Mixed up priorities

Published: December 31, 2012

We ban YouTube, cell phones and pillion riding, but allow ostensibly banned militant organisations to thrive.

If you want to get the attention of the government, the best way of doing so is by making a video that displeases the prime minister. Almost immediately after YouTube was finally unblocked, more than three months after it was blocked for hosting an anti-Islam video, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf got wind that the movie could still be viewed on the site. He instantly had the site blocked once again, in a rare case of energy from this lethargic government. Meanwhile, at least 21 Levies personnel who had been kidnapped by the TTP in Khyber Agency were killed and the government and military had seemingly done nothing to protect or recover them. This, right now, is the state of the State; it prioritises empty moralism over concrete action seeking to mollify the most extreme among us while alienating everyone else.

The complete absence of good governance can also be seen in the way we have decided to tackle militancy. To stop terrorist attacks, we block mobile phones and ban motorcycles from plying the road, managing to inconvenience just about everyone more than we disrupt militants. Apparently, the intelligence the government receives is strong and specific enough to tell us which vehicle and type of detonator the militants are going to use but not good enough for the terrorist plot itself to be disrupted. This is a government that is unable to provide real security and so plays out the farce of security theatre instead. The state of governance today can be seen in what we ban — YouTube, cell phones and pillion riding. Meanwhile, we allow ostensibly banned militant organisations to thrive and for their literature to be widely circulated.

At the same time, our soldiers are bravely fighting the militants while receiving less than complete support from the state. Check posts should be manned by enough military personnel that they are able to take on the Taliban and not rendered helpless in raids. More broadly, the military and the government need to be fully committed to this war and not leave the men they’ve sent to fight high and dry. We need to show the same passion for fighting the Taliban as we do to censorship and appeasement.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2013.

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