The death of senior ANP provincial minister Bashir Bilour, along with seven others, in a suicide blast at a party rally in Peshawar underscores yet again just how perilous it is to be a politician in Pakistan. Bilour was a staunchly anti-Taliban figure, one who made it a point to be the first on the scene of an attack. He and his fellow ANP politicians know how hazardous their line of work is and yet they remain the most committed to the fight against the Taliban. It would have been easy for Bilour and his ilk to cower in fear and hide behind hundreds of police escorts. Instead they took the fight to the Taliban and never shied away from their public duties. Bilour has become the latest martyr in our noble quest to defeat the Taliban and he should forever be remembered as a hero who set an example to other less courageous politicians.
The ANP as a party has suffered tremendous losses in the war against terror and yet they have realised the follies of appeasement. Provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar was not only targeted by the Taliban but also had to suffer losing his son at the hands of the terrorists. Even pro-appeasement politicians like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is a borderline pro-Taliban figure, have figured on militant hit lists. The assassinations of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were also inspired by the same murderous mindset. Benazir Bhutto also disregarded the threat to her life and paid the ultimate price for standing up to the militants. Above all, there are the thousands of unnamed civilians who have been killed for no other reason but living in a country where a small minority which claims to speak in the name of religion has shown utter contempt for the tenets of that religion.
Despite the murders, both of renowned politicians and the nameless, the military — the only institution capable of defeating the Taliban — has taken a head-in-the-sand approach. They see these thugs as assets to be used to further foreign policy interests in Afghanistan and India. The military’s first priority should be getting rid of this internal threat before it becomes an eternal problem. This means going into North Waziristan and any other safe haven the militants may have. It means securing our cities and protecting our elected representatives. Only then will Bashir Bilour not have died in vain.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2012.