Malala’s plight and the fight against militancy

Published: October 11, 2012
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The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. He has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. He has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

Outside of a miniscule minority, no one is going to defend the attempted murder of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai. Dehumanising people, no matter how wicked their actions, is usually inadvisable but no one should have any compunction in saying that those who want a girl dead for the ‘crime’ of wanting to go to school, of desiring a normal life, to living without fear, are anything but animals. The only question which remains is not what judgment should be passed on the morality of the perpetrators, but rather what would be the wisest way of bringing them to justice and preventing a repeat occurrence.

The most cathartic way of expressing outrage over Malala’s plight is by vowing to take the fight to the Taliban through military means and by tamping down any criticism of measures taken in the name of defeating militancy. The urge is understandable but should be avoided. The hard fact to face is that there is no one, simple solution. We have tried peace deals with the Taliban and they have not made us any safer. Military options have been exercised but they have not decimated the terrorists. The US has used drones with impunity and yet, more militant leaders seem to crop up every day.

The options we have available to us are limited and so it is sadly necessary to make painful sacrifices. Our military simply does not have the manpower or ability to clear and hold every area where militants seek refuge. So, while the 2009 operation in Swat seemed like a resounding success, it has had limited real-world impact since the Swati Taliban simply melted into the Kunar province of Afghanistan. The Afghans, facing innumerable problems of their own, have not shown the slightest inclination to lend us a helping hand and so Maulana Fazlullah’s group has had ample opportunity to regroup. We withdrew our troops from Dir by April 2010, even though the territory gives militants access to Afghanistan, Swat and most of the tribal agencies. This had to be done because the troops were needed in other areas of conflict. Given these constraints, eliminating the Taliban is not a realistic option; the best we can hope for right now is containment.

The situation is made worse by the inability and unwillingness of political parties to take on the Taliban in word or deed. Imran Khan has received some flak, as he should, for saying in a television interview that his party cannot be as critical of the Taliban as they should out of fear. But Imran has only articulated what other parties practise. The PPP’s muted reaction to Salmaan Taseer’s murder was spurred by the same cowardice. I am one of those who believes US drone attacks are illegal and immoral and support every protest against them — however, I still cannot help but lament the fact that none of our political parties can be equally stringent in their criticism of terrorist groups that prey on minor girls.

The temptation in this scenario is to be absolutist in our position and wish death and misery on every group that has adopted the Taliban moniker. That is simply not possible right now. I would much rather we go after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and leave alone, for the moment, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network because it is in our short-term interest to do so. If the ideal is destroying every militant group that has found succour on our territory, the reality requires making hard choices between the various entities.

Malala deserves better than this. We should not have to distinguish between murderous thugs. But we are in a struggle that will last generations and are forced to act accordingly.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • tahir
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:41PM

    Its easy to bash the TTP, but the retaliation PTI workers will face in KPK and FATA would be devastating. One statement from Imran Khan against TTP can put thousands of PTI workers lives at severe risk.

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  • amir b
    Oct 12, 2012 - 12:10AM

    well i felt some people abusing imran khan was just pathetic…
    responsibility lies with the government and military to take concrete steps
    all i hear on talk shows is just rhetoric and no solutions

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  • @rham
    Oct 12, 2012 - 12:18AM

    The peace treaties mentioned did not fail, and often, perhaps three times, it was the Pakistani State who violated the peace treaties’ terms!

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  • sabi
    Oct 12, 2012 - 1:15AM

    I have one suggestion and that is, instead of sending critcle injured persons abroad for proper treatment why not we send a draft of our constitution abroad for proper treatment so that this menace can be uprooted effectivly and peace prevail.

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  • gp65
    Oct 12, 2012 - 1:16AM

    @tahir: “Its easy to bash the TTP, but the retaliation PTI workers will face in KPK and FATA would be devastating. One statement from Imran Khan against TTP can put thousands of PTI workers lives at severe risk.”

    Certainly do not blame Imran for watching out for his party people. But the question then is what was the whole bravado earlier about I don’t care for my life, I will take peace march to Waziiristan to protest? Also if he comes to power, how will he negotiate with these people that he is afraid of? I also recall statements in 2009 when the Swat operation was initially announced where Imran said, what is that US was fearmongering about the Taliban and a country with an army of 500,000 had nothing to fear from a group of 500 hillybillies (how he described TTP). So it looks like now he agrees that US was not fear mongering? These people are indeed a threat to Pakistanis and their way of life?

    Also separtely, Imran bravely says that if push comes to shove he would authorize the drone to be shot down. No concerns about what fall-out that would have on the Pakistani lives – eh? Nor on Pakistani armed forces ‘toys’. OR decision on drones is too far for now, so one can afford to act brave now and change the statement in due course if he comes to power and people have not already forgotten his bravado?

