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Smokers’ Corner: How green was my valley?

Published May 12, 2013 10:42am


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Many years ago, when Swat was still green and free from bushy warlords, I knew a middle-aged man there who was also a tracking guide. His name was Atique Ali Khan and I remember every time I used to ask him about how his two children were doing at school, he was in the habit of constantly quoting a well-known hadith. “Allah be praised”, he used to say. “They are doing well at school. As the Prophet (PBUH) used to say, go as far as China for knowledge.”

Well, I haven’t been to Swat in a long time and I have no idea what became of Atique. But thanks to the rude mushrooming of the rowdy keepers of faith in that part of Pakistan some five years ago, I’m sure his children weren’t even able to walk a kilometre for knowledge, let alone ever visiting China.

Though the 2009 military operation in that area largely cleared the place of the mad men, last year’s shooting of the 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai confirmed the apprehension that these men are still embedded in Swat among its otherwise peaceful populace.

These men were an angry lot. Once upon a time, it is said, they used to let off steam by chopping down trees. That was bad enough, but I guess ever since trees have become somewhat scarce in Swat, the level of their delusions about faith suddenly doubled, rather quadrupled.

As a consequence, they began ranting incoherent loud nothings on clandestine FM radio stations about how extremely angry they were about all the obscenity and injustice in the world and about matters related to the education of little girls. Indeed, a grave danger to faith these young ones certainly are.

Well, the loud FM stations too didn’t seem to satisfy their monstrous appetites for divinely inspired action, so off they went blowing up CD shops and girls’ schools.

Blow ‘em all, became their heartfelt mantra, as they became angrier, louder and, of course, a lot bushier.

Unfortunately, since supposedly their faith was a lot stronger than that of us ‘bad Muslims’, it required more from them. So these angry men started blowing themselves up!

What’s more, for an impressive display and effect, they did this in public places. Off they went with a bang, taking along with them mutilated and severed bodies, dozens of men, women and children. And up they all went to paradise, or so they say, and so they believed.

But what about you and I, the bad Muslims?

What do we have to say about the blowing up of girls’ schools, CD and barber shops in our own backyard? Happenings that are still a reality in various towns, enclaves and cities of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, south Punjab and parts of Karachi?

What do we have to say about men of faith in our very own country who actually believe that suicide and multiple murders in the name of God will land them a cosy little corner in paradise?

The ideological and material clash of two extremes — Bush’s clean-shaven neo-cons and the bushy Islamist terrorists — have left most ‘moderate’ Muslim populations in a scared and awkward state of myopia.

This disposition has helped serve the purpose of the Islamists. Sadly, most ‘moderate Muslims’, instead of forming a third opinion through some sort of a rational consensus, have decided to take sides between the two extremes.

For example, most Pakistanis naturally took an opposing view of Bush’s ‘war on terror’. Fair enough. But since much of this was done without a clear third view, commentaries and opinions against matters like drone attacks, suicide bombings and ‘war on terror’ have regrettably sounded more and more like jerky jingoistic spiels.

Unfortunately, these excitable tirades helped fatten the delusional and self-righteous complexes of the Islamists.

The third view — that is directly linked to the democratic political parties and the self-interest of the military, government and society of Pakistan — was ultimately sacrificed at the altar of hyperbolic political clichés and rants, making the country continue suffering from a scenario in which we went on bad-mouthing one extreme (neo-cons) while uncannily allowing the other extreme to get fatter, bolder and wilder.

As for Atique Ali Khan, I wonder if he’s still alive, or for that matter, if his children are still alive. One thing’s for sure, though. They won’t have many schools left to go to. But what’s a school compared to a place in paradise, aye?


