More equal than others in death

Published: January 6, 2012
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets at @tazeen and blogs at

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets at @tazeen and blogs at

In the wake of the cross-border Nato attack in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Salala, the whole country was up in arms against the aggression of the allied forces. From the political parties to lawyers associations, from banned militant outfits to student organisations, from the head of the armed forces to the aunties in drawing room; everyone thought it fitting to lambast the US — especially since most people cannot really distinguish between the US and Nato — for attacking Pakistan’s sovereignty, its land and its people.

A few weeks later, 15 Frontier Constabulary personnel who were captured in Tank on December 23 were taken to Waziristan by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and killed after some time. Unlike the deaths in Salala, no one is mourning the loss of lives of these 15 men because we do not cry at the atrocities committed by our so-called ‘strategic assets’, who not only claim these deaths with impunity, but justify it as an act of revenge. We only lament, or maybe we are pushed into lamenting for those who are killed by foreigners, be it individuals (victims of Raymond Davis) or troops (victims of the Salala raid in November) to get maximum political and material leverage out of it. It’s a slur on our national integrity if soldiers die in cross-border skirmishes, but if our strategic assets — or more likely strategic liabilities — murder a group of soldiers in cold blood, it only merits a brief press release with no mention of the names of those who died.

The victims of Waziristan will also not be grieved because there were no officers and gentlemen amongst them. They were ordinary soldiers, and we do not mourn the deaths of mere soldiers who are killed in the line of duty by their compatriots.

Did any political party call for a protest against this act of barbarism? No.

Has footage of the flag-covered coffins been shown on television channels to invoke public anger and resentment against the TTP? No.

Have our religious parties offered funeral prayers for the soldiers who were kidnapped and killed by the TTP? No.

Did people hold rallies vowing to avenge the deaths of these soldiers at the hand of the Taliban? No.

Did our lawyers boycott their activities and call for action against the TTP? No. In fact, for them, it was business as usual.

Were distressed family members, wailing mothers and fathers with slumped shoulders interviewed to fan public outrage against this barbaric act? No.

Did anyone ask the TTP to pay qisas to the families of the 15 victims? No.

Were there any TV anchors frothing at the mouth, dishing out sermons dripping with moral outrage calling people to stand up against the effrontery of the TTP? No. The debate on television was about memogate and the several contempt of court notices issued by the superior judiciary to members of the PPP leadership.

Why bother, when there is no financial compensation to be had, where no effigy-burning rallies can be organised, and no foreign nation is to be blame. It is known that some animals are more equal than others in the animal farm called Pakistan, but what is now being learned is that some animals are more equal in death as well.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (49)

  • liberal
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:06AM

    I would hope that the pak chatterati could differentiate between a group that pak is obviously at war with (ttp, and thus losses expected) vs an “ally”. Ofcourse facts will be lost in self-satisfied pontificating. To use the same “logic”, Where is the call for war against the US like there is against the TTP? Polemics is easy. The hypocrisy comes from when certain individuals accept the murder by the US but cry wolf-tears for those that have fallen against the militants, just for political ranting.Recommend

  • muhammad arshad
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:17AM

    It’s only a crime when our soldiers are killed by non-muslims.our ghairatmand media doesn’t react,the anchors don’t scream,there are no interviews with the families of the shaheeds if their killers are the muslim taliban.No hue and cry,no shouts of violation of our sovereignty when the violators are muslims.


  • Mr. Honest
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:20AM

    Ms. Javed I salute you for having the courage to write an article like this and raise this. I also admire this paper for publishing this article.

    Hazrat Ali said that a system under Kufr can prevail but a system under in-justice will never prevail. We lost half of Pakistan due to in-justice a few decades back, now I think it is the turn for the other half.


  • Abbas from the US
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:23AM

    By now it is quite clear that the Establishment understands which strings to pull, passions to stroke and the media looking for viewer attention plays second fiddle in support of the Establishment. It seeks every possible opportunity to create the darkest image of the civilian democracy and the media knows the game to play. As for the activism that the Judiciary has taken up in favor of the Establishment, history will pass final judgement of how thru the history of Pakistan the Judiciary has been coopted to serve as tools of the Establishment and this one may be the most egregious failure in helping bring down civilian democracy and replacing it with controlled politicians of the Imraan Khan/ Musharraf variety that can work in tandem with the Establishment.


