The politics of living under terrorism

Published: January 28, 2012
The writer is Director at the South Asian Media School in Lahore

The writer is Director at the South Asian Media School in Lahore

Fear guides Pakistan. And this fear emanates from the absence of law and order. In other words, terrorism. Law and order can fluctuate in most Third World states and still not render them dysfunctional. When we say law and order in Pakistan, we mean terrorism coming from al Qaeda, the Taliban and non-state actors.

Who will correct this condition of living in fear? The politicians who run the democratic system through elected governments? Who can be in the field for elections? The party that is safe from the terrorists? Today, all parties will have to push some of the right buttons to qualify in the eyes of the terrorists. The condition is irreducible: you have to be anti-American and pro-Taliban.

No politician can avoid being anti-American without being killed. The PPP is heavily on board with our army to be on the safe side. The army itself is in the process of getting rid of its old nexus with the US military. Why? Because it doesn’t want to fight terrorism linked externally to the Haqqani group and internally to non-state actors.

The theory is that if the Americans are made to leave Afghanistan and not provided a leg-up in Pakistan, the Taliban will give up terrorism. After that, the army can concentrate once again, on India.

Imran Khan says, if the Americans are made to leave, the Taliban will come to heel. He used to claim that he will put an end to terrorism in 90 days. The assumption was that his pro-Taliban line will reward him after he comes to power by persuading the Taliban to get back to being normal Pakistanis.

Nawaz Sharif has made his own adjustments. His party says that the war against terrorism is not Pakistan’s war. That makes him safe vis-à-vis the terrorists. If Imran was hoping to make headway against the PPP in south Punjab because of his pro-Taliban line, he should focus on Nawaz Sharif’s interface with the Sipah-e-Sahaba.

The Sipah is the mother of the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the two lethal sectarian outfits in south Punjab with a clout that scares the feudal power brokers of that area. Both, along with their mother organisation, are affiliated with al Qaeda too.

If terrorism is your entry ticket to power, why should you name it as the foremost state-destroying factor? Corruption is much better as the single problem rendering the state dysfunctional. It also comes in handy for getting rid of the PPP government before its five years are up.

You want to hold ‘mammoth’ rallies? Be on the right side of the terrorists or get your jalsa suicide-bombed.

Businessmen and capitalists have long been saying that they are not investing because of the bad law and order situation. They will not name the terrorists to avoid being kidnapped or killed, so they say law and order. Most of the country is taking orders from the terrorists and that includes the politician and the police.

The interface between the state and the terrorists is clearly seen through the non-state actors that Pakistan brought into existence to fight its proxy wars on both sides of its territory. Today, no politician will name them. Imran Khan, wisely avoided reference to them in his interview with Karan Thapar, but it is obvious that he hates them.

The army is busy fighting India in Balochistan and will not save the Hazara there from being slaughtered by the terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda. Everybody is hoping that somehow the Taliban will lie down and wag their tail obediently if Pakistan is anti-American enough.

Pakistan is sinking because it doesn’t want to look terrorism in the eye. If someone is negotiating peace with the Taliban and the non-state actors, he should keep in mind what happened when the army tried talking peace with them in the past.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (48)

  • Jan 28, 2012 - 11:48PM

    why did Pakistan see less terrorist attacks in 2011?

    Did we sign peace treaties or did we do more intelleigence and law enforcement work?Recommend

  • Falcon
    Jan 29, 2012 - 1:31AM

    Agree with the premise of the article. However, one thing needs to be understood is that terrorism is a complex problem with multiple factors contributing to it. In any complex problem solving scheme, you have to reduce the number of variables affecting the problem first to reduce complexity (and increase certainty) and secondly to reduce the cost and time of the solution. And that is why reducing US footprint in the region is important because we will have one less key trigger feeding the menace of radicalization.


  • Jan 29, 2012 - 2:16AM

    Its not true… when we look into its eye we see our own reflection…:(


  • saleem
    Jan 29, 2012 - 2:26AM

    what is the use of atomic weapons if………


  • Arindom
    Jan 29, 2012 - 2:41AM

    hand over Govt and Military to the Taliban and get over this whole charade!


  • Taji
    Jan 29, 2012 - 2:58AM

    Glad to see that some one is bold enough to write the truth. Our politicians are busy in point scoring and are not focusing on the real enemy i.e the TTP, and their terrorists sectarian supporters. Pakistan is being eroded from within. Not long ago, I met an old Sikh gentleman from India, and he said that Pakistan is not serious to tackle the terrorism issue, and Pakistan does not need India to destroy it. Look at us today, our economy is in shambles, no one wants to come and invest; the country will not be able to sustain itself. Pakistan has a very large segment of young people, if the country can not generate jobs for them, then it is sitting on a ticking time bomb. They will either become criminals or will be lured into these sectarian organizations who are allied with Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers.


