Two days after Malala Yousufzai was attacked by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Imran Khan went to the hospital in which she was being treated to show his concern regarding her condition. And yet, when asked a day earlier why he didn’t directly condemn the TTP, Mr Khan had responded as follows:
‘We have local affiliates and supporters. Sure I can give big statements against the Taliban but that would make them [supporters] Taliban targets.”
Shame on you, Mr Khan.
Since you have chosen to present yourself as a potential leader of this country, let me make something clear to you: leaders can’t be cowards. And for you to make that statement while also purporting to sympathise with a girl injured precisely because she stood up for principles that you don’t have the courage to defend is not just cowardice but hypocrisy of the highest order.
Let me break down my last statement. Malala Yousufzai was attacked by the TTP because she stood up for things like the right of girls to a fair education. You have condemned that attack. That means you think Malala was right and her attackers were wrong. At the same time, you refuse to display the same bravery as Malala by openly condemning her attackers.
What does it say about you, Mr Khan, that a 14-year-old girl has more guts than you do? Had she been awake, what would you have said to her? Would you have told her not to be so stupid next time? Would you have told her to just accept the TTP’s belief that women are inferior? Would you have told her that Pakistan needs more cowards, not people like her?
Shame on you, Mr Khan.
Since Mr Khan dropped his clanger, the sentient part of the PTI has attempted to cloak his cowardice with a lot of doubletalk about drones, the war in Afghanistan and the root causes of evil. None of that suffices to excuse Mr Khan’s cowardice.
Let’s begin with drones. So far as I understand it, his argument is that the root cause of the evil is the US war in Afghanistan and that militants like the TTP are driven into acts of hatred by the violence unleashed by the US and now perpetuated through drone attacks.
This is bullshit of a high order.
The fundamental fact that Mr Khan and his cohorts either fail or deliberately refuse to appreciate is that the TTP and the Afghan Talibs are two very different groups.
The Afghan Talibs consist of groups indigenous to Afghanistan whose primary aim is to overthrow the US’s supported government of Afghanistan and to take over power in Afghanistan. Afghan Talibs have a beef with the state of Pakistan only to the extent that the state of Pakistan helps the US in fighting those Talibs. Many of the leaders of the Afghan Talibs have taken up residence in Fata and Balochistan, just across the Pak-Afghan border. It is these leaders in Fata who have been targeted by the US through drone attacks. If the US was to leave Afghanistan tomorrow and if the Afghan Talibs were to retake power in Afghanistan, the Afghan Talibs would have no fundamental dispute with Pakistan.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan consists of groups indigenous to Pakistan whose primary aim is to overthrow the elected government of Pakistan and to take over power in Pakistan. The TTP does not accept the legitimacy of the Pakistani state. The TTP attacks the citizens of Pakistan through suicide bombs and kills Pakistani soldiers. Even if the US leaves Afghanistan tomorrow and even if the Afghan Talibs take over Kabul, the TTP will continue to fight in Pakistan, continue to kill Pakistani soldiers and continue to attack people like Malala Yousufzai. Conflating the TTP with the Afghan Talibs into one giant amorphous mass is not just stupid, it’s criminally stupid. It is at the same order of analysis as “two legs good, four legs bad.”
The distinction between the two groups is in fact made more evident by drone attacks. The state of Pakistan does not have drones and therefore does not use drones to fight the TTP. The US does have drones and it does use them to attack the Afghan Talibs but with a few very limited exceptions such as Baitullah Mehsud, there have been no drone attacks against the TTP. Trying to justify the TTP’s actions with reference to drones is therefore idiotic. One may as well justify the TTP with reference to poverty in Swaziland or Pakistan’s failure to win a World Cup match against India.
Please note that distinguishing between the TTP and the Afghan Talibs is not the same as saying that drone attacks are justified: that is an entirely different debate. It probably does not behove the sovereign state of Pakistan to meekly accept the invasion of its airspace by the US. But even if Pakistan should be aggressively acting against drones, that has nothing to do with the challenge to Pakistan’s sovereignty by the TTP. And if you, Mr Khan, cannot understand that logic, then you are unfit to lead this country.
Let me make another thing clear: Mr Khan says that it is a tragedy for Pakistan to be bombing its own people. Actually, no.
States use violence against their own citizens their whole time. A citizen who steals is jailed for theft. A citizen who kills another person is executed for murder. And citizens who take up arms against their own country are guilty of treason and thereby liable to be shot.
The same goes for the “root cause” argument. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what inspires or motivates the TTP. I know that the TTP doesn’t accept the legitimacy of my country or my elected government. I know that they kill my fellow citizens. I know that they kill the soldiers who fight for my security. I don’t need to know the “root cause” of the TTP’s beliefs any more than I need to know about the childhood traumas of a psychopath threatening my family.
Pakistan doesn’t need cowards, Mr Khan. Shame on you for adding to their number.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2012.