  • Iron hand
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:32AM

    Spot on! Will the hypocrisy ever end?


  • AZW
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:38AM


    Pakistan doesn’t mourn its own because it doesn’t know what it stands for. When a Taliban fighter proudly yells that he fights in the name of Islam, Pakistan scurries to find its own raison-d’être, Zawahiri mentioned the Pakistan Ideology six times in his speech three years ago. They rightly taunt Pakistanis that since they fight for Islam, and Pakistan was formed in the name of Islam, why shall the two fight? A vast majority of Pakistan considers itself formed in the name of Islam (incorrectly and fatally substituting Muslim nationalism for an Islamic theocracy, the former derisively called “chaste prostitution” by Maulana Abu-al-Ala Moudoudi). In any case, sixty years of confusion and 30 years of outright brainwash (engineered by a dictator desperate for a religiously-madated ligitimacy fed into our last one and a half generations) has created a Pakistan that freely mixes religion with politics, views the rest of the world an outright suspicion, and is at loss of words when its very own soldiers fight the Islamic warriors.

    The lack of Pakistani condemnation for the callous murder of its finest is a reflection of Pakistan’s inability to find her identity and therefore her inability to identify the enemy. Widespread support for Red Mosque fanatics, lawyers kissing Mumtaz Qadri, religious leader failing to offer prayers for Taseer or soldiers fighting the Taliban; these are continuation of the same inability for Pakistan to define Pakistan.

    A fine article by the way.


  • John B
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:43AM

    They are not killed by infidels, so their death is justified as part of jihad. Am I reading the minds of PAK correctly.?


  • Harry Stone
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:48AM

    This is pretty much what the rest of world sees when it comes to PAK.


  • incredible
    Jan 7, 2012 - 1:14AM

    we are hypocrites.


  • M Shoaib Akbar
    Jan 7, 2012 - 1:24AM

    I could not agree more. These men were as much an asset to the nation as those martyred at Salala. The media plays in tune with the government to get the leverage, mostly material, from powers that be. There should be equally visible reaction if not more, since we claim to have sovereignty in those areas. Kudos to the writer for pointing out the obvious hypocrisy.


  • incredible
    Jan 7, 2012 - 1:28AM

    we are hypocrites !!


  • Amjad Cheema
    Jan 7, 2012 - 1:41AM

    This is a land of pure where such question amount to be high treason.


  • Mirza
    Jan 7, 2012 - 2:00AM

    You hit it right out of the ballpark, kudos! Strategic assets are professional killers and no one especially their protectors do not mind if they “over do” once in a while. The death at the hands of NATO is not routine but a unique chance to extract benefits. Just like R. Davi’s case was decided in one morning with full payment and his flight out. There is no political or financial advantage for establishment or judiciary to pay any attention on these mass murders.


  • haji treadstone
    Jan 7, 2012 - 2:18AM

    a brave article and one that reflects my sentiments entireley.
    in my prayers i have made dua for the 15 men who were cowardly murdered and there families.
    Every day we have a new atrocity, a new injustice yet in Islamabad they argue on a dody blackberry message and a forming more provinces so that more corrupt bureacrats can be employed.

    Pakistan in self destructing from inside who needs enemies.

    God give us strength as we watch the death of a nation that failed to live up to its potential


  • Babloo
    Jan 7, 2012 - 2:40AM

    Excellent article. Thoughtful comments. I don’t have anything to add except ask if Tribune can ask Mr Kayani or Mr Pasha if they would like to comment this barbaric , cold blooded murders.


  • Javed
    Jan 7, 2012 - 2:43AM

    @AZW: Excellent. Very well presented.


  • Javed
    Jan 7, 2012 - 2:46AM

    When Nato kills our soldiers we are ghariatmand.
    When Taliban kill our soldiers we are baigharat
    Both these times we remain hypocritical to ourselves and our nation.