  • Harry Stone
    Jan 29, 2012 - 6:55AM

    Brave ////// true but now you are on everyone’s target list


  • Raja
    Jan 29, 2012 - 7:07AM

    Given Khaled’s style and focus, ” The army is busy fighting India in Balochistan ” appears to be a typo. He may want to correct that unless he actually meant that


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 29, 2012 - 7:19AM

    If Pakistan becomes Anti-American enough, then who will Pakistan hand their BEGGING BOWL to, China? Remember, if you drive away the Americans, you will drive them firmly into INDIA’S CAMP. The Indian Air Force has already flown Red Flag training missions in far away America, flying all the way there themselves!


  • asdf
    Jan 29, 2012 - 8:11AM

    Political Islam is a failed ideology. Secularism and democracy go hand in hand. Change the constitution to a secular one and then take the Islamists (politcal Islam) head on and save the country. Something which Turkey and Indonesia (only 2 reasonably stable and muslim majority countries have managed out of all the 57 muslim majority countries). Cut off religious and political ties with Saudi Arabia, the centre of political Islamic ideology. Encourage scientific and rational educational movements in the country. Encourage other religions (specially Buddhism which anyways has historical connections to Pakistan) which will provide a spiritual marketplace for competing ideas (which Turkey and indonesia have not been able to do) and a counter force to religious extremism. This is what will happen eventually. How Pakistan manages to get there will be interesting to watch.


  • plaintalk
    Jan 29, 2012 - 8:27AM

    Ideal recipe for law and order: side with America and with its help eliminate every Taliban, and if you cannot identify them, kill all tribal Pashtuns. America is the Messiah. Look, it can give us all that God can: food, security, arms, and now gas, if we give up the Iran pipeline! And it has its men everywhere, mostly in the media.


  • sadhana
    Jan 29, 2012 - 8:50AM

    Pakistanis must be rich to afford the cost of terror and endless wars.


  • Moz
    Jan 29, 2012 - 9:19AM


    Pleasing the terrorist by trying to stop these triggers as you put it, only emboldens them. It doesn’t solve terrorism. Imran is completely wrong that Taliban will become peaceful, once US leaves. I would say the opposite, if terrorism is dealt with iron hand, the U.S will automatically leave because it wouldn’t make sense for them to stay here.


  • Talat Haque
    Jan 29, 2012 - 9:46AM

    I like the way you simplify things!


  • Rajeev Nidumolu
    Jan 29, 2012 - 9:53AM

    It seems that Pakistani elite and leaders are under delusion. Or are they deluding others by proclaiming simplified solutions to terrorism ? .

    Will terrorism disappear if Americans leave Afghanistan and Indians leave Kashmir ?

    Terrorism is the result of extremism . Extremism is again the result of deprivation and poverty which makes people get attracted to extremist ideology.In the last century extremist got attracted to communism and fascism . Now they get attracted to Islamic ideology

    Both India and Pakistan has failed to address the issues of common people which is security, good governance and addressing issues of extreme poverty .

    We now have kleptocrat and dynastic leaders who mouth populist slogans and carry on with their looting . This is only possible in countries where there is overwhelming illiteracy and people who live hand to mouth day by day.


  • Khan jr
    Jan 29, 2012 - 9:54AM

    Huh? ‘The army is busy fighting India in Balochistan’???

    What a load of codswallop. Are we supposed to believe all the kill and dump operations carried out against Baloch journalists, academics, students and scholars are part of a war against India?


  • hammad
    Jan 29, 2012 - 9:59AM

    No peace talks with these animals who slaughter our citizens. We can never be a normal country unless we face these beasts head on, using any help we can get. We are sick and tired of living in fear. When will the cowards who claim to defend us, stand up and do their job instead of looking for peace deals with the terrorists??


  • Whats in the name.
    Jan 29, 2012 - 10:31AM

    “The army is busy fighting India in Balochistan and will not save the Hazara there from being slaughtered by the terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda.” Ahem, So the author is pushing the envelope further. Just as army/politicians are not tired in appeasing the mullah-non state actors brigade by not questioning there actions. the author is trying to bring in India in his writing. This makes me think writers are no different from army/politicians. Why do the writers/intelligentsia have to always bring India into there writings. Would it be incomplete without mentioning India or is it a prerequisite. It is beyond my comprehension. All this while it tried desperately to portray India in bad light viz a viz in Kashmir, It did not work now they are trying it on Baluchistan.All the best


  • x
    Jan 29, 2012 - 12:12PM

    @moz, History has shown that war against afghans can not be won, american accounts of the civilians and militants killed in drone and other attacks are falsified to save face but truth remains mostly civilians are killed and then even normal citizens, stricken by losses of their homes, their families swell the ranks of the extremists to avenge the deaths. Thus, this cycle continues.
    If you wish, please visit the areas, inspect, talk to the people, get a first hand account before making such suggestions.
    Pakistan has sacrificed too much in this war and still faced suspicion and hostility from both ends, the fact remains that there is only so much pakistan can do, it is UNABLE to do everything possible to eliminate terrorism as long as we are mired in their war. Lastly, if america with its superior weapons, technology, better trained men and sincere intentions couldnt succeed, how can you point fingers at Pakistan?


