Courageously taking names and ruthlessly seeking out terrorists, common criminals and gang members, ‘Chaudhry’ Aslam Khan’s death is likely to deal a strong blow to Karachi’s deteriorating stability and to the morale of the police force at large.
Amongst other things, the militant presence in Karachi is increasing. Terrorist factions find safe havens in a growing metropolis that provides a convenient escape for militant leaders looking to hide within the general public. Identifying and rooting them out is difficult. In the absence of a police officer of Aslam Khan’s reputation, it is that much harder. Karachi’s bravest yet controversial cop survived his ninth assassination attempt two years ago when a bomb exploded outside his house in Defence. Though clearly feared and loathed by his opponents, this also meant that for the state, he was doing his job well.
In another act of heroic courage, Aitizaz Hasan, a teenage boy from Hangu, confronted a suicide bomber, who was targeting a school of 2,000 students. Hasan gave his life to avoid mass casualties. He was not a soldier trained in battle, ready to face fear with bravery. He acted on instinct to save lives; the right instinct that most of us would never have the courage to muster.
These are only two examples of men, amongst many others, who have selflessly laid down their lives so that the rest of us may realise that the time to stamp out this internal threat was yesterday. It kills and bombs us relentlessly, yet a weak government bends over backwards to appease it or worse, remains silent. Standing in stark contrast to the slew of political statements and fury that ensued when Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by a drone strike two months ago, Pakistan’s interior minister has yet (at the time of writing this) to say a word about Chaudhry Aslam Khan.
In Karachi, the fear and paranoia is palpable. Khan’s death may deal a strong blow to Karachi’s already volatile situation and Pakistan’s growing militant threat. By removing the man they tried to assassinate multiple times, the terrorists have won a victory of sorts. A vacuum has been left by Aslam Khan; one that will be difficult to fill and will cost this city dearly in terms of security. In relation, Hasan’s sacrifice then is a constant reminder of how brutal the internal enemy we face today has become and that it continues to gain strength. But one would be naive to think that sacrifices such as these made by great citizens of this brave country will prompt a government to take a stand and say ‘enough’. The real tragedy of this entire exercise is not that Pakistan has lost brave heroes and remains increasingly vulnerