The Pakistani victims of 9/11

Published: September 10, 2011

The writer is a correspondent for The Express Tribune nadir.hassan@tribune.com.pk

After losing in the doubles’ final at last year’s US Open, Pakistani tennis player Aisamul Haq Qureshi gave one of the most sincere and eloquent speeches you’ll ever hear, especially considering it came from a sportsman. In front of a packed stadium at Flushing Meadows, New York, close to the site of the destroyed World Trade Centre, Aisam said, “Since September 11, every time I come to the States or western countries, I feel people have the wrong impression about Pakistan as a terrorist nation. There are extremists I think in every religion but, just because of them, you can’t judge the whole country as a terrorist nation.”

It’s a great shame that Aisam fell one match short from making a repeat appearance in the final, this time to be played on the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Amid the thousands of words written about Pakistan and 9/11, cumulatively providing enough paper to burn for fuel that our energy problems can be solved in a stroke, Aisam’s sanity would have been much-appreciated.

Analysis of how 9/11 made Pakistan important again and how it forced us to strike a devil’s bargain with the US and fight the Taliban is necessary and useful. But our constant need to dice and dissect should not distract us from that fact that the 9/11 effect was thrust on us, usually in an extremely violent manner.

People like Aisam — a journeyman sportsman who specialises in doubles’ tennis, a form of the game that does not garner any attention even among tennis fanatics — suddenly become the country’s spokesmen. If you were Pakistani and had an international profile, it suddenly became your duty to humbly explain that we are people too.

It is not easy carrying the scarlet letter that is our green passport, given suspicious glances wherever you travel. Most of us would retreat and try and blend in with the anonymous masses. A few resisted the temptation of staying silent. None did it better than Aisam.

At least people like Aisam got a chance to explain that they cannot be blamed for the actions of a few, non-Pakistani terrorists. Spare a thought, though, for those Pakistanis for whom the aftermath of 9/11 meant a forgotten death.

The civilians caught in a flurry of terrorist and drone attacks may not be counted among the nearly 3,000 who died on September 11, but they are as much victims of that ignoble day as those who were trapped in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and United 93. Criticising the military leadership for its sins is fair game but that should never extend to the soldiers who undertook the toughest job any army man could ever face: fighting his own countrymen. Those who lost their lives to save this country from itself are also victims of 9/11.

In the last 10 years, dozens of Pakistani journalists, some high-profile like Saleem Shahzad, others sadly anonymous, have given up their lives to report on the terrorists in our midst. For the sake of their memories, we need to keep reminding ourselves and reminding the world that while we may have terrorists among us, it does not mean that we can all be tarred by the same accusation. We have lost too many heroes since 9/11 for that to be true.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • grain2315
    Sep 11, 2011 - 1:13AM

    35000 at the last count and ever rising???

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  • Ashutosh
    Sep 11, 2011 - 1:56AM

    About 15 years back, a white Maruti Car was used in a bank robbery in Delhi. I had a white Maruti and I was stopped and checked over a 20 times in next seven days. As a citizen, I too wanted that the criminals should be caught, so I cooperated with the police.
    .
    Similarly a Pakistani should understand that almost all the act of terror in this world emanates from Pakistan. The suspicion is normal. If he/ she is not a terrorist than they should cooperate.
    .
    For a nation the security of its nationals are paramount. Any Pakistani’s protest or uncalled explanations, increases the suspicion and calls for closer scrutiny.
    .

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  • Johnny English
    Sep 11, 2011 - 5:16AM

    True people of Pakistan arevictims but the sad fact is that its military mullahnexus in Pakistan that is responsible. And no one in Pakistan is willing to believe that blaming foreign hands for the current situation.

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  • zia ur rehman
    Sep 11, 2011 - 10:36AM

    sorry to say, but u have lost ur credibility after that IK bashing article; “Imran khan: the leader the pawn”, in which u tried ur best to promote PML-N’s pathetic propaganda against IK, ie “PTI is helping zardari and is breaking our vote bank”. I would have trusted u more on that article, if it was written 5 or 6 months prior to this propaganda initiated by PML-NRecommend

  • A Reader
    Sep 11, 2011 - 11:40AM

    Yeah right … keep complaining … don’t ever take any action … keep blaming everybody else …and as time keeps going by … keep wondering why the world sees you the same as before.

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  • Roamer
    Sep 11, 2011 - 12:36PM

    While we all talk about the 9/11 tragedy and condole the deaths in US, I believe we should also condole the innocents who have died after 9/11 because of collateral damage caused by the US. Pakistan and Afghanistan have suffered the most because of 9/11 (do note none of the hijackers were Pakistanis or Afghanis) as much more innocent people have died in Pakistan and Afghanistan because of after effects of 9/11.

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  • ik
    Sep 11, 2011 - 12:43PM

    The real victim of 9/11 is Pakistan. The event killed 3000 in New York but it has claimed 30000(100 times) lives in Pakistan up todate.

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  • Syed Hussein El-Edroos
    Sep 11, 2011 - 2:44PM

    Nice of Nadir Hassan to write about the forgotten victims of the “War on Terror” in the aftermath af 9/11. Many of them would have been alive if 9/11 had not taken place.

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  • not (usually) impressed
    Sep 11, 2011 - 3:38PM

    @Ashutosh:
    “a Pakistani should understand that almost all the act of terror in this world emanates from Pakistan”
    that’s what we’re saying – stop making generalizations like that!

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  • Alsahdiq
    Sep 11, 2011 - 3:59PM

    Flushing NY, as far as I know is way way away from the banks of Hudson river in Manhattan near where WTC twin towers stood once upon a time.