  • Milestogo
    Jan 29, 2012 - 1:03PM

    I laughed at “army fighting India…” line. I think author was trying to funny and sarcastic there.


  • Ali Wali
    Jan 29, 2012 - 1:42PM

    Our government should recruit the family members of terror victims in security crack teams, I am sure there are enough of them, and who will happily erase terrorism from our society. On foreign affairs, Kashmir issue should be put on backburner, honestly Kashmiris will be biggest fools if they join Pakistan which can not look after itself.Recommend

  • Ali Wali
    Jan 29, 2012 - 1:49PM

    Let me assure every body Pakistan is not Afghanistan and there is no chance of a terrorists win, these snakes are too coward and vulnerable, and believe you me if push comes to shove Pakistanis will burn all their hideout, their homes and madrassas.Recommend

  • Falcon
    Jan 29, 2012 - 2:22PM

    The issue has multiple dimensions. First we need to understand that the state is too poor to fight off these people with the centralized command structure. Ideal solution to the problem is to choke their support life line by transferring the war to trenches; this can be done only if masses across the nation and locals rise against them, which is unlikely till the masses sympathize with their status as victims of American Aggression. As @x suggested above, one has to interact and talk to locals of the area to see what is actually happening, not rely on CNN style analysis.


  • Genius
    Jan 29, 2012 - 2:50PM

    My one question for all, most humbly.
    Why is there no lawlessness, violence, bloodshed, death and destruction in Vietnam today as it is with us today, as it was in Vietnam from 1950s untill 1970s?
    The correct answer is “The European terrorists are not there in Vietnam today”.
    It is in the history of the world that since the last 500 years lawlessness, violence, bloodshed, death and destruction has gone wherever the European terrorists have gone from Europe. They started their campaign of terror from Central and South America over 500 years ago after Christopher Columbus found his India. India was indeed the richest country in the world at that time where he intended to go via the wrong route i.e. the West.
    My other question to all. Were those of our forefathers who rose to rid our country of European Imperialists in 1857 also “Terrorists”?


  • Nand
    Jan 29, 2012 - 3:49PM

    Pakistan has ‘slided into anarchy with multiple power centers and pointing to a decline of establishment’s influence and rise of fundamentalist elements.


  • Usman S.
    Jan 29, 2012 - 5:27PM


    Maybe you are forgetting a key factor here. Vietnam did not have an afliction, rather over-dosage of religion, in their society which is why they’ve managed to recover and prosper as a society.
    Despite our internal problems, wars, fedualism and corrupt bureuacracy/politicians, we were comparatively okay as a society untill Zia took over and sowed the seeds of extremism by promoting the religion and clergy in an attempt to slodify his grip on power.

    Later, by allowing a pro-religious Mullah government in the NWFP , the so-called liberal Musharraf did an irrepairable damage and disservice to the country. The rise of the Taliban and the militancy –two of the greatest problems being faced by the country — thereafter, are prime examples of that terrible blunder committed by Musharraf.

    Problem with us Pakistanis is that in our love and over-zealous approach towards religion, we are completely unwilling/over-sensitive to have a debate over one of the core issues behind our problems.
    In the nineties, we used to hate the arguments of a liberal friend who, despite knowing my
    strong religious inclination and feelings, used to emphatically call the religion “a cancer”, and claim that it would haunt us one day if steps are not taken to curb its growing influence and involvement into the affairs of the state. Although, we were in no way as religious or violent a society then, yet this guy would never dare utter such words in public due to fear of reprisal/persecution, and for being labelled as a “kafir”.
    Two decades later, his words –although offensive to many — appear prophetic.
    Just like Khaled Ahmed is pointing out, every politician/institution is trying to align themselves in line with the extremists, and trying to appease them. Such policies would only aggravate the problems of this country, not solve them.

    It is true that we must get rid of this slave mentality and learn to be self reliant in order to regain our respect among the league of nations. However, it would be impossible to do so without seperating the religion from the government.Recommend

  • Vijay K
    Jan 29, 2012 - 8:26PM

    @Usman S.: I agree. What Pakistan needs is very strict Sharia Law and Military rule. Pakistan is losing its way because it is not following true Islam. It should reject all Western influences like western medicine and science and re-invent itself by going to its Islamic roots to grow as a successful nation and a leader of Islamic countries. The answer to Pakistan’s prosperity lies in the strength of its Islamic foundation. Recommend

  • Jan 29, 2012 - 9:03PM

    “Most of the country is taking orders from the terrorists and that includes the politician and the police.”

