and the increasing resonance of their argument makes you wonder if their propaganda skills were succeeding again.

People in Pakistan may or may not have any great love for US or its hegemonic designs but there is recognition of that nation’s advances in fields of humanities, art and science. Drones spewing fire may be their latest development in military technology.

While the people of Pakistan vastly sympathise with the pain and agony prevalent in Afghanistan, we never contracted al Qaeda to attack foreign missions, people or cities. After wreaking destruction over Afghanistan, Osama, Al-Zahwari, Mullah Omer and their band of Jihadis trickled through Tora Bora into Fata. At their heels they brought Americans and their war machines shooting at people in our tribal agencies. Pakistanis do not support drone attacks nor do we support militants for cross-border attacks from our side of the Durand-line.

While one could abhor Musharraf for being a military dictator, could anyone of us had done otherwise facing frenzied threats by the US establishment bearing down with its full might over Afghanistan? Could Imran Khan have sided with Mullah Omer while B-2 bombers, cruise missiles and swarms of Nato paratroopers were raining over Kabul?

For that matter why did the valiant amongst the al Qaeda and Taliban decide to blend in, in an unarmed Afghan population making them fair game for Nato bombardment? Incidentally, some 10 out of the 50 nations that contributed their troops towards the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan (ISAF) were Muslim including Malaysia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Jordan, Albania, Bosnia and United Arab Emirates. And in such circumstances this country, tormented by severe socio-economic pressures, should have gone to war against the most sophisticated military machines just to satisfy the adventurism of a handful of rich Arabs?

Pakistan could not have rescued al Qaeda from the Western powers hell bent on avenging attacks over their people and assets, as well as committed to cripple its capacity for the future.  When Moulvi Fazalullah announced his intentions over his infamous FM radio to ransack the beautiful Swat valley, did he bother to ask the locals if it was okay for him to stop 11-year old Malala and her friends from going to school and if he could also destroy another 500 girls’ schools? Did it never occur to him or his advocates living in our metropolitan cities that there may be nothing wrong with Malala’s desire to go to school?

Atrocious, yet there is nothing in common between drone attacks and the attack over Malala; or for that matter between Malala and Salala so derogatorily put by Fazal-ur-Rehman. If the Taliban leadership had gone to a decent school, not like the ones run through incomes generated by smuggling diesel, rather, one run by someone respectable like Shah Waliullah, they would have known that writing a daily diary could be an important aspect for grooming school-going children.

But if atrocities forced young minds to speak out for their right to education, does that give Fazalulah’s band of militants a right to start condemning innocent children to their deaths?

If there wasn’t such a nationwide public outcry, they might have sent some young suicide-bomber to attack her and her physicians. Still, Malala had to be airlifted from behind closed doors and dugout machine guns to far away lands in an attempt to save her life.

But people understand – this is no Jihad, this is no just struggle for liberation, rather a bunch of arrogant, trigger-happy men. When Vietcong took on imperialist forces they were a people defending their country, not a bunch of terrorist hiding behind the defenceless population unable to resist heavily armed bands of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

God created this world and gave the human race an opportunity to prove that we were better then angels. If someone wants to avenge aggression or wrongs against Muslims – they must first demonstrate their sincerity by fighting illiteracy, disease and hunger amongst our people. They must also refrain from pushing unarmed people to their death and destruction by the worlds most advanced military forces.

The use of drones against one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan cannot be justified under any section of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or UN Charter.  Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force by one state against another.

However, Americans invoke two legal exceptions to this ‘Article’ for showering hellfire missiles by these drones over tribal areas:

(1) When the use of force is carried out with the consent of the host state; and (2) When the use of force is in self-defence in response to an armed attack or an imminent threat, and where the host state is unwilling or unable to take appropriate action.

Forty years ago, Americans used Agent Orange in Vietnam that killed over 400,000 people and resulted in half a million Vietnamese born with horrible defects. – they are yet to be compensated.

There may be a guerrilla war taking place in Afghanistan – we don’t know. In Pakistan, all that the militant organisations are doing is to terrorise an already troubled nation – unable to feed its people but continuing to face American wrath for activities of such extremist organisations.

If the Taliban and al Qaeda care about death and destruction raining over defenceless men, woman and children, they will have to bring to an end their operations from Fata. They need to allow the local and international media and NGOs to interview and experience these traumatised populations.

