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A response to apologists


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After the cowardly attack on Malala Yousufzai, the drums of war have begun beating once again, with pressure seeming to mount for the need for a military operation against militants in North Waziristan. While an operation in North Waziristan may not bring us justice against Malala’s attackers in the Swat Valley, the cold blooded attempt to kill an innocent schoolgirl should remind us of the freedoms we hold dear as a people and the price we have to pay to safeguard those freedoms against extremists.

While the two situations are obviously far from similar, I can’t help but ask myself why we’re so willing to devote blood and tears in an attempt to safeguard the political rights of the people of Kashmir, but are willing to mutely acquiesce to oppression of fellow Pakistanis on our own soil. If as a nation we stand boldly on principle for freedom and justice for the oppressed people of Kashmir, why are we so willing to turn a blind eye to the murder, torture and terror committed on the people of northwestern Pakistan by militants there? Does a young girl growing up in Mingora not have the same right to live a life free of fear as a young girl in Srinagar?

Before the inevitable accusations of being an American agent or CIA plant, let me clarify – it is counterproductive and disingenuous to assume that anyone supporting action against militants is also secretly dreaming of drone strikes raining down across the country. Indeed, the false dichotomy created by both liberals and reactionaries in this country that criticising militants makes you a liberal and criticising America makes you a fundamentalist does nothing but stifle debate and prevent a discussion on the very serious issues our country faces. Indeed, to counter that anyone condemning the senseless and bloody violence perpetrated by militants is being biased by not discussing drone strikes, as so many right-wing apologists of militancy are fond of doing, is essentially saying that it’s justified to condemn one group of people who are killing innocent people, but not another group that mercilessly kills.

Drone attacks do violate Pakistani sovereignty, kill innocents and add fuel to the long-burning fire of resentment and anger towards the Pakistani state and our alliance with America. That said, when children have been injured in drone strikes, I don’t recall Leon Panetta ever vowing that they’d be back to finish off the job as the TTP spokesperson gleefully did after the tragic attack on Malala. The death of innocent people is deplorable and sickening – it’s against the very compact between the citizenry and our state to allow other actors to exercise violence and terrorise the populace.

The fundamental goal of the state, above all else, has historically been to provide a degree of security to its subjects. When someone threatens this security, the state has every right, some may even say an imperative, to restore its writ and confront those seeking to undermine it. While the Pakistani state may have failed to fulfill this promise, that’s no justification for allowing militancy to continue unabated. While militants may be motivated – or say they are – by anger against the state and our foreign policy that too is no justification for allowing these murders to continue. Regardless of whether some may feel their grievances are justified, or may feel unhappy with our government and its foreign policies, that’s no justification for killing innocent people. Granted, there is limited space in the political sphere to express these grievances, but in what little space our democracy has had, religio-political parties have always been soundly beaten. When the TTP took over Swat, they too were roundly rejected by the populace as cruel and petty.

To put it plainly, for all those apologists that continue attempting to justify militancy and murder, including more than a few national politicians, the time for equivocation is over. As a nation, we must realise now what the people of Swat and Fata have long since realised, what Malala Yousufzai and her family has realised and fought for and what countless Pakistani soldiers, policemen and civilians have given their lives fighting for. The ideology and motivations for militancy and extremism are hollow and bloody and the means used to achieve these aims barbaric. If we desire, as I’m sure all proud and patriotic Pakistanis do, a homeland that is peaceful and prosperous, a homeland that allows all its children – whether a girl in Swat or a boy in Karachi – to achieve their dreams for a better tomorrow, we must unite to reject both the monstrous acts of militants and the petty politicking of those that attempt to justify it.


Faris Islam studied Political Science and History at Tufts University. He is based in Karachi, where he works in the development sector.



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.

