OVER A COFFEE: No to dictates from terrorists — Dr Haider Shah
In the Islamic emirate that the TTP wants to establish there is no concept of an individual citizen or human rights
Last week was cataclysmic for the forthcoming elections in many ways. The deadly attack on the convoy of the provincial leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Sanaullah Zehri, the suicide bomb targeting Ghulam Ahmed Bilour in NA-1, and loss of life of an Awami National Party (ANP) candidate in Swat occurred in quick succession. In Islamabad, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI official Dr Shireen Mazari was furious as a group of angry party workers went berserk outside the Bani Gala residence of their party leader Imran Khan.
The deadliness of an attack is not to be gauged necessarily by the extent of havoc it causes. There are other factors on the basis of which we can rank various acts of violence in terms of their viciousness. First, the identity of the attackers. Second, the grievances that led to the attack. Third, the degree of spread of the organisation. and fourth, the likely effect on our daily life if the attackers are successful in their stated objectives. Now let me examine the three attacks on the basis of these factors.
According to media reports, the responsibility of the attack on Sanaullah Zehri was claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) that openly wants secession from Pakistan. The militant organisation is believed to have 500 to 1,000 fighters. The organisation motivates its members by referring to the perceived mistreatment of the Baloch people by the state institutions of Pakistan. In terms of the third factor we can say that the activities of this organisation are limited to a few areas of Baluchistan. Even the mainstream Baloch nationalist leaders do not support their cause as they are participating in the forthcoming elections. There is a hope that once a genuine democratic government is elected in the forthcoming elections, peace and tranquillity may return to Balochistan. The most important factor is the effect on my daily life as an average Pakistani citizen. In the unforeseeable scenario of the BLA being successful in making Balochistan an independent state, I do not see any significant effect as far as our daily life is concerned. Of course, some economic loss will be caused to the centre due to loss of current gas and other mineral reserves, but when East Pakistan became Bangladesh there was hardly any direct effect on the life of an average Pakistani.
Now consider the attack on the PTI’s chief Imran Khan as reported in the media. According to a section of the media the attackers were disgruntled workers from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) who had come to register their protest over the award of tickets in the province. Bickering over tickets is not uncommon, and hence, the reported scuffle at the residence of Khan cannot be compared with the terrorist attacks in Balochistan and KP. The grievances were of political nature and can be resolved at the party level. A very localised problem, it cannot threaten our way of life by any stretch of the imagination.
When we turn to the attacks on the ANP leaders the situation becomes entirely different. Who are these Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) people and whose grievances do they represent? Sheikh Mujibur Rehman represented the Bengali people. The BLA claims to be fighting on behalf of the Baloch people. Who do the TTP represent? If they claim religious credentials then already parties like the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam and Jaamat-e-Islami represent that section of society. If they claim to represent the tribal people then they should have no qualms about winning the elections and then implement whatever they want to. In terms of their spread of activities, the TTP problem is also much different. While the Afghan Taliban tend to be more nationalistic, and hence concerned merely with establishing their control in Afghanistan, Pakistani Taliban are more comrades of faith who harbour dreams of establishing a faith-based community after destroying the existing constitution-based system of the Pakistani state. This leads us to the most important question of the likely effect of their success on our daily life.
In the case of the attackers on Zehri and Khan we observe that our daily life will hardly feel any change if the attackers were successful in realising their aims. On the other hand, if the TTP is able to win the battle and seizes control we will see a very direct impact on our daily life. From the dress we wear to the music we enjoy, from religious rituals we observe to our relations with the external world, everything will change. In the Islamic emirate that the TTP wants to establish there is no concept of an individual citizen or human rights. What daily life will be like we either need to read Dhanak, a novelette by Ghulam Abbas (recently staged as Hotel Mohenjodaro by Ajoka theatre), or alternatively, social life in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule or in Swat valley during the heyday of Maulvi Fazlullah can give us some hint about the likely effect on our lives if the TTP is successful in its stated aim of establishing an Islamic emirate after demolishing the existing state of Pakistan.
When we examine various violent attacks in terms of the proposed four factors, we can clearly see that the ANP is not wrong when it claims that it is fighting the war of survival of Pakistan. I may have many issues with the level of performance of the ANP government, but when the TTP dictates to us, it becomes necessary to retort clearly and sternly. We do not take orders. We would vote for the parties that you are targeting to express our solidarity with them. This election is a defining moment in our history. And we cannot allow terrorists to terrify us into forcing their political agenda on us.
The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org