Reclaiming Pakistan

November 11, 2013


THE grand narrative hatched by our elected representatives in confronting the challenge of terrorism is this: the life and security of Pakistanis is either at the mercy of the US or the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

That if the yanks keep provoking our terrorists, our lives and security will remain a legitimate target for the TTP. But if the yanks back off and let terrorists in Pakistan alone, the TTP will not be provoked into killing innocent Pakistanis and there will be peace. How does one explain the absolute abdication of responsibility by our elected representatives for the lives and future of Pakistanis?

In other nations would leaders get away with holding a foreign country primarily responsible for the death of thousands of citizens, police officials and soldiers admittedly killed by fellow countrymen (other than Afghanistan of course that holds the ISI responsible for everything)?

The US might be the big bad wolf it is made out to be, but its elected leaders have sworn no oath to protect the lives or interests of Pakistanis. And what is the great vision of our leaders for a secure and prosperous Pakistan? Let’s unite in hatred for the US in order to become a nation.

You need to be no conspiracy monger to understand the US position. Post 9/11 the US resolved to take the war to enemies who had expressed the intent to attack the US and its citizens. Leaving aside the question of legitimacy, the US pre-emptive self-defence doctrine is built upon the idea of exterminating enemies before they are able to carry out attacks against the US. Al Qaeda is one such enemy, and the TTP is its joint venture partner, primarily focused on capturing the state of Pakistan but in the process also working with and providing sanctuary to Al Qaeda.

So long as there is territory within Pakistan that the Pakistani state has no control over and that is used by terrorists to plan and execute attacks against the US, the US will keep droning them with or without Pakistan’s consent. And even if we cry ourselves hoarse about it, we will get no sympathy or support from the world because in an age where non-state actors have emerged as a key threat to state security, our friends and enemies alike are worried sick about our tolerance for non-state actors that have the ability and the desire to carry out attacks beyond our borders.

A majority of terror incidents that make international headlines find some link back to Pakistan. If we were nurturing terrorists that were only attacking segments of our society, we might have had a point, no matter how morbid, to proclaim the sovereign right and freedom to deal with an internal menace as we please. If we raise the issue of illegality and immorality of the drone internationally in the context of killing of innocent women and children, the world might express sympathy and support for our concern and anger.

But when we froth at the mouth for breach of sovereignty in the aftermath of a vicious terrorist such as an OBL being found and hunted within our territory by the US or a Hakeemullah being droned, the world gasps in horror over our disconnect with sanity and our disregard for the security concerns of other states and that of our own citizens.

The drumming up of hatred and anger by our leaders for the evil world led by infidel America in the context of our domestic anti-terror debate cannot be explained away as misplaced nationalism or injured pride.

What kind of a nation are we where a Munawar Hasan can condemn soldiers defending the flag and sacrificing their lives fighting ruthless terrorists as pawns of a foreign state, and declare the ringleader of terrorists to be a martyr even when his declared object was to attack the state, its soldiers and citizens into submission? By appointing Fazlullah as its new head, the TTP has tried to slap out of confusion those of us who believe that terrorism is simply a tribal response to drones and will wither away once strikes end and the US withdraws its troops from Afghanistan.

But the TTP’s reality check might not be enough. What we are witnessing is our internal one-man’s-terrorist-is-another-man’s-freedom-fighter moment. We are a confused nation because we are not sure if militants killing our soldiers and citizens in the name of Islam and its glory are terrorists or freedom fighters.

The TTP suffers no such confusion. Anyone who supports and defends the system of governance established under our Constitution and accepts the existing nation-state system and the international order under it is an apostate who deserves no mercy.

If we wish to survive as a nation, we will need to make up our minds about our terrorists and our freedom fighters. We can quarrel over matters of detail, but we will need to agree on the foundational basis of our nationalism.

In this conversation with ourselves we will need to revisit what we think Pakistan stands for and its ambition as a nation-state. Standing up for the interests of Pakistan where they conflict with those of the US is one thing, but punching above our weight and declaring ‘death to America’ as the purpose of our existence is quite another.

Do we wish to create a Sunni theocratic state that will use force and terror to expand its territory in an effort to realise the dream of a pan-Islamic mega-empire dominating the world? Or do we wish to be an inclusive pluralist state comfortable in its skin and focused on realising the true potential of its citizens as a means to rising in the global hierarchy of states?

Do we wish to be a state where Muslims, Christians and Hindus might be equally Pakistani, or one where Shias will need to pay jizya and concern for Muslims around the world will trump that for non-Muslims at home?

Munawar Hasan and others of his ilk have picked their side. It is time for the rest of us to pick ours or fall in line.

The writer is a lawyer.

Twitter: @babar_sattar