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Comments (25) Closed

Oct 24, 2012 12:59pm
A mini civil war has already been started in Karachi Taliban terrorists and their allies the so-called Islamic Parties have made the Karachi a battle ground they are killing innocent people and looting Karachi unabated
Amjad Wyne
Oct 23, 2012 02:06pm
Do not ask the people - people chose their representatives and they are all quiet. The last I heard was that Pakistan also had a parliament and a government - a president and a prime minister along with more ministers and advisors that keeping count requires a computer. At a minimum, this government needs to motivate and galvanize the nation, it has not even started the debate - it will be better if it steps forward and confronts Taliban.
Oct 24, 2012 12:23pm
Excellent article ! Very nice assessment of the situation....wish everyone realizes these words...
Neptune Srimal
Oct 24, 2012 05:31pm
Salute! It takes a lot of courage to pen such an article sitting in Karachi.
Oct 25, 2012 10:16am
Completely concur! Well done!
Oct 23, 2012 06:34pm
Don't keep talking. Do something and kill some talibans.
Oct 23, 2012 06:16pm
Here is the problem, for people to raise their voices against terrorism, more Malala's have to rise up be ready to put their life on the line to get TTP like outfits to show their true colors. Are there enough people who are willing to do that? or more importantly let their children do that? Obviously until Malala incident, there weren't as many people who categorically opposed Terrorism and Talibanization. Unfortunately even now there aren't enough of them to take any decisive action.
Oct 24, 2012 06:35pm
who created them??
Cyrus Howell
Oct 24, 2012 12:35am
First, Pakistanis must decide than the Taliban and other violent religious militants do not want to be a part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. That they are working against it. That their are committing crimes and bring drugs into Pakistan. That is in addition to murdering people who are citizens. There needs to be a public consensus, not a Congressional one. Second, the youth and inspired people must found a new political party to oust the old guard with the vote in five more years. Third, the new party must either write a new constitution or establish an anti corruption committee (like Indonesia has) with it's own powers of arrest, wire taps and court ordered writs.
Oct 23, 2012 12:09pm
You are not the only writer in Dawn that extols the people to stand up against the atrocities of the Taliban and groups like them.The problem is that what can the people do when the main thrust against these groups by the government or the armed forces is lacking.People support is important I agree.But where is the spear head to lead that the people can act as a backing?
Oct 24, 2012 05:27am
bravo! but write for the urdu press, they need you more
Abdul Karim
Oct 23, 2012 09:59pm
In words, Leon Panetta is diplomatic, smooth and insidious. In words, Taliban is straight and crude. In killings, the whole world knows which one is more bigger and more ugly. No one needs a proof for this. Just because one group uses sophisticated language and weaponry does not make them less evil than the other, regardless of their purported noble causes. When ants bite it hurts. But when snakes bite one dies. Faris, which one should Pakistan focus on? Observer
adam memon
Oct 23, 2012 02:21pm
Talban dont allow there girls to go to school but they have no right to harm our children to go to school.If you will not help Malala she will get the help from foriegner, in other word you are inviting foriegner.
Oct 24, 2012 02:06pm
The only way to eradicte these people is to corner them so they dont disperse into the rest of the country or into Afghanistan. The border with afghanistan should be barbed wired. Build a wall like the Isrealis have done against the poor palestinians. Make people aware that if they see acts of terror report them immediatly and then our forces and our military should back those civilians with all their might and either kill these people on sight.
Oct 24, 2012 01:13am
Those who appease the ENEMY of Pakistan today will regret a countrywide civil war tomorrow.
Oct 24, 2012 04:34pm
Oct 24, 2012 07:08pm
@LarryAt27N But The Last Prophet has already come and gone,
David M
Oct 23, 2012 06:48pm
If we are ever to have peace in our country, then the Pakistani Taliban must be rooted out. My question is why doesn't the US do it with its drones. If after the drone strikes, the public is shown the dead Taliban warlords, the public opinion against the US as well as the drone strikes will change.
Oct 24, 2012 01:24am
The writer is correct. Pakistan moderates need a messiah to rise and inspire the people.
Oct 24, 2012 06:14am
Excellent analysis - calling spade a spade requires guts and common sense. Not raising your voice against violence and atrocities is as good as committing violence. What you say today is what Pakistan will be in the years ahead.
Oct 23, 2012 06:08pm
You have my vote and full backing on your article and its real insight . I am dead against both i.e The aminals called talibans and their apologists (civilian & military included who consider them assests as good taliban/ and pain in the neck as bad taliban ) and American intervention and its supporters for money or for material ( Civilians or Military pocketing the financial & material benefits since 1958) . We need a sort of cultural Purge in our society from these monsters
Oct 24, 2012 09:44pm
I think that you have a mini Civil war in Karachi because you appeased to the enemy.
Oct 25, 2012 12:26am
right! anyone with a gun is Taliban...?
Oct 25, 2012 12:27am
we had all the peace before 9/11
Oct 25, 2012 12:47am
A girl in Kashmir has all the freedom to go to school and learn unlike North Waristan or elsewhere in the Northern Pakistan