This nation remains weary of its establishment’s sincerity towards eliminating militancy. A half-hearted military operation may be looming over Waziristan. Yet, without genuine investment in our people they will continue to be easy targets for recruitment by forces like the al Qaeda, Quetta Shura, Haqqani Network, Tehrik-i-Taliban, Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi, Jundullah, Jamaat-ud-Dawa etc.

We have seen such mindset target innocent victims like Malala across our country – a violence that doesn’t stop, spills over into Afghanistan, Iran, India even China and beyond. Its time, people at the helm of affairs realise that when living in a glass house, we must fear people who throw stones at us.


The author is a social activist, a member of Citizens for Democracy and the former Administrator of Karachi.



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Email feedback and queries to Dawn.com's editorial team, or visit our contact page

Fahim Zaman Khan is the former Administrator of Karachi City, with many years of experience flying helicopters & aeroplanes out of Karachi Airport.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (69) Closed

Oct 16, 2012 02:37pm
Mr.Fahim the only solution for the pride and arrogance of America and her allies is only and only Jihad. Any other way will only bring misery and more death and destruction for muslims and u need to understand this. The humiliating defeat of two of the largest war machines in the history of mankind is a testimony of this fact.
Sam Rodrogues
Oct 18, 2012 05:19am
and you know this how?
Oct 18, 2012 05:34am
This comment has likes? God help us.
Khusro habib
Oct 18, 2012 04:20am
The writter only tried to make the issue complicated inorder to support drones, May ALLAH bless Malal. @Shankar: God forbid if one of your brother or sister would have died accidently in a drone attach(said to be focusing terrorists) then I will ask you the same question.
Oct 18, 2012 02:01am
Wrong thesis. The attack on Malala is not a reaction to drone attacks. Just that drone attacks make it easier for militants to get recruits and sympathy from the areas droned.
P N Eswaran
Oct 17, 2012 11:28am
Please spare the child. let her recover fast and lead a normal life like other children. If EU and Obama can get the Nobel prize why not Pakistan in anticipation of it's contribution to world peace.
Oct 16, 2012 04:57pm
Excellent analysis. What I can not understand is if Islam is a religion of peace, have Taliban and their supporters in Pakistan not read Quran yet.
Oct 17, 2012 02:38pm
This is a deranged answer to an urgent and critical issue. Even if all three points mentioned by you were true, what prayers are you invoking to counter them? Do you have a game plan? Apologists like you are a shame for the entire humanity
Oct 18, 2012 03:15am
Can people please use commas or full stops, so that others can make some sense out of their words!!??
Oct 17, 2012 05:22am
pathetic attempt. Stop living in denial. But then again, I am telling you what to do. Not right.
Oct 18, 2012 04:18am
wah g wah
Shahzad Qazalbash
Oct 17, 2012 05:18am
The author seems to lack completely the Pukhtoon tribal code, moral code as well culture. Also, I would shed serious doubt about Urbanites like him ever living in those tribal belts for some time to understand the current situation. The rivalry between tribes is settled differently there than in urban areas of this country, if they are ever through the imaginary "sham" system of justice, where big guns always get away and those at the lower end of chain get caught. Injustice breeds injustice. Condemnation enough: how many have been part of the investigation in which it could be discovered that there are hundreds, if not thousands, international spies are active on both sides of border and keep using local resource in such tacit way that most in this nation can't even comprehend. If it is not the failure of the urbanites to pressurize their chosen political people to investigate thoroughly, whether the attempt or actual killing happens in any part of the country and bring them to justice, I think such people have no moral value to condemn or appreciate any thing. Sum up, more people have been killed in Karachi for last 4.5 years than 8 years of drone attack victims, even if multiplied by 3. Perhaps its time to put the house in order first. No one is supporting the attempted attack on innocent civilians - men, women, kids, elderly, even animals or biodiversity. However, unless people are determined, and willing to look inside first, accept their own wrong doings and willing to compensate for that, no outsider will come for salvage. The mistakes of government, and those so called "concerned citizens" inability to take decisive action, has brought this country to this extent.
