Just as we thought that the attack on Malala Yousufzai had helped build a consensus on fighting terrorism, the debate is being twisted fast enough to block any movement towards consolidating opinion against the Taliban and jihadis. Some media people are even asking questions about why should the government react to the attack on Malala when young girls are being attacked every day. Such presenters/media persons completely miss a vital point. Malala became noticeable due to the stand she took to protect her right to education. This makes her different from many who suffer or die in silence.
Some of the more arrogant and ignorant media persons have also tried to create doubts about the authorship of her diaries. They probably forget that other conflicts have also produced such brave young girls like Anne Frank in Nazi Germany or Zlata Filipovic in Bosnia. In fact, the conflict has this magic in it that it sometimes forces young people to mature too quickly. The smell of blood and death sometimes teaches a lot. If nothing else, we must recognise the courage of the young girl and her father to raise voice in face of terror when even the brave at heart would shudder.
Sadly, besides giving her titles we will not do anything. Instead of taking a firm decision to counter terrorism, we seem ready to surrender the initiative to Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Fazlur Rehman or Imran Khan, who see this as a conspiracy to attack the lovely Taliban. The government also didn’t intend to do anything as it presented a resolution in the National Assembly for a military operation in North Waziristan that it knew fully well will not see the light of day.
Reacting to the Malala incident is not necessarily about haphazardly conducting a military operation in Waziristan. It is actually about developing a will to take decisive action to eliminate violence from non-state actors. Shafqat Mahmood of the PTI, whose heart seems to be sinking at the thought of an operation in Waziristan, must understand that now is a time to send a signal to the Taliban that the state will not tolerate violence just like it tries to send very strong signals in Balochistan. May one remind Mr Mahmood that in case of Balochistan (a case that he has referred to on his Facebook page as a comparison with North Waziristan), the state used force before it sent signals to some of the Baloch leadership (not all leaders) to negotiate peace with the state. This is because as per the realist paradigm, which many in the security community in Pakistan love, a negotiating party must show its capacity to get what it wants through other means to gain greater advantage during negotiations. An operation is one of the many possibilities that may be adopted if and when required. Let’s not forget that these Taliban have consistently used violence against people in Swat or even other parts to establish control. Let’s also not get trapped by the charming statement of the Taliban that they attacked Malala, not because she wanted education, but due to her condemnation of the Taliban. But how would she not when these rogue fighters destroyed 400 schools in Swat. Can we just be blind to their ideological drift?
What is more important is to exhibit an intention to challenge the illegal might of the Taliban and friendly jihadists who have not spread all over the country. Can someone please explain what is the TTP, for instance? These are people inducted and trained by militant outfits that in turn were considered legitimate by the state. Let’s understand it very clearly that for every Taliban in the tribal areas, there are at least two more in the rest of the country (mainly Punjab and then Sindh) who are either fully trained or have been ideologically primed to join the militant workforce. It would help if instead of travelling to the north, Imran Khan started travelling back to south and notice the clear signs of the direction in which the society is being taken.
It’s also worth asking the great Khan about what did the state manage to gain in the last one year when all stakeholders agreed to give peace and everyone a chance. Did the Taliban stop attacking ordinary folk? It is equally foolhardy to draw a distinction between the various kinds of militant groups into a fake category of good versus bad Taliban. They are all operationally and ideologically connected. As they say in Urdu ‘in ki naani aik hey’ (they have the same grandmother).
It’s not that such a signal was not sent by the Pakistani state. General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, for instance, had made half an effort to clamp down on terrorism, especially during the first three to four years of his rule. It was in those years that the various jihadi outfits stopped recruiting openly. However, the policy failed as some generals wanted to protect the good warriors because they were found to be valuable. To quote a senior retired general about non-state actor-militants: “The Pakistan Army cannot get such a force at such a low cost.”
The state has to decide for once if it indeed wants to get rid of such elements or keep them around until they one day completely take over the state. This is not an exaggerated assessment. However, the pattern of militant power is different from what we see in Afghanistan which will make it appear different. In any case, militancy in certain parts of the country, especially Punjab and Sindh, has always had a political and social dimension, which gives it greater legitimacy and ability to anchor in society.
In case the state wants to send a signal to such evil forces, it can still be done. The battered, ill-equipped and ill-trained police, for instance, can be used to clamp down on activities of numerous militants roaming freely in areas other than the tribal belt and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. And they at least have the information to do so.
But at this moment, all of this seems like a non-starter. So, all I can tell Malala is to get well soon, piece her life together and get on with life somewhere else, as her homeland has no capacity to protect her and many like her.
Source: Express Tribune