    I am not in favour or in opposition to any political party in Pakistan but it does appear that there are a lot of contradictions in his statements that his supporters are not paying attention to. HE might still bethe one you choose to support, but please do that with your eyes open.

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  • Logic Europe
    Oct 12, 2012 - 1:16AM

    Dr zeeto, of thorn gimbals ,has said ,,,,YOU HAVE TO DEFEAT TALIBAN OR THEY WILL DEFEAT YOU AND THAT IS MORE LIKELY .Talibaan are not invincible , remember hitlers,king of Iran ,ghadafi and many more , no force can defeat a nation, fear is baseless and should be abandoned Suport the army and the government ,munite against animals ,they will be tamed.

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  • Saqib
    Oct 12, 2012 - 1:26AM

    Will our brave drawing room op-ed writers come to the streets and take a stand against the Taliban?

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  • karma
    Oct 12, 2012 - 1:34AM

    The conspiracy of silence due to cowardice explains the situation in Pakistan perfectly!! A country like USA had to face up to the dark ideology that wanted slavery to continue, even at a cost of civil war. USA would never have become the country it is if it didn’t stand up to those folks who had a regressive ideology.

    Pakistan will need to do the same if it wants to have any chance of becoming a normal nation. The dark ideology can’t be fought by appeasement. It will need a hard decision, that may lead to lot of violence, even a civil war like situation. But, it is best fought rather than the slow growth of cancer that is sure to ensue (like in case of Afghanistan).

    Imran Khan says Pakistan was peaceful before 2001, that’s because the beast was in Afghanistan doing pretty much the same thing they are doing in Pakistan today. If Imran Khan thinks world will stand by and look on, when he makes his peace deal with Taliban and sends them back to Afghanistan, he is mistaken. World will impose sanctions and Pakistan will suffer worser than Iran.

    The days are gone when you can send your beasts to another country to send their children to darkness. Malala had more courage than IK and other parties?! Atleast to honor Malala,and to ensure others like her are never felled – find some courage – Fight extremism with full force of law & army.

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  • Tauseef
    Oct 12, 2012 - 1:59AM

    Please don’t degrade Animals by comparing them to the human of today. As I strongly believe that the animals are far better beings than the you and me and many others.

    Plus, We have to be serious about what we really want for our country, nothing and no one will help us. Enlightening the minds of the generations (at least upcoming generations) with quality education and awareness (long term strategies) can demolish the walls build around us. The narrow mindedness can only be defeated once you breakthrough these walls. At least change one mind in each household (may it be a 10 years old child) and she/he will change others around her/him. I think Malala already have proved that. Search for more like her and lets see “ke o kis kis ko marengey)

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  • Something Clever
    Oct 12, 2012 - 2:18AM

    @Tauseef:
    “Please don’t degrade Animals by comparing them to the human of today. As I strongly believe that the animals are far better beings than the you and me and many others.”
    Aren’t they though? That is something that has gone through my head countless times. So many that I can’t resist posting this just for the sake of pointing out that I agree with you.

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  • gp65
    Oct 12, 2012 - 2:32AM

    @@rham: “The peace treaties mentioned did not fail, and often, perhaps three times, it was the Pakistani State who violated the peace treaties’ terms!

    Do you know what happened to the Nizam-e-Adl treaty signed with Mula Fazlullah in Feb 2009? Guess not.

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  • Oct 12, 2012 - 6:18AM

    its time for pakistanis to move away from the violent mullahs and move towards real islam that of education, freedom and justice

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  • Zafar
    Oct 12, 2012 - 12:04PM

    I didn’t care when it happened with my neighbors who don’t care now what happens with me.
    We the Pakistanies

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  • Arifq
    Oct 12, 2012 - 1:02PM

    We are in a war of ideologies, unfortunately it’s not an academic argument but a violent and horrific battle for supremacy. Yes, this is going to be a marathon not a hundred meter sprint nor can it be solved by switching channels, victory will go to those who can endure pain and exact pain. As it is right now, Taliban seem to have the edge in their endurance and ability to inflict pain. Therefore, it is extremely important for the state to stop differentiating between the good and bad Taliban, this allows the enemy to mix with the crowd and confuses the populace in believing anti state propaganda. Record of the state in this regard has been poor for political conveniences, let’s hope this changes otherwise nothing changes.

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  • Muhammad
    Oct 12, 2012 - 1:44PM

    till u keep treating Malala’s differntly then rest of the nation nothing will improve in Pakistan.

    Media interest in Malala shows how we have become event centric.

    just another example of a failed state.

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  • wonderer
    Oct 12, 2012 - 2:20PM

    There was a girl as sweet and innocent as Malala in Mumbai. She was fired upon by Ajmal Kasab in November 2008, ruining her whole life.