Oct 18, 2012 05:49am
and how this will help America to improve its image.Dont use your useless logics to prove a point. One more thing, Protest for anti Islam film was an over reaction which gave Muslims and Islam a very bad name all over the world. Shooting Malala is a much more despicable act than creating some nuisance clip.
akhter husain
Oct 18, 2012 06:39am
We ,those who are condemning shooting at Mala should not behave like TTP.These individuals know no other way to be in limelight.They want to achieve some thing which they themselve do not know any thing about it.They can only be cured by their own medicine,used with wisdom and restraints.
Oct 18, 2012 07:20am
hahahaha i cant help laughing on your comments, aren't you Ansar Abbasi in disguise. such jokes are too common in Pakistan
Oct 18, 2012 07:26am
what actions would you propose ? any suggestions?
akhter husain
Oct 16, 2012 07:04pm
No we have not buried our heads in sand.Our sacrifices of lives and property must be recognised.The problems we are facing, is from external forces ,who are not clear in their minds,have caused this situation,we are in now.Why can't they share their objectives in this region. with Pakistan?.
Oct 17, 2012 11:16am
All lover for malala,all sympathy for malala, all flowers of the earth for malala, all tears for malala. May Allah early recover her. She is a angel and daughter of peace of earth. All good things are for her.
Nisha Rai
Oct 16, 2012 02:24pm
Yet another useless article suggesting the same old formula. Pakistanis must realize that Taliban are not going to disappear, so it is better to accept and accommodate them. Then peace will come. For example, why not implement Sharia as the militants are demanding. What can possibly be worse than the present situation? Once Sharia replaces the current system, there is hope for consensus on improving the country.
Ajay Doshi
Oct 16, 2012 03:18pm
By enlarge I agree with Mr Zaman and add - true we all live in Glass Houses but in Pakistan, violent, militant organisations are busy throwing stones both outside and inside the country and until the nation is rid of them, it can only offer shattered lives to its people.
Oct 16, 2012 12:27pm
A good article with words, but not matter. Malala incedent is unfortunate and we should condemn that. However drone attacks are killing scores of innocent Malalas. So, it is more regretful. US are the biggest terrorist group around. Also, TTP should be mentioned instead of Talibans, who are actually Pakistan's brothers.
Oct 17, 2012 10:57am
So to you murdering a 14 year old is OK if Taliban see her involved in propaganda against them (and by that extension, you!) . So much for the discourse :( I guess Mr. Zaman should start preparing for his burial and thanks for warning rest of us
Oct 17, 2012 07:50am
you are absolutely right,i agree with you the right wingers are doing nothing but deviating the nation's attention from Malala to drone but you have missed one more thing there is a discourse terming the assault to divert public attention from the sacreligious movie which is also illogical they would rather like to come up with more once they witnessed our madrassa pass out smoldering public and private properties across the country
From Indian
Oct 17, 2012 04:25am
Dear Mr. Zaman, Could you please elaborate about what you mean by writing "While the people of Pakistan vastly sympathies with the pain and agony prevalent in Afghanistan, we never contracted al Qaeda to attack foreign missions, people or cities. "? I think telling half truth is worse than a lie.
Oct 17, 2012 04:28am
can anybody through light why a small section of militant TTP group believe that women's education is against sharia law is it because of confusion in the interpretation of Law and may be if all Religious Leaders came out and clarified on girls education as the country has to decide course of action as swat valley is not far away as it sounds
Oct 17, 2012 05:01am
Very well expressed. Intelligent and balanced analysis. Kudos to the writer!
Oct 17, 2012 05:05am
Pakistanis are bunch of confused people. They dont know where their future lie.
Oct 17, 2012 02:36am
Very correct when a policeman hit someone, no one ask that it did wrong but when poor hit someone everyone question and beat him. Similarly when strong nations hit other weak nations none question but when weak nation hit everyone is after that.So become strong nations than everything become in order and people respect that forces.
Oct 17, 2012 02:37am
I thought the author was arguing against linking drone attacks with the barbaric act on the life of a young girl. We need to recognize that Talibans and their cohorts are and will remain enemies of Pakistan regardless the outcome of the current war in Afghanistan.