  • R.Khan
    Jan 7, 2012 - 3:45AM

    Excellent Article!


  • Ali Wazir
    Jan 7, 2012 - 4:32AM

    I remember very clearly that a few weeks before the attack on PNS mehran 30 Paramilitary men were shot by Taliban in Dir, during a cross border raid. At the same time 80 FC recruits died in a suicide attack. Yet only the death of one Naval officer occupied headlines. The reason is simple, the army does not value FC,Border, Ranger the same as commissioned officers, nor does our “Liberal” minded English media.
    Now post Salala all of a sudden these FC boys who have butchered and been butchered in this senseless war for 19 years have suddenly become a cause of great distress. A chance to score browny points with our imperial overlords cant be missed.
    By the way the attackers came from Afghanistan a teriotory occupied by NATO for which they are responsible. They dont seem to be in a hurry to do anything about Taliban attacking Pakistan , Curious No?


  • Rizwan Gondal
    Jan 7, 2012 - 4:45AM

    I am performing duty in the same frontier constabulary of which these 15 personnel embraced shahadat. I appreciate this effort on the part of the author that she rightly pointed out that we are very selective while condemning some acts and castigating their perpetrators. No one in media, nor our so called empathetic leaders expressed anything to sympathise with the berieved families of these martyrs; let alone rebuking those who, without any compunction, claim responsibility for this barbaric act. And the way those dead bodies were mutilated pronounce the death of any scruples whatever existing on the part of these TTP people. What Martin Luther King remarked during his struggle for civil rights for Blacks in 1960s that ‘in the end it is not the words of enemies but the silence of friends that he would remember’, stands valid in the wake of this gory tale of killing of sons of the soil. This silence on the part of media gurus, political pundits, self styled leaders, and ever vibrant ‘civil society’ speaks volumes of our ‘agenda-pursuing’ lives. we speak only when we are confident that it pays off in popularity, and political mileage..otherwise we profess that ‘Silence is Golden.’


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 7, 2012 - 6:21AM

    @Amjad Cheema:
    Would you please explain why that since “This is a land of pure where such question amount to be high treason”. I mean really, if you are going to make such statements please pick out a few of the Authors comments and explain to all of us why they are “Treasonous”! The issues and examples the Author uses are all visible to the world at large, and these examples of HYPOCRACY make me want to ask you “PURE WHAT”!


  • sam
    Jan 7, 2012 - 7:14AM

    Excellant and brave article. Agree with your analysis.


  • Jan 7, 2012 - 9:41AM

    “Has footage of the flag-covered coffins been shown on television channels to invoke public anger and resentment against the TTP? No.
    Have our religious parties offered funeral prayers for the soldiers who were kidnapped and killed by the TTP? No.
    Did people hold rallies vowing to avenge the deaths of these soldiers at the hand of the Taliban? No.
    Did our lawyers boycott their activities and call for action against the TTP? No.”

    Bang on the point..


  • manaoor
    Jan 7, 2012 - 11:37AM

    Nice piece Tazeen .. congrats :)


  • qaseem Khan
    Jan 7, 2012 - 11:43AM

    Let us suppose the whole country erupts in anger against the taliban, their support dwindles, their ranks shrink, and to avoid public indignation, our armed forces are forced to take action against the taliban! Can we then avoid the following Corollaries?
    1) loss of leverage in Afghanistan and
    2) resurgence of pashtun nationalism in pakistan!
    3) loss of mullah’s street and gun power, which in turn would dent army’s dominance over politics in Pakistan!

    We have been unable to plant mullahs and talibs amongst the baloch and that’s why we have resistance from them today! had there been baloch talibs, we would now be talking about leverage in Iran a la Afghanistan! we must realize that we are up against existential threats and must therefore stop army and taliban bashing!


  • Rashid
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:34PM

    Why Miss Tanzeen Is comparing apples with bananas? We are at war with Taliban. Every person killed by them, we retaliate and kills hundred of them. That’s why we dont mourn because our hands are not tied and are not desperate while taking revenge

    Now compare it with America, who is a friend and ally, who accuses us most of the time even after we lost 6000 soldiers in this War of terror and when they attack us our hands are tied, we can not retaliate back., we can not even touch them and after killing, we still share the blame of being killed of our own mistake. What a shame. People should ponder about this too after reading this article.


