I am seriously upset with Faisal Shahzad. His amateurish attempts at terrorism are ruining Pakistan’s image. It wasn’t easy building a reputation as the top exporter of worldclass terrorists. The Middle East had that market cornered for most of the latter half of the last century (with the Venezuelans making a respectable bid for the title in the 70s with Carlos the Jackal). For a very long time, it seemed like the Arabs were the Apple computers of terrorism. They exported both quantity and quality.
When James Cameron finally recognised their efforts by casting generic Arabs as trouble-makers in True Lies, the rest of the world thought the game was over. The gold medal had gone to the Middle East. Then, like Usain Bolt breaking his own record, the Arab world produced Osama Bin Laden. He became an overnight sensation. Soon teens with terrorist aspirations had his posters up on their walls and his audio and video releases topped the charts. The sinister Saudi combined charisma with wealth, CIA training with Afghan tenacity. He turned the whole terrorism industry upside down, transforming it from a bloated bureaucracy rife with nepotism into a 21st century open source meritocracy.
That’s when we Pakistani’s made a legitimate grab for top slot. Aimal Kansi had made a good first impression on the judging committee, combining ingenuity and initiative as far back as 1993. Unfortunately for him, there was no follow up act.
Not this time though. Our terrorists worked hard. They took their jobs seriously and never complained. Long hours, terrible working conditions, constant travel, drone attacks and a Pakistani government that treated them with all the consistency of a schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder. Yet they persevered. Now, in 2010, we could finally say we were the envy of terrorists everywhere. With training institutes that churn out graduates who always make their instructors explode with pride, Celebrity terrorists who can return from the dead and a disregard for civilians that would make American Presidents envious, we had finally arrived. In 2010, if you wanted to be respected as a terrorist, you had better be from Pakistan. Just look at the number of international students our terrorist training institutes receive. Their admissions department must be flooded with applications. Whole teams of frustrated senior suicide-bombers spending hours pouring over personal statements. The Pakistani textile industry may be declining in terms of exports, our IT services may be crippled because of PayPal’s refusal to acknowledge our existence, but dammit, we did terrorism right!
That is, until Faisal bloody Shahzad. You have to be a truly terrible terrorist when the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan refuses to acknowledge you. This is an organisation that is on the verge of claiming responsibility for the Hindenberg disaster and the Apollo 13 problems. They have, of course, since backtracked and claimed to have trained Faisal but even they don’t sound like they believe themselves. It’s more a case of trying to buy some brand presence on a new celebrity. Faisal, for his part, could not have done more damage to the terrorism industry if he visited Mullah Omar, Hakeemullah Mehsud and Osama bin Laden while wearing a tracking device that was pinging his GPRS coordinates to a drone flying directly overhead. His claims of having attended bomb-making classes in South Waziristan are blatantly a case of lying on one’s resume. It’s safe to say, the first lesson taught on the first day of classes in North Waziristan, the Harvard of bomb-making, is “Don’t lock the keys to your getaway car inside the car that’s supposed to blow up.”
Too many people blew themselves up in too many creative ways for this buffoon to so callously ruin it all. We can’t afford to be known as the country that put the ‘error’ in ‘terrorism.’
Published in the Express Tribune, May 13th, 2010.