Oct 17, 2012 02:49am
Zaman sahab... You hit the nail on the head. Exactly... Kudos...
Oct 17, 2012 03:04am
When people of a certain mindset know that it would be unacceptable to support, in any way shape of form, the cowardly attack on Malala, what do they do? They water their condemnation down with "laiken" and "magar."
Oct 16, 2012 10:58pm
My teacher at the university advised me while we were going to a seminar, to ask questions, even if you don't know anything about the subject, that way you would learn, when they are answered. Good on you for posting question, even if most of us can't answer this basic question. hopefully we would learn in a few years. Even if we don't learn, you have done your job.
Oct 17, 2012 11:46am
so what do you think we should should do Mr. Left winger?? Please propose solutions as we do not need more comments and just another analysis about the whole situation.....We already have many experts working 24/7 as analysts so you are requested to kindly propose solutions. And if you are suggesting that war is the only solution for this then please suggest the following: 1. Practical Objectives of the War? 2. How this war will be won? 3. Time frame of the war? 4. How will you ensure that no civilian casualties will result because of this war? because now you are crying for ONE Malala what if Hundreds of Malalas are killed as a result of this operation/ war? 5. How will you ensure that the war is contained in the Waziristan region only and will not spill over in the rest of the country? 6. Please also outline consequences of this new war on the economy of the country?
Oct 17, 2012 03:45am
There is no other way out except to fight and eliminate these barbarians. It is our war and the sooner we fight it the better. We have already lost 40000 of our people. How many more we need to lose to understand this.
Oct 16, 2012 08:15pm
Zaman Saheb, this is what the Pakistani politics is shameful though, you should know better.
Oct 16, 2012 08:33pm
Oct 17, 2012 10:57am
And that justifies her killing attempt? Which century did you come from?
Rafia Mirza
Oct 18, 2012 01:05am
Mr Khokher ,I cannot believe pakistanis have such closed minds, they can think in this barbaric way.
Oct 17, 2012 09:12am
Taliban & drones are like chalk and cheese. Taliban kill innocent people on purpose. Drones kill terrorists on purpose and kill innocents by mistake, just like cars & buses kill innocent people by mistake, just like vaccination may go wrong in a few cases.
Oct 16, 2012 02:49pm
Plz dont twist the facts. Taliban never said tht they attacked Malala for getting education. The reason given by Taliban was tht she was involved in anti-taliban propaganda in Swat. Get ur facts right first
Oct 17, 2012 09:46pm
And guess what. Talibaan are in this too. They said that they attacked Malala and will again target her and her family. What an interpretation of Islam, the religion of peace. It is people like Talibaan that portray a grossly distorted image of our prophet (P.B.U.H.). That encourages the western and even some Muslims (remember Salman Rushdie) to talk bad about our prophet. In Quran Allah says, don't talk bad about their fake Gods, otherwise they will say bad about your true Allah.
Jamal Syed
Oct 17, 2012 09:29pm
Then why do yout think TTP owned this attack? I get it. They are also American agents. yeah, now it makes sense. Thank you genius.
Oct 17, 2012 07:54am
Malala yosafzai is only Drama and propaganda which is prepared by Americans agencies and Powered by Pakistani media..the purpose of this drama is 1-to blur the reaction of people on media against anti-Islam film 2-To give the reason of drone attack and access to waziristan 3-to make the positive image of America in Pakistan
Deendayal Lulla
Oct 17, 2012 06:27am
Malala should be given Nobel prize. There should be a support system for her family.
Oct 16, 2012 05:22pm
The Taliban are killing the innocent citizens of Pakistan. How can the right wing religious groups of Pakistan justify that.
Cyrus Howell
Oct 17, 2012 06:43pm
"The problem in the world has been the same for thousands of years. People fear the Strong and oppress the Weak." Yusef Ali . The right wing religious groups have created a monster they now fear themselves.
Oct 16, 2012 11:07pm
Thanks to Malala, most people saw the true face of Talibaan. Prophet Mohammed (P.B.U.H.) said "learn even if you have to go to china", he didn't say this for men only. Hadith is meant for men as well as women. Talibaan (why they call themselves Talibaan) use the name of religion for political purposes only. They have nothing to do with religion. Their thought is only "my way or no way".