  • Syed Hussein El-Edroos
    Jan 7, 2012 - 12:51PM

    For those who have lost their family members, it doesn’t matter if their killers were American or fellow Muslims.


  • Abdullah
    Jan 7, 2012 - 1:04PM

    Good show ,friends just tell me whose know that this act is actually done by so called Taliban every crime we put it into their account simply we be leave if we came to know that responsibility of any such crime accepted by Taliban.

    Is their any proof for criticizing word Taliban like we all criticizing Terrorism tell me meanings of this word after 9/11 even General Assembly of United nation can not able to give comprehensive and acceptable meanings(definition) to all for this word Terrorism but all which is carried out on the name of this word in the world till to date is justifiable
    All this is fraud and what is reality the reality is this behind all such crimes some powers are actually involved and playing all this type of dramas.
    No one including me are in favor of such criminal acts but we should know who is actually responsible for such crimes.and agreed these personals from frontier Constablery should given same response as Salal incident


  • Parvez
    Jan 7, 2012 - 2:44PM

    Excellent write up. Liked they way you hammered home your point.
    If by chance the concerned people do read this. I doubt it would make a difference as you really can not shame the shameless.


  • Ali Raza
    Jan 7, 2012 - 2:50PM

    Tazeen, very well done, great article, I salute you for speaking the truth, we need more of you in the field of journalism and not hypocrite journalists.
    I was shocked to read comments of Mr.Qaseem khan. My friend grow up please and forget the lessons that your British masters taught you and follow teachings of islam. If our leaders implement the form of Government that our prophet pbuh and the khulfai rashedeen showed us then there would be no need for Taliban or need for army to deal with internal insurgency. Have u forgotten what TTP did in swat? BAlochistan is a problem because we continued to follow British policy in balochistan of buying the sardars and closing eyes to their atrocities . If we give balochistan it rights duly and do development there then there is no reason for them to start insurgency. In conclusion ur recipie of using TTP to control insurgency is flawed


  • Jan 7, 2012 - 4:45PM

    how ridiculous is this conversation?! how is american aggression and taliban retaliation is EQUAL?! one,the former, is killing after stretagically planned new world order, and military expansion in this region under the guise of so called democracy and the other is a retaliatory force in the name of religion, comprised of social injustice!! a ton of unsophisticated, isolated, uneducated and bayrozgaar jangli tribals who know nothing by instincts other than to fight?!!!

    what a ridiculous argument almost in favour of an outside aggression in the name of liberalism!! why not bring in all the poor cancer, aids, tb patients, the beggers, the children on the streets and the prostitutes killed every day who are not cried for ALSO, in the name of social injustice?!!

    every life in pakistan whether cried for or not, IS IMPORTANT!


  • x
    Jan 7, 2012 - 5:09PM

    are all the people commenting blind and deaf?
    we are fighting the taliban whereas USA(and NATO fighting at its behest
    ) is supposed to be our ally.
    we kill the ttp people in collusion with our ally USA , alongside NATO soldiers while ttp kills ours in retaliation. whereas as allies, we help USA, spending money, sacrificing our soldiers, crushing out national sovereignty and self respect.
    please understand the difference.
    these so called liberals who eagerly join the ranks to support everything american need to get their facts right.


  • observer
    Jan 7, 2012 - 5:37PM


    And is there ‘any proof’ of ISAF having killed Pakistanis, other than their admission to the fact. So why is the admission by ISAF ‘proof’ and admission by TTP not ‘proof’?

    Do wake up before it is too late.


  • Jat
    Jan 7, 2012 - 5:54PM

    Superbly written !! Pakistani generals, so-called leaders, and media anchors are the worst hypocrites anywhere in the world. I am sure some of you remember the u-tube video of an earlier massacre of border police; being lined up and shot. It was horrific. Can you even imagine the terror being experienced by those lined up ? And the videos where your soldiers are beheaded for the whole world to see?

