View Full Version : Whoever Did This By Asad Rahim Khan - 27th January 2016

27th January 2016, 11:03 AM
Even before Charsadda was over, the theories flew fast.

Whoever did this wants to throw a spanner in CPEC. Whoever did this wants to create sympathy for the Awami National Party. Whoever did this, they can’t be Muslim. Whoever did this, it’s probably RAW.

But here’s what we know:

A pack of animals scaled the wall in fog. They attacked a university named after Bacha Khan, on Bacha Khan’s death anniversary.

Multiple witnesses report them shouting Allah-ho-Akbar. Multiple news agencies reported that Umar Mansoor, the man that massacred over 130 kids in Peshawar, claimed responsibility.

That much is fact.

Yet the press spent time on everything but the obvious. Not that the pre-analysis ‘Hot Takes’ were any better. While criticism of the Saudi Kingdom must be crushed in every nook and cranny, do the relevant authorities concern themselves with our press reporting students’ locations — while the attack was happening?

To top it off after it was over, analysts complained our liberals refused to believe India’s behind the TTP: a media package to end all media packages.

For argument’s sake, let’s say all liberals believe that the militants are flush with Delhi rupees. It doesn’t change the fact of the TTP itself: these people are Pakistani. They fight against Pakistan. They actively seek to murder Pakistani children. And no amount of foreign support can sustain a mindset that takes root in Pakistani soil.

Is Indian support possible? Sure. Is it integral to the TTP? No.

No doubt a tough conclusion to draw: after all, it’s comforting to think anything but — that these are alien fighters with pagan tattoos, backed by shadowy agencies playing Great Games beyond our wildest imaginations.

But to think Pakistani is to think human being. And human beings, irrational human beings even, do not storm into schools. They do not set girls on fire. They do not shoot boys in the head.

But they do, and we should know this by now. Their cause has a history, and it is local. Adored as a preacher of non-violence, dismissed as a Congress ally, Bacha Khan’s legacy was up for grabs last week in Charsadda.

And even beyond the history, this violence was calculated. In a video claiming responsibility, such places were called “nurseries”, and that “schools, colleges and universities across Pakistan … are the foundations that produce apostates”.

So let’s be clear: this monster is of us. Because here we are in Charsadda, a year and a few miles from Peshawar. Professor Syed Hamid Hussain has joined the ranks of our Aitzaz Hasans and Bilal Omers: shaheeds that fell far from the battle lines, that defended their university, their school, and their mosque, respectively, out of breathtaking bravery — not some wider narrative of martial sacrifice. We must honour them every day.

But we must refuse to allow more of our finest to lay down their lives like this.

Soon after Shikarpur, itself soon after Peshawar (in this land, one horror segues into the next), it was written in this same column a year ago: “This time, we had to go after all of them … Uighur militants menacing Xinjiang. IMU thugs running rampage in Waziristan. Jundullah tunneling into Iran. Mumbai’s unconvicted, unpunished attackers coming in and out of our courts. Two-way terror in Afghanistan … And those are just the multinationals. For local concerns, we have sectarian charities in southern Punjab. We have an ISIS fan club in Islamabad. We have both sectarian and ethnic cleansers in Quetta. We have a bonanza of armed wings in Karachi.”

It would be a mistake to think, a year later, that the state hasn’t made progress on these fronts. But it would be as big a mistake to think nearly enough has been done.

During the Iraq war, the US military took to using ‘most wanted’ playing cards for Saddam’s men — the Ace of Spades was Saddam himself, Uday the Ace of Hearts, future ISIS underboss Izzat al-Douri the King of Clubs, and so it went in order of priority.

Pakistan, too, hacks away only per priority, the high numbers. But we must understand there’s no distinction to be had; sooner than later, the fours and fives will graduate to kings and queens. That there is no such thing as a good militant — there are bad militants and worse militants, worse because they haven’t turned malignant yet.

And as Mr Babar Sattar put it, “The Taliban of the ’90s weren’t anti-Pakistan but the TTP is. The TTP might be breaking up but its sub-groups are breathing life into Af-Pak Isis. Do we not understand that so long as radical ideologies are allowed to be nurtured they will keep producing foot soldiers who will keep gravitating towards the new terror sheriff in town, be it Al-Qaeda, the TTP or Isis?”

The armed forces have been through fire and back, draining the swamp in North Waziristan. But we need a civilian project that cuts the cancer out — through cleaner curricula and gentler madrassas. We need a military doctrine against fiends of all stripe. And we need action against the thugs not hiding across the Durand — that are in plain sight.

Centuries from now, as with the rise of ISIS, or the orange growth that sits atop Donald Trump’s head, this will have become one of the Great Questions of Our Time: why wouldn’t Pakistan put Abdul Aziz away? To what purpose?

Surely, there were rational voices pleading otherwise. Senator Farhatullah Babar’s role must be praised here — his party’s new president has all but lost his grip, but Mr Babar has consistently fought for what’s right: against torture in our prisons, against the CII’s savage take on child marriage, against Abdul Aziz roaming free. May we heed him yet.

But to end on the elephant in the room: there are also demons a country away, taunting us beyond borders. The killers of our children continue hiding in Nangarhar and Kunar. But while the press has cried long and hard how Afghanistan is part of the problem, we must realise it can only be part of the solution. Ashraf Ghani is not Hamid Karzai.

Taking office, the president staked everything on a reset with Pakistan, and it’s still not too late. It is only by embracing Mr Ghani that the two sides may pincer-grip terror between both borders.

Otherwise, we can look forward to the next ‘Whoever Did This’. Even as we know in our heart of hearts, whoever did this is us.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2016.