Bad Drones, Good Taliban

This was originally published as my weekly column BAAGHI in Daily Times on May 1, 2011

Last week was all taken up by the anti-drone sit-in initiated by Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), joined by Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Marvi Memon of Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q). In a declaration passed on the second day of the sit-in, Imran Khan expressed his angst over the drone attacks and termed them against Pakistan’s sovereignty. He asked the government to implement the joint resolution of parliament against drones and gave a deadline of one month to do the needful to stop drones, otherwise he will “forcibly stop the NATO supplies by blocking the routes throughout Pakistan”.

Something intrigues me in this entire emotionalism. One, since when did Imran Khan start respecting parliament that he has frequently alleged of being a bunch of robbers and ‘corrupt’ politicians? Two, how democratic is it to give a government (elected one) a deadline without having a single vote and while talking to a rally of 5,000 and a host of cameras?

Imran Khan goes on to praise Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry by calling him “the last hope” and appealed to him to hear PTI’s petition against drone attacks and thus save the country. In one breath you are using the elected parliament and then negating its supremacy in favour of an unelected individual (he addresses the individual, not the Supreme Court). Next brilliant thing that Khan does is invite sitting MNAs from two parties (PML-N and PML-Q) to join his party. How democratic and legal is it to openly ask politicians to defect who were elected from the platform of different parties? In emotions, Khan ends up doing exactly what he loves preaching against. When Nawaz Sharif welcomed some defectors of PML-Q, our legendary Khan bullied him on media for doing so. His jibes on Altaf Husain and former dictator Pervez Musharraf are open and part of history, so are his latest meetings with both of them.

In a recent TV talk show on a private channel, Imran Khan confessed that he had met Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the premier spy agency, which is being suspected to have instigated his latest pricks of conscience regarding drone attacks. He can choose to build on public sentiment and craft his constituency in young apolitical Pakistan, but he surely needs to think beyond his nose and short-term interest if he has a fragment of sincerity with the long-term interests of this country. He, along with all the ambitious politicians who suddenly found a rallying point to grab political relevance need to reflect on the possible hazards of exploiting rhetoric instead of rationality. To say that the war against terrorism is not ours but ‘theirs’ is the height of being cruelly selfish and opportunist, if not delusional.

The media-orchestrated national narrative of ‘not our war’ largely comes from our selective amnesia that seldom lets us go back to the roots of our pathology. The severe economic crunch of the 1970s in the wake of the dismemberment of Pakistan brought us to the brink of economic collapse in 1979. Those who remember the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) would also remember Agha Hasan Abedi and his role in financing terrorism. With BCCI’s life support to Pakistan’s economy, it had become clear that a foreign injection to the country’s economy would be needed for a long time to come.

Come 1980 and Zia’s government got exactly what they were looking for — the injection of foreign money using the syringe of Islam. This syringe made them closer to Saudi Arabia and the US — the former working on a pan-Islamic (read pan-Wahabi/Salafi) agenda while the latter pursuing expansionist hegemonic interests in the region. That proved a perfect catalytic mixture for the domestic ambitions of Zia for the consolidation and prolongation of his power.

We used ‘them’ in securing petrodollars when ‘they’ were allied with the House of Saud in financing the mujahideen carefully chosen by none other than our very own ISI. We managed the battlefield in Afghanistan for ‘them’. We sent our young boys as mujahideen to fight the ‘enemy’ and never asked ‘whose enemy?’ We never bothered when terrorists were being trained in training camps on our land. Nor did we ever worry about active recruitment of Arab fundamentalists along with our own youth, to fight the war without asking ‘whose war?’

After winning a war completely owned by us, we looked around only to find ourselves alone, wandering around for a hand that would still dole out dollars. The ‘syringe’ we had made so generous use of was consistently supplied with an ideological injection throughout the 1990s. We suffered loss of lives, money and credibility in pursuing ‘strategic depth’, the path chosen by the usurpers of power who had torn apart the constitution of the country — the very basis of our republic. Our ‘programmed’ will never ask any questions.

Imran Khan and his supporters seem to have a memory that does not go beyond 2004 — the date where they think terrorism started in Pakistan when we allowed drone attacks after choosing to fight ‘their war’. One wonders what has been happening since 1988 when Allama Husseini, the leader of Tehrike-e-Jafriya Pakistan (TJP) was killed. We seem to have completely forgotten the terrorist activities against the people and the state of Pakistan by those trained by our own security paraphernalia. These trained terrorist outfits were prepared for ‘our war’ (really?) in Afghanistan with resources siphoned off for another war of ours in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The religious and sectarian monster created by our own virtuous selves was now hounding us. Getting stewed in our own juice, we faced terrorism throughout 1990s when we were creating and strengthening what the world called the Taliban. If not terrorism, what exactly was the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in 1996? Bomb blasts in the Lahore Sessions Court in 1996, mass killing in a Multan Mosque 1996, assassination of four Americans in Karachi in 1997, Karachi and Hyderabad bomb blasts in January and February 2000, March blast in Torkham, July blast in a train in Hyderabad, September blast in Islamabad the same year, December blast in Orangi Town Karachi and assassination of Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider’s brother in 2001 to cite but a few. Are these the acts of joyous playfulness or terrorism?

When the creators of Frankenstein were made to surgically remove it, they started crying out loud. My question to Khan is, if the war against terrorism is not ‘ours’, whose is the war for terrorism, of terrorism and by terrorism? Have we started owning terrorism so much so that fighting against it has become ‘their’, not ‘our’ war? The fact of the matter is, someone has very successfully transformed us into zombies. Programmed for our own destruction, we have become androids who would only ask questions when made to do it.

While still gulping the dollars, our syringe-administrators still want us to become fodder for their own follies and ambitions. Many questions can be asked from those responsible for our security. So many terrorist incidents in the country prove one thing quite amply: our intelligence apparatus is but a failure, our forces cannot avert a bunch of ‘misdirected’ tribesmen (as Khan puts it), our state allows free flow of explosive material and freedom of transportation to the terrorists.

Let us also ask from our free judiciary why none of those indicted for terrorist activities could ever be convicted so far? And let us imprint in our minds that terrorists cannot be our friends and are anything but innocent. If they are killing our people, fighting our army, bombing our bazaars and mosques, they need to be fought against. This is certainly ‘our war’.

Postscript: None of the politicians rallying against drone attacks could come up with a public condemnation of the recent blasts on Navy buses in Karachi in which several died and dozens were injured.