Cyrus Howell
Oct 17, 2012 06:26pm
They are the enemies of humanity because they enjoy killing. They have no rules religious or otherwise. They like to kill and torture.
jd shami
Oct 16, 2012 11:12pm
Hey, why do not you ask US to stop Drones. There will be no civil war, you are totally wrong.
shankar N
Oct 17, 2012 06:22pm
With such an attitude no wonder Islam has such a bad name. By the way wait till the US stop funding a broken nation and see the "positive image of America in Pakistan ".
Oct 17, 2012 06:01pm
Pak Army's ISPR giving briefings on Malala is a perfect case how our media has been directed to turn attention from American release of movie against Prophet Muhammed. Media is taking a lead here in spreading news whereas they were just reporting on the case of sacrligeous movie made by America. If Pakistani Government/Army is so sincere to wipe Talibans then stop killing of thousands of innocents in Quetta, Karachi, DI Khan and strengthen and cleanse Police system rather than attatcking indiscriminately in a unknow zone. If Malala gets the noble prize, then how come no one ever considered Abdul Sattar Edhi..!!
Oct 17, 2012 05:57pm
Whats wrong with any of the three things you listed?
Oct 17, 2012 05:28pm
This is what the pakistani leaders have been focused on for last 4 decades: "We don't know what will be our future as a Nation, but we will do everything to bring down India".
Oct 17, 2012 11:34am
Author calls US 'hegemonic' (go look the dictionary) I think what he is trying to say by the Agent Orange analogy that US leaves at its choice. But if Taliban wanted mercy over Waziri souls they could go back to Afghanistan so that innocent people in our tribal areas stop becoming colateral damage by not being subjected to drone attacks. Let us accept that the poor people of Pakistan cannot stop Americans hunting Talibans. But they can,opt for an honourable return to Afghanistan where someone in comments above said they were wining :)
Oct 17, 2012 03:01pm
telling truth will get negetive remarks
Oct 17, 2012 05:09am
sir you show absolutely true picture
Oct 18, 2012 09:23am
What a shameful statement indeed Mr. Anees.
Oct 17, 2012 05:14am
Your segregation is incomprehensible. Civil society and religion. More than 70% of the civil society in Pakistan is being governed by its religion. One the other hand, there is a handful of people consider themselves to be non-religious or want a new interpretation of religion. Even if a civil war is forced on Pakistan which will most probably not be the case in my reckoning, I'm telling you, this civil society would align not only with religion but with religious extremists too. They won't be able to realize until they get torn apart literally or physically.
Oct 17, 2012 05:12am
Good observation
Oct 16, 2012 02:20pm
Can the author clarify why have 10 years passed and all the 50 countries ,muslims & non muslim included , with all their mighty B 52 s not been able to control even 50% of Afghanistan till now. It seems there are some other angles to this story of lilliput and Gulliver.
Oct 17, 2012 02:16pm
Dear Eswaran, please keep your bias aside, he is talking about Nobel Prize to Malala, not to Pakistani Govt.
Ajaya K Dutt
Oct 16, 2012 01:19pm
Your voice, and many more like that, are hope of Pakistan.
Oct 16, 2012 12:41pm
The violent occupiers always fear the silent non-violent ones, not the violent ones. Britain with Gandhi, china with Dalai Lama, and now Taliban with Malala.
Sheikh Reyaz Ahmed
Oct 16, 2012 01:08pm
Oct 17, 2012 07:44am
please dont make the society hostage because of this incident; May Allah give Malala good health and keep all of us safe.
Oct 16, 2012 01:41pm
Well, time is running out people of Pakistan. We dug our head in sand in 1971, listened to psuedo-patriotic intellectuals and religious outfits, who at that time were again using false statements and emotions of masses. Now, again we are in that situation in which there is no outcome unless we fight back. Eventually, we have to shed the idea of good and bad taliban, and do what has to be done, to defeat them. Once upon a time the bad talibans were good talibans for us. Its now or never time for us...
Oct 16, 2012 04:32pm
American drones would not be necessary if Pakistan would get rid of the Taliban on their side of the border.
Cyrus Howell
Oct 16, 2012 11:23am
Eventually the militants will force Pakistan into civil war because the people of Pakistan have their heads are buried as deeply in the sand as Pakistan's leadership. The question is, In a civil war what side will the Pakistan Army support the religion or the civil society. It's your call people.
Raheel Adnan
Oct 16, 2012 10:58am
Beautifully written, I must say.