We are successfully being held hostage

Published: November 19, 2013
The writer is Web Editor of The Express Tribune and tweets @Jhaque jahanzaib.haque@tribune.com.pk

The writer is Web Editor of The Express Tribune and tweets @Jhaque jahanzaib.haque@tribune.com.pk

Writer and journalist Muhammed Hanif’s latest article for the New Yorker accurately captures a part of the equation when it comes to our leaders’ twisted, yet, very vocal support for the terrorists that have killed thousands of our own. He writes, “The logic — or its absence — goes like this: Hakimullah Mehsud was our enemy. But the United States is also our enemy. So, how dare the Americans kill him? And how dare they kill him when we had made up our minds to talk to him? If the United States is talking to the Afghan Taliban, why can’t we talk to our own Taliban?”

Hanif is right in pointing out the logic is flawed, playing to the benefit of the militants and the continued disintegration of the state in the face of an enemy who truly, “believe in something”. What gets left out of his analysis was the very real role fear is playing in what, on the surface, seems to be clouded, delusional thinking and an absence of logic. I’m going to give our power players a little benefit of the doubt and assume not all of them are as clueless as they seem with regard to the direction they are pushing Pakistan with their calls for peace talks and condemnations of a terrorist’s death. Many of them know they are edging closer to a precipice, but are too afraid to turn around and face those prodding them forward.

They utter words that please militants to ensure their names, and the names of their extended families stay off hit lists. They speak out against the US and condemn drone strikes in the hopes that their words will stay the trigger-happy hands of the terrorists who have kidnapped their son, their nephew, their relative. They hold back on purpose, hoping to keep alive those of their rank captured from check posts, from raided prisons, during operations.

Through media reports, the public has been clued in to this strategy employed by the terrorists, but few can really understand the daily terror of knowing someone you love is being held in a terrorist camp — only Amna Taseer, Yousuf Raza Gilani and others facing this situation right now can really relate. Similarly, while the public is aware of the strategic holding and exchange of prisoners as a part of any war, most are unaware of the extent of the problem in the current war, or how deeply it could be impacting strategy. Bear in mind, this is just one of many terror tactics we tend to overlook in this debate.

Make no mistake, our state is under very real threat and no individual or institution involved is safe. I can vouch for this as a journalist. Without naming names, media houses and the journalists working for them live with fear on a daily basis, forced to self-censor, or worse, ordered to censor, retract or publish a counter-piece to whatever brought them on the radar. Promises have to be made to not cover a certain issue in a particular way, or in a particular context, or even with/without particular words.

In TV channels, everyone from the anchor down to the tickers desk may be told where the line is to be drawn, not as an editorial decision, but to ensure colleagues working out in the field or in vulnerable bureaus are not attacked.

While it is true that generally confusion reigns when it comes to Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, the role of fear — the terrorists’ real weapon — has to be included in any discussion of the current situation. Fear of death and personal injury. Fear of taking on an enemy, and losing. Fear of saying the wrong thing and getting killed for it. Fear of passing the wrong judgment in the wrong case. Fear is palpable in Pakistan; it can be felt across all pillars of the state. In such an environment, where those who are meant to provide you security, justice, governance and information are under constant attack, it requires no delusions or absence of logic to see why we are lionising our tormentors.

We are successfully being held hostage.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • shiraz
    Nov 19, 2013 - 11:10PM

    The question is how to get rid of the hostage takers??
    Uptil now nothing has worked,infact made things worse. We need a multipronged strategy.The external facilitators of these outfits need to be warned/threatened in no unclear terms(pretty much all our neigbours except China), and the Gulf Arab countries financial transfers need to be brought down). Some leverage will have to be used via Saudis, for JI/JUI and others…then a full fledged military action,after one has cut off the life line of these militants, along with incentve of talks.


  • gp65
    Nov 20, 2013 - 12:00AM

    Brave OpEd. Stay safe.

    Incidentally some people may indeed be held hostage. At the same time there are others who are actively supporting those that are holding you hostage. One can understand that fear would keep you from joyfully celebrating the death of Mehsud. But the deliberate ramping of anger against US for killing one of your chief tormentors was not called for. Silence could have been maintained just as it was in the case of ‘Doctor’ Haqqani’s death.

    If you hope to ever be rescued from those holding you hostage, then cursing those that try to do so is not likely the most effective way.
    Secondly, while people maybe afraid of TTP, they are not afraid of LeT or JeM they actively encourage them. What they do not realize is that once you glorify ‘jihad’ by non-state actors against a sovereign state then you are supporting the narrative not just of LeT but also TTP.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Nov 20, 2013 - 12:54AM

    It is heartening to note that at least there are a few who still can and will speak up.
    As for the people lionising the tormentors, can one really blame them ? Do they really have an option ?


  • Kanwal
    Nov 20, 2013 - 1:30AM

    Only one institution can save this country. That’s army. They have enough money and power to undo the mistake of breeding these scum of earth as strategic depth. Now is the time to rectify this. After all, all the Pakistan is paying for their mistake dearly and will keep paying at least for this generation. They should admit what wrong they did, show they have a proper plan and then act on it. Just as fear is contagious, courage is contagious too. And we have a nation more than half of which probably are under 35s. We can’t give up. We know we can defend ourselves. We just saw it in moharram. How big the losses could be but there were so many criminals taken in before they could do a blast or any such activity. We have the energy and we just need a determined and organised will.


  • imad uddin
    Nov 20, 2013 - 5:30AM

    Jahanzaib, u urself said d role of fear was missing. Mohammad hanifs piece was not impressive at all. imran khans anti us stance was not at all lionizing of mehsud. It was rubbish generalization to say ‘Pakistan lionizes’. No not at all. Only far right lionizes him. Restjust gets angry at US. Hanifs rationale was “because whole pakistan lionizes its tormentors because of flawed reasons, this means pakistan cant think properly in its own interesrs, hence whatever US does is in pakistans interests, altho pakstan laments.”


  • Talat Haque
    Nov 20, 2013 - 2:20PM

    Everybody lies , humms and haws , pretends , even at private gatherings …………. don’t lets step on anyone’s toes ……………. all leading in a bad direction!


  • Alam
    Nov 20, 2013 - 7:45PM

    I dont know why express tribune ppl always write there article on western inputs. Why dont they says ground realities. Instead of making there perspective to the world they always impose western perspective on us. It is not the matter of who is right and who is wrong its the matter of reporting from Pakistan for Pakistanis.


  • Indra
    Nov 20, 2013 - 8:36PM

    Its not that serious. Everything is fine ;).You were talking about Kashmir? what was that again?Recommend

  • Zalmai
    Nov 20, 2013 - 9:09PM

    @gp 65
    Pakistan’s silence on Dr. Haqqani’s death was due to the fact that he was an Afghan national, a designated terrorist living in Pakistan.


  • gp65
    Nov 20, 2013 - 9:52PM


    ET Mods – Pls. allow response to someone who has written directly to me

    @Zalmai – Yes I am aware of the points you mentioned. But Haqqanis were believed to be close to ISI and thought to be a way to regain strategic depth in the post 2014 scenario. Further they had never attacked Pakistanis.

    Mehsud by contrast (was also a designated terrorist with head monet of $5 million) and had murdered thousands of Pakistanis.

    It would have been easier to rile up people on the death of a friendly mujahid compared to a mass murderer. Yet military chose to preserve silence in case of Haqqanis death (unlike Kerry Lugar Bill if you recall) while mullahs and right wing parties like PTI made a big deal about Mehsud’s death.

    That is the discrepancy I was pointing out. Hope it makes sense.Recommend

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