    Congratulations Pakistanis ! Feel proud !! Those committing these heinous crimes are your elite strategic assets. This is what is in store for your future generations. But not a tiny peep of protest from the general populace. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Just remember, some day soon it might well be your friend or relative who is executed in this fashion by your own asse(t)s.

    It is over 60 years now, the ‘sovereign and ghairatmand’ 15 crore people have willingly allowed themselves to be enslaved, humiliated and butchered. Again I say, ‘you all should be ashamed of yourself’.


  • Jan 7, 2012 - 5:57PM

    Excellent. Thought provoking. Expose our hypocrisy. Jolt our collective conscious.


  • Warraich
    Jan 7, 2012 - 6:28PM

    ET blogs and opinion pieces are nowadays thriving on the sole motto, “even bad publicity is publicity”. or is it ET because of its affiliation with NY times want to bash Pakis for creating an image that they only have the pseudo intelligensia with them.. rest “animals of this animal farm” dont understand a thing…Recommend

  • Musthaq Ahmed
    Jan 7, 2012 - 7:01PM

    @Ali Wazir:
    Sir, You got the gist very well. FC men are the fodder to the guns. Their training and weaponry is inferior. They are the sons of the poor folk playfully put in the line of fire.


  • SB
    Jan 7, 2012 - 7:27PM

    You are on the dot Ms Tazeen. The media is terrible and totally anti Pakistan. In trying to pander to the demands of these terrorists some channels even call them militants of extremists instead of super terrorists only to dilute their crimes against Pakistan and humanity.

    Any suggestion of talking to these killers is treason. Their political spokesmen of the terrorists always harp on the demand. Imran Khan is singing their tune too. I see no hope of any reasonable thinking evolving in Pakistan seeing the likes of Hamid Mir having a sway.

    They have killed thousands of soldiers, civilians and blasted about 4,000 schools that had taken 300 years to build. We have to be most serious if at all we want to be counted as a civilised and a well governed state.


  • Cautious
    Jan 7, 2012 - 8:26PM

    It’s how a xenophobic culture works — won’t be surprised to find out that some in Pakistan end up believing that the USA/Israel/boogieman was ultimately behind these attacks. As far as the border incident – no one thought that an investigation was warranted – no one asked how your leadership determined the attack was premeditated – it’s a collective xenophobic response focused on blaming the outsider — heavy emphasis on emotion and defies all logic thinking.


  • observer
    Jan 7, 2012 - 8:39PM


    are all the people commenting blind and deaf?

    No, and they also don’t have their heads buried deep in the sand.

    They do remember All Party Conference calling for peace with ‘our boys’ aka TTP.

    And they also recall the announcement by the powers that be asking us to be ready about ‘big surprises’ in talks with TTP.

    And they also remember TTP swearing by Mullah Omar of the ‘good Taliban’.

    So pull your head out of the sand and look at the danger closely. It does not spell ‘lberaloon’ it spells ‘TTP’.


  • You Said It
    Jan 7, 2012 - 10:45PM

    In Salala those killed were Pakistan Army regulars. In this incident, the dead are Paramilitary personel. There is a hierarchy in Pakistan — Army on top, followed by Air Force and then Navy. Paramilitary forces like Rangers, Frontier Corps and Frontier Constabulary are poorly trained. They are recruited primarily from KP, FATA and Balochistan and don’t receive the same privileges like prime plots of land, and are used for mopping up operations. Unfortunately, the toll in their lives is expected in such operations, so there is no surprise or public mourning.


  • khan
    Jan 8, 2012 - 1:35AM

    in salala i think who were killed were punjabi and in wazirsistan who were killed were pashtuns


  • Jan 8, 2012 - 1:55AM

    when we will get writers like her to write in urdu newspapers?


  • AZW
    Jan 8, 2012 - 6:46AM

    This conversation has invariably brought out the section in the Pakistani population that is sympathetic to the Taliban. This section believes that since the Taliban are a rag-tag group of freedom fighters fighting either against imperialism, or for the glory of Islam (or both), there is no moral equivalence between them and the evil United States of America.

    A quick recap of the Taliban ideology will be a good place to start.

