Apparently the only thing we can ban effectively is internet pornography. All over Pakistan, teenage boys frantically scour the web, hoping with each new browser refresh that they will be faced with a wall of questionable thumbnails and a gallery of sad people fornicating sadly, only to be met time and time again by a tragic THIS SITE IS RESTRICTED. The effectiveness of the ban on online porn was, no doubt, enhanced by the hard work and dedication shown by a teenage boy who gave PTCL a list of over 780,000 websites that he claims to have personally checked. For a 15-year-old to have done so without being reduced to a smoldering husk is, no doubt, some kind of epic feat that defies human physiology. Unfortunately, what he has accomplished so proudly at 15, he will come to regret deeply when he is 18. History will remember him as one of the greatest villains mankind has ever known and only in his later years will he truly appreciate the damage that he has wrought. Soon, teenage boys will begin to run amok, leaving devastation in their wake. They are not equipped to deal with a world in which they have to make do with imagination alone. The effectiveness of this ban could truly cripple their minds and bodies.
Unfortunately, it’s this kind of efficiency that is lacking in the ban on extremist organisations. Maybe the government should hire that 15-year-old with the burning retinas to compile a new list, this one showing all the terrorist groups that we have failed to ban in anything resembling an effective manner. Apparently, for groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), all it took to dodge that embargo on their existence was a simple change of name. Retitled the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, they continue to operate openly, even announcing publicly that deep down they are still Sipah-e-Sahaba. They might as well have all just put on large spectacles and changed their hairstyles, given how easily the authorities were convinced of their new identity. This is the same organisation that gave birth to not just the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, but is also considered the parent of Jaish-e-Mohammed and most likely the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. That is one poisoned womb that disgorged three children who are intent on making their parents proud. Instead of sitting the SSP leadership down and discussing family planning and responsible parenthood techniques, we are simply standing by and watching as it continues to raise those children on a diet of extremism and violence.
Rehman Malik, apparently stealing a page from the PTI’s playbook, has declared his intent to consider a dialogue with banned groups before revising the current list. The PTI justifies its association with extremists as the first step in a negotiation much in the same way that America is talking to the Taliban. Because, you know, America clearly knows what it is doing in that regard and has such a wonderfully proven track record of successes in the whole war on terror. When you justify your decisions as being the same as those made by a country that is not yet done punishing the Afghans for what the Saudis did, you might need to reconsider your motivations. Rehman Malik, meanwhile, has announced that talks will happen only if these organisations close down their militant wings. This in a country where every major political party wields a militant wing of its own. Although, all the extremist groups need to do is just change the name from ‘Militant Wing’ to ‘Shiny Happy Smiley Wing.’ Apparently, it’s all you need to do to fool people here.
All of which goes to prove — that in Pakistan — it is easier to commit terrorism and get away with it than to watch some porn. At least, until the porn sites catch on and rename themselves too.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2012.