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Comments (27) Closed

Feroz May 12, 2013 08:08am
Pakistan is living an ideological disaster of its own making, refusing to acknowledge its errors, effectively scuttling all hopes of redemption and success. It is on a one way street to the seventh century and the barbarism of that era. All the tools and implements of the 21st century that could have helped it to correct course and save it, have been destroyed. Now people have to wait on Allah's mercy or retribution --- not sure which.
raw is war May 12, 2013 12:05pm
Very dark humor.
Faisal May 12, 2013 06:15am
Right on!
malole May 12, 2013 05:51am
I still dont understand what makes one mad enough to blow oneself and kill score of others in this exercise. Maybe their spokesman can help us.
Gimme Love May 12, 2013 08:50am
Why people accept this "fact" that the talibans are acting on their own? What ever happened to the espionage or misinformation or any of the "everything is fair in war and love" tactics? When in 12th century Fidaeens could be manipulated with opium or hypnotism then how come this aspect is always ignored or rather doesn't occur to your single track mind? You have written these articles over and over again and specially in past three four days, they have come out at an amazing speed. So my assessment is pretty simple. You have made a mental picture and you have locked your mind out. You don't talk or argue about any other angle. You have simply one angle, now as a journalist and that too who writes analysis this is lethargic on part of you. Don't write about your 70s experience mixed with what TV or other media is shouting..
AHA May 12, 2013 10:57am
A true masterpiece.
Planettrekker May 12, 2013 01:50pm
To quote Jesus " Why do you point to the specks in others eyes when you have a log in yours". The need of the hour is intra-Islam dialogue that honestly debates, and questions, the authenticity and veracity of multiple tenets and hadiths that drive men's behaviors. Students of Islamic history must bravely talk about both her positive contributions, and bloody history. Until this happens, Islam will continue to struggle with self-imposed Dark Ages thinking with its adherents being pulled in multiple directions. This is then exploited by talibanistic thugs. The time for reformation is now. The 3D mindset of Delusion, Denial, and Deflection that is so prevalent, will not work in today's transparent inter-connected world.
Haseeb May 12, 2013 03:45pm
Now we must accept that the people of Pakistan have rejected the idea proposed mostly by English Journalists and analysts that terrorisim/militancy can only be tackled by force. The enormous success of right wing political parties in the recent polls shows that most Pakistani's believe that terrorisim can only be curbed through dialogue and other peaceful ways . This is a Major development and i believe now it is the high time for PTI/PML to work for ending militancy from Pakistan through dialogue as proposed by them.Force must be avoided and kept as a last option. I hope we will give them a chance to try their way to end militancy. Lets wait and see!
Razzaq May 12, 2013 03:54pm
I still have sweet memory of my visit to this valley in 1954 known at the time as Switzerland of Pakistan, One had to wait an hour or so before any human could be seen. Beautiful, calm and peaceful. On my last visit in 1998, it was chaotic, bare of trees and filthy, not to mention the overpopulation.
Capt C M Khan May 12, 2013 04:43pm
"But what about you and I, the bad Muslims?" good question. What about BEARDLESS King of KP IK......these guys are HHYPOCRTICS....they change the laws one is there to check them because THERE IS NO EDUCATION.
Capt C M Khan May 12, 2013 04:49pm
@Malole...amswer is simple. Allah made males and females for each other. Very few of These Brainwashed Bombers can get females in this world because of being UNFIT in the 21st century. Their Handlers use this and promise them 70+ females in heaven if they blow them up, especially on a Friday. They love to do this for the Fairies waiting for them in heaven. It is all BRAINWASHING.
Gimme Love May 12, 2013 05:24pm
People have hated my comments up there. Truth is always hated anyways. But would you consider the possibility of manipulation by means of drugs and or psychological trickery? It can't be that simple and obvious. If Obama even sneezes, Talibans will be the first one to claim the responsibility. Tell me it isn't so.
Sayed Arif May 12, 2013 08:37pm
A nice piece, i like it
Taqi Ramzan May 12, 2013 08:42pm
but still ppl have not learnt wat hes trying to explain,,,,,many still take taliban as one of their own ..........
Reality Check May 12, 2013 08:58pm
Clearly this guy has something in common with the 12th century fidayeens he speaks of :-p
Pakistani May 12, 2013 09:02pm
KPA had the follwing govt's in the past - 1993 PPP, 1997 PMLN, 2002 MMA, 2008 ANP & now 2013 PTI. We are pathans & very decomcratic & progressive & show them the door, thus proving we are independent minded & progressive & not slaves to anyone, no matter what you have imposed on us in the last 3 decades. We certainly are free to decide. Our students & youth in particular showed great support & struggle for freedom and achievement of Pakistan. You can keep your waderas & shareefs or whatever. We hope you just grow up in a progressive way in this century.
Irrfaan Akhtaar May 12, 2013 10:23pm
dude in serious mood
TrollyMcTrollton May 12, 2013 10:38pm
Hard to see the point of this article.
grammar nazi May 12, 2013 11:45pm
trekking guide, not tracking
Dehwar May 13, 2013 01:21am
Many years ago when a minister visited the area among many demands, one of the Demands was very important and they wanted it to be met on any cost and that was an appointment of a lady doctor in their area clinic, every participant was telling the minister that in their culture their women never go to a male doctor even if her life is in critical condition. The minister had only one answer " You don't send your daughters to school, do you expect me that I or a person from another community should send his daughter to treat your women?"
Sohrab May 13, 2013 02:37am
Deomocracy brings the change of choices and who is in charge.....essentially the people of Pakistan. Bad governance of the last government cost them in the last ballot. The new government will show its position on this particular matter in the next five years. If it prefers to side with the fanatics there will be either of these two: they will be voted out meaning that it is important to the people of Pakistan or they still remain in power translating to the fact that the populace in general cherish the idea of the Islamic state. Hey ultimately do not blame the course of affairs to governments, armies and foreign hidden agendas. The people of Pakistan have finally woken up to democracy. We just hope they make the right choices.
Hasan May 13, 2013 02:53am
Spokesperson: " This is Iman-e-kamil.Alhamdullillah. Shortcut to heaven."
T.A.M May 13, 2013 08:14am
Talibans themselves have always claimed responsibility of their heinous acts in the past. So why should I disagree? I am not sure what point you are trying to prove here about Obama? Psychological trickery? Yes, you being one of the cases.
Ali May 13, 2013 11:09am
If we hold dialogue with the killers of 40000 innocent people men, women, children, then why not also hold dialogue with extortionists, petty murderers (who kill a few people). Lets just throw away the law enforcement and judiciary and cling on to dialogue.
Dr Khan May 13, 2013 01:26pm
2013 elections......" NAYA PAKISTAN always designed in Punjab But experimented in KPK"
Owais Malick May 13, 2013 02:10pm
Thinking of arguing then realized no point.
Pro Bono Publico May 13, 2013 04:42pm
Pakistani liberals are enjoying the fruits of labour and will enjoy 5 more years of misgovernance. Their hate for Imran has borne results.