    If Pakistanis had shed their tears of blood at that time, the Malala of Swat Valley would have probably been spared her misery. May Allah save and protect her. Amen.

    Zarra Sochiye!

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  • dpd
    Oct 12, 2012 - 2:50PM

    If it is not the elected BABUS that screwing the people of Pakistan, then it is the GANGSTER’s. If it is not the GANGSTER’s, then it is the extremist MULLA’s. If it is not the extremist MULLA’s then it is the TALIBAN. It is time for the PEOPLE to wake UP!!!!!!! It is the people that can make the change. The ELECTIONS are coming. Get rid of the corrupt POLITITIONS and start a new life. Easier SAID than DONE. Education….. Education…. Education…. I will not send my children to Madressa’s to memorise the QURAN. I will send my children to a school where the QURAN is a subject and they will learn the TRUE meaning of the QURAN as well as the normal curriculam. I will task my children to study further at university their selected subjects as well as gain knowledge of religion by choosing extra religious classes. I will make sure that my children obtains a well rounded education. This process will create the people that PAKISTAN requires for the future. It is a process that will take two decades to esteblish. There is no quick fix to the solution of Pakistan. It is time to wake up!!!!!!!

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  • Murthy
    Oct 12, 2012 - 4:13PM

    Pakistan must remember that ‘the strategic assets’ are slowly but surely turning into ‘tragic assets’. Those who nurtured them and do still believe that they should not be disturbed. How long will they keep running with the hare and hunting with the hounds? Peace in Pakistan depends on a reversal of this ‘brilliant strategy’.

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  • saleem
    Oct 12, 2012 - 4:57PM

    if we are an atomic power, for what use ……………….lets wipe out the taliban completely

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  • observer
    Oct 12, 2012 - 5:22PM

    I would much rather we go after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and leave alone, for the moment, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network because it is in our short-term interest to do so. If the ideal is destroying every militant group that has found succour on our territory, the reality requires making hard choices between the various entities.

    Why restrict the exemption to only those doing Jihad in Afghanistan,I would like some more exemptions,

    A. Jihad in Mumbai/IHK exempted.

    B. Jihad against the Wajibul Qatl exempted.

    C. Jihad against all ‘non-Muslim’ sects and kuffar in general exempted.

    D. Jihad against ‘anti national’ elements in Balochistan/ Sindh and elsewhere exempted.

    Now we must have a more manageable enemy.

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  • Oct 12, 2012 - 5:29PM

    Straight forward solution is that all the madarsa s should be banned. Only modern education and modern schools be established and not criticized in the name of westernization. The state sponsored terror as a policy must be truly shunned. Out come will be slow but sure.

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  • gp65
    Oct 12, 2012 - 9:04PM

    “The temptation in this scenario is to be absolutist in our position and wish death and misery on every group that has adopted the Taliban moniker. That is simply not possible right now. I would much rather we go after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and leave alone, for the moment, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network because it is in our short-term interest to do so.”

    What is the root cause? The root cause is the mindset within people that ‘I alone know what is the right way to be a Muslim. Anyone who behaves differently from my expectation is not a true Muslim and deserves to be killed’. This mindset started in 1974 when Ahmadis were first declared non-Musim and later wajib-ul-qatl’ and has to be reversed – which means the jihadi infrastructure which had been carefully constructed over the last 30+ years needs to be dismantled. Going after individuals – whether TTP or anyone else will not address the issue. Unfortunately if this infrastructure is dismantled, the policy of strategic depth will also have to be abandoned. While the author would like the TTP gone while preserving Afghan Taliban, Haqqanis and LeT (though that was not mentioned in this OpEd), the fact is that there is no way to keep hatred alive for ‘others’ selectively.

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  • gp65
    Oct 12, 2012 - 9:23PM

    @mohammed abbasi: “its time for pakistanis to move away from the violent mullahs and move towards real islam “

    The problem is that TTP also says that the Islam they are pushing for is the real Islam. Many prayer leaders actually support TTP’s version of Islam. DOn’t you think it might be better if people keep their faith between themselves and the all powerful one they believe in and on a day to day basis simply behave humanely towards their fellow beings and heed their own conscience in determining what is a humane way?

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  • Tauseef
    Oct 12, 2012 - 9:39PM

    @Something Clever:
    I have witnessed it and it came from experience, though its just a lame excuse that me as one cannot bring the change. however, its quite challenging for a single person to make any “noticeable” change as the problems rather challenges are now so massive and we as puppets are dancing on finger tips of BA pass buffoons or (chanda maangney waaley) jin ko kisi ke saamney haath phailaney mein ab sharam mehsoos nahy hoti.

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  • Oct 13, 2012 - 12:35AM

    It is good to see more moderate voices in the form of columnists.

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