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  • Sameer Qadir
    Sep 11, 2011 - 4:23PM

    I agree we need to put our house in order. I agree under the circumstances, Pakistani’s would be scrutinized more than others. I agree we have to be more tolerant. I agree terrorism is seriously taking root in Pakistan and we need to do something to curb it. I agree we need to curb corruption and nepotism. I agree we need to get the foreigners out of our border areas and stop them from crossing into areas controlled by you.. I agree three thousand people died due to acts of terrorism on 9/11 and I am really sorry for it. I agree we should give visas quicker to your people wanting to travel to our country and return half the visa fees to those applications we reject.
    But……
    do you agree to help us put our house in order by mutual discussion,not just the way you want it. Do you agree to help us curb corruption and nepotism, by not funding corrupt governments. Do you agree to leave us alone, give our people some sort of aid no strings attached and do not meddle in our internal affairs unless we ask you. Do you agree that twenty five thousand people have been killed in Pakistan due to terrorism and you too are really sorry for it. Do you agree to conduct drone operations to target those people we want you to attack in our border areas. Do you agree to stop extremists from crossing into our country from areas controlled by you. Do you agree to smile at our people after you have cleared them at your immigration eight hours later and say Have a nice Day. Do you agree we are a poor country and you should return at least half of the visa fees of those people you will be rejecting the visa applications for. Do you agree to help fight oppression where ever it is.
    Then we are in agreement that we will work together to fight terrorism and mutually help each other in matters attached with it.

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  • grain2315
    Sep 11, 2011 - 4:33PM

    @not (usually) impressed:

    you need to review history and the facts on the ground again……

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  • N
    Sep 11, 2011 - 4:40PM

    Why should generalizations not be made? Overwhelming number of our people believe 9/11 was a conspiracy; think USA (and the West) is our enemy; have sympathies for Taliban and Al Qaeda. We support a constitution that denies opportunity to all its citizens.

    But when we travel overseas we seek acceptance – the very thing we deny our minorities. Folks wake up – the world cannot be fooled by our collective duplicity anymore.

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  • Rock
    Sep 11, 2011 - 5:09PM

    @not (usually) impressed: No one in the world generalise will the thing if your all civilians start rejecting terrorism by taking concrete steps aginst it. You people even not able to identily what is terrorism? selective way will hurt your own society nothig else. Thank god when it comes to India, Indians unite against terrorism. We do not hear any —- when it comes to terrorism.

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  • nayla
    Sep 11, 2011 - 5:36PM

    very well said

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  • Irani
    Sep 11, 2011 - 9:01PM

    @Syed Hussein El-Edroos:
    I disagree. It was Pakistan which created the terrorists to suit their aims (as well as get money from Americans). Now that they are coming back to bite you, you are conveniently blaming 9/11. The blood of 30,000 is on your own (ISI, Military) hands. Wake up.

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  • A Reader
    Sep 12, 2011 - 1:49AM

    @Sameer Qadir: Why do you expect the world to help Pakistan? It is up to Pakistan to help itself get up while keeping the world from not pushing and shoving and throwing across unasked handouts. It is a competitive life … everybody has vested interests … nobody has time to help you. In a few years, the focus could very well be of this area of the world and onto maybe Iran. Pakistan then will be on a list of countries long forgotten and truly ‘left alone’ may be like Somalia or Ethiopia.

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  • pakpinoy
    Sep 12, 2011 - 9:49AM

    The civilized world was looking for a way to partner with Pakistan. There was hope against hope that faced with the realities shockingly apparent before the entire world, Pakistanis would reject extremism and terrorism and join forces to fight the enemies of mankind.

    What ensued shocked and disappointed all those who had that hope. Instead of truly joining forces, the military and establishment continued their duplicity. Average citizens held tightly to their warped views of the world — 9/11 was a hoax, Muslims couldn’t have done this, nor could they be doing any bad thing, America was the true enemy and our Muslim brothers were fighting against an unjust, evil power, etc, etc.

    Tolerant, civilized societies like those in the West are quite quick to offer compassion and understanding. It’s hard for Pakistanis to understand this as their culture and society is one the exacts revenge for even the slightest infringements on one’s honor. But anyone who has spent much time in the West, if they’re honest, realizes the tolerant nature of its citizenry.

    The bottom line is that if Pakistan as a nation and Pakistanis as a people would have unapologetically rejected terrorism in all its forms, then the world would have embraced it as a nation and received its people like brothers. However, this did NOT happen — not even close…

    So, there is absolutely no reason to expect much sympathy now. Bad choices lead to horrible consequences in this world and in this life. Don’t blame America alone for the deaths of innocents in Pakistan. The blood is on the hands of those who planned, supported and participated in the 9/11 attacks and the many before and since then.

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  • Sameer Qadir
    Sep 13, 2011 - 4:35PM

    @A Reader:
    You are right.We should do it ourselves.But we are not, are we.We should wake up, but we are not.The Somali’s may be forgotten by the world, but they certainly haven’t forgotten the world.Prime example, Somali Pirates rule the seas. Imagine a nuclear armed country like Pakistan goes for Piracy when left alone.Nuclear Armed Piracy. No I don’t think we will be forgotten so soon. And now with India opting for only civil nuclear technology from USA, and not buying their F-16′s and F-15′s, the Americans will maintain a balance in terms of nuclear assets between India and Pakistan, till the former crumbles under pressure and buys American arms.
    I certainly hope we wake up and rise to the occasion to become self-sufficient.But we have a massive population boom which is going to lead to our self destruction in the future.Imagine an uneducated lot going into this hi-tech world to compete with highly skilled educated people from other competitive countries. Terrorism would become their final path.So how within our meager resources are we going to stop this act. Self sacrifice is all very good.But who is going to do it.The rich man, no way.The poor man will not die for the cause of the rich man. So who will do it, no one, everyone. Until that happens, we will continue to be pawns in the game and walk the line we are told about.

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