    First, the Taliban (good or bad, depending on how we classify them, no matter what it means to begin with) stand for a Pakistan that is governed by an utter rule of God, as translated by the Taliban and their religious clergy. That they blow up girl schools, forcibly desegregate the two sexes, and harbor an incessant desire to wage war against the infidels (after conquering the semi-infidels like the clueless Pakistanis).

    Second, the same Taliban (with whom Pakistan was eagerly making peace pacts beginning in 2003 all the way to 2008), began by establishing the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan. This happened to be a completely autonomous country within the borders of Pakistan. Let’s not quibble about the fact that not a peep of violation-of-sovereignty complaint was lodged ever against this new Emirate. Second, the same Taliban went on to murder 1500 of traditional Pakhtun Maliks who (compared to ever complacent Pakistanis) sensed the mortal danger posed by this rag-tag group of nihilistic freedom fighters.

    Pakistan’s response: An ordinary Pakistani worried about hegemonic USA chose to skip this unpleasant catastrophe in the making. After all they were the Taliban.

    The same Taliban (hitherto good, but disconcertingly becoming not-so-good) went on to invade other areas and expand their tiny Emirate. And then Pakistanis started scratching their heads. After all, until 2006, the same group was viewed favorably by every 2 in 3 Pakistanis. Not until Swat and Buner, where the idea of an Islamic justice and governance was in full display, Pakistan woke up to the nightmare that is had previously nourished and subsequently overlooked.

    Yes we are at war with the Taliban. And yes, we turned an eye to them as our strategic assets previously. And yes we will find excuses when the same Taliban will kill 30,000 of our civilians and thousands of troops. And yes we will drag the United States of America in when the same Taliban kill our captive soldiers in cold blood and desecrated their bodies the worst possible way imaginable.

    We will do that because we will never know why we support this chaos as our strategic asset. We will do that because we’ll raise the specter of the evil United States of America in our every misfortune. We will do that because we do not understand the toxicity of a religiously inspired militia. We will do that because we do not understand that our mixed philosophy of religion in the matters of the state and religious allies in the matter of external policy is a recipe for disaster.

    We will do that because Pakistan has failed to define itself well; where the rights of its citizens, irrespective of their caste and creed, come after the national security concerns. These concerns include ideas of strategic depth, friendly (if undemocratic and widely detested) neighbouring governments.

    But at the end, a quiet salute to those brave men, and the ones before them, who gave up their lives fighting for a country that still is unsure about exactly what these men were fighting for.


    Jan 8, 2012 - 3:31PM

    welll analysised artical, which we can’t aspect from most of the columnist ant print media. this artical recalled me novel animal farm. of course, in pakistan all are equal but some are more equal who are those, surely military and establishment.


  • Cynical
    Jan 9, 2012 - 1:01AM

    Hats off! Do not give up.We need people like you to wake us up from our slumber.
    Things will improve in time.Like good times, bad times do not last forever.


  • You Said It
    Jan 9, 2012 - 1:55AM

    The regular army is recruited primarily from Punjab. The paramilitary Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary are recruited from the Pashtuns of FATA, KP and Balochistan. The mainstream Pakistani media is Punjabi. So there is no suprise that the deaths of the army regulars in Salala provoked much greater outrage. the paramilitary Pashtun and Baloch deaths are taken for granted. There is a huge difference in training and equipment. Just look at the photos of the army v/s these paramilitary forces – you’ll often find soldiers of these paramilitary forces wearing chappals and sandals.


  • Enam
    Jan 13, 2012 - 3:45PM

    @ Tazeen

    What your rant does not portray is that the TTP is an enemy and Nato is an ally. And you don’t go and ask for mercy from enemies. It’s a bloody war, men die in wars. But allies are not supposed to attack you for hours. That’s probably the difference, but what does it matter to a Pentagon-loving creepy liberal like you.


  • SB
    Jan 13, 2012 - 4:45PM

    This is so well put. It should appear as a full fledged article on its own. He has said as it is. I can only add we should have zero tolerance to lawlessness and corruption while we have 100 % tolerance to religious differences.


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