We have been reassured that not all Taliban are the same, which is true. One endangers our children, and the other threatens someone else’s.
One fully expects Mr Hamza Ali Abbasi’s social and political commentary to ruffle feathers left and right — mostly left. He may not be praised much but one can admit that what he says, he says with great passion and courage.
Alas, I have no more obligatory compliments to offer in the interest of civility, and it is time we address the obvious problem.
In a recent Facebook post, Mr Abbasi celebrated the return of Shahbaz Taseer, as many of us have. However, this was followed by veneration of an organisation whose name is rarely accompanied with positive adjectives.
Taliban. No, wait. The Afghan Taliban.
Mr Abbasi writes ‘Afghan Taliban’ in capital letters, to ensure that no confusion remains.
Let there be no doubt that Hamza is not praising the “NDS/RAW funded” bad Taliban that have conducted terrorist activists on Pakistani soil; he is only expressing his gratitude towards the “legit” Taliban, who happen to be someone else’s problem and not ours.
This is followed by the uncatchiest, most bizarre hashtag since #NobelForTrump:
Any non-jingoist, who acknowledges the universality of human rights, will have no problem finding the flaw in this hashtag.
Surely, it must’ve been a typo four times in a row. Hamza Ali Abbasi may have his faults, as everyone does, but he couldn’t possibly be lionising the same Afghan Taliban which Amnesty International accused of involvement in “mass murder, gang rapes, and house-to-house searches”?
Could he actually be referring to the organisation blacklisted by the UN, responsible for a seemingly endless volley of terrorist attacks, not simply against the US presence, but the Afghan government structures and civilians?
It’s one thing to say that the Afghan Taliban, particularly the Haqqani network, “are not the enemy of Pakistan”.
Boko Haram is technically not the enemy of Pakistan either, but it’s very unlikely that any decent, educated Pakistani would endorse that group.
After all, hasn’t Sartaj Aziz, the Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security, assured us that Pakistani forces are actively disrupting the Haqqani network in North Waziristan in the interest of regional security?
Did our government not claim to uproot the terrorist infrastructure “without discrimination” in contradiction to Mr Abbasi’s good Taliban/bad Taliban worldview?
Mr Abbasi thanked the terrorist organisation specifically for its role in the series of events that eventually led to the safe retrieval of Shahbaz Taseer as a section of the Pakistani media reported.
However, the Afghan Taliban themselves have explicitly denied awareness of the incident, claiming that they did not recover Taseer.
If one still insists on thanking the Afghan Taliban, asserting that their attack inadvertently created an opportunity for Taseer’s escape, then we may as well be thanking earthquakes and tornadoes for fortuitously tearing through an enemy base once in a while; their effect on countless innocent civilians in the area being acceptable collateral damage.
One doesn’t have to scroll too far down Mr Abbasi’s Facebook page before hitting on to something alarming.
It’s where he addresses the murder of Salman Taseer by the hands of Mumtaz Qadri, a man who had sworn to protect the former governor, in an apologetic light.
Furthermore, he misrepresented Mr Qadri’s execution as a case of the state only punishing those who aren’t powerful, conveniently forgetting Mr Qadri had a significant support base and backing from scores of lawyers that outnumbered security personnel at the Islamabad High Court.
He has repeatedly slammed progressive values, to the delight of a hefty Islamo-nationalist base. He has abused his male privilege to patronise female actors for their roles in ‘item songs’, and back-peddled when his own racy performances were brought up.
He has engaged in endless moral policing, with only occasional minced-word stands for social justice for the women and religious minorities, that too in the safest way possible, while ardently opposing secular reform.
I would never assault Mr Abbasi with condescending remarks, such as how he ought to stick to acting and modeling, and leave social and political commentary to analysts better informed on the subject. He’s a spirited Pakistani citizen, and his freedom to express his opinion is inalienable.
But he is a social media icon blessed with a massive fan-following, and it would be appropriate to speak responsibly to avoid reinforcing potentially dangerous ideas.
Pakistan is not aiming to become of those nations defined by tunnel-vision, whose policies cater to nobody’s interest but their own.
Pakistan is striving for regional peace and stability, or ought to.
And, we simply cannot do that while we’re ending our speeches on social media with #ThankYouAfghanTaliban.