    Is there a finer statement of Pakistani courage than this?


  • kaalchakra
    Jan 29, 2012 - 9:06PM

    Khaled Ahmed Sahib

    The problems of Pakistan do not lie with Pakistan’s Islamists but with Pakistan’s liberals.


  • Usman S.
    Jan 29, 2012 - 9:11PM

    @Vijay K
    Well I can’t tell if you are trying to be sarcastic. But tell me where on earth did I suggest that Pakistan should follow the true Islam and reject all western science and medicine. Bravo!!


  • Bilal
    Jan 29, 2012 - 9:55PM

    Bold and true


  • Zalmai
    Jan 30, 2012 - 9:38AM

    @Ali Wali

    These terrorists slaughtered 15 of your best soldiers in Orakzai agency and you say that Pakistan is not Afghanistan…damn straight it is not Afghanistan because the enemy in Afghanistan is known but in Pakistan everyone is an enemy of the state. Get real.


  • saba kamran
    Jan 30, 2012 - 10:22AM

    Yes i agree with what you have stated but it seems we discuss everything except Improvised explosive devices. These devices have been spreading violence for a long time but we seem to ignore this issue.


  • re-integration
    Jan 30, 2012 - 3:57PM

    Would Pakistanis consider a re-integration with Bangladesh and shift the Capital to Dacca? Also adopt the Bangadesh constitution and allow Bangaladeshi Instituions( central bank, etc) to run the country?. That might defuse the situation, and allow international community to allow reintegration of pakistan in the commity of nations.
    would pakistanis accept a bangali prime minister? If so, terrorism might diminsh at a faster pace!


  • waleed Khan
    Jan 31, 2012 - 9:49AM

    Day by day the terrorists are becoming stronger and stronger. A part from suicide bombing, the terrorists have now started using Improvised Explosive devices. These devises which can be made through daily routine things such as fertilizers or acids are again posing a great threat to the common people. This manufacturing of IEDs should be brought in check and stooped.


  • areej
    Jan 31, 2012 - 10:24AM

    Our government should take interest to do something serious ending up terrorism and weapons like improvised explosive devices which terrorists are using in pakistan.


  • Shahnawaz Sheikh
    Feb 9, 2012 - 11:08AM

    USSR, Taliban, Afghanistan, Communists were the highlights of the 1980s… USA, Terrorists, Pakistan, Improvised explosive devises, innocent lives lost highlights of the 2012


  • amir khan
    Feb 15, 2012 - 4:51PM

    We Pakistanis are not safe. An improvised explosive device can explode any second anywhere.


  • saad naseer
    Feb 15, 2012 - 4:51PM

    Improvised explosive devices may not be as complicated, but they have potential to cause a lot of damage.


  • umaid tahir
    Feb 15, 2012 - 4:52PM

    The fact that improvised explosive devices are easy to produce, there is a danger that the terrorist attacks might increase substantially.


  • areej
    Feb 16, 2012 - 10:18AM

    the devices which are known as improvised explosive devices are commonly used by the terrorists, result thousands of people killed and fighting situation in our country.


  • fizza
    Mar 9, 2012 - 10:25AM

    improvised explosive devices are dangerous, government need to monitor such devices.


  • unbeliever
    Mar 9, 2012 - 11:49AM


    which history book have you been reading, sir?

    afghanis and pashtuns have been humbled innumerable no. of times.

    by alexander in his campaigns.

    by chandragupta maurya in establishing his mauryan empire.

    they were crushed ruthlessly by mongol armies.

    and they are living like rodents in contemporary times.

    they are hired as mercineries for fighting war for others, and they die for others.

    they are living as parasites on your soil.

    which self-respecting community would like to call itself the worrior race, but would go on scavanging in a foreign country.


  • Hamza Younis
    Mar 12, 2012 - 11:54AM

    Government and citizens of Pakistan need to work together to stop terrorism and the use of improvised explosive devices.


  • Naved Latif
    Mar 12, 2012 - 11:54AM

    Things that were once used for domestic purposes are now being used to create improvised explosive devices.


  • Shakil Afridi
    Mar 12, 2012 - 11:55AM

    How many more innocent lives will improvised Explosive devices claim? Wake up Government.


  • Noman Latif
    Mar 12, 2012 - 11:55AM

    Improvised explosive devices are the new AK 47 of the terrorists.


  • fizza
    Mar 16, 2012 - 10:03AM

    our authorities need to introduce a proper system to end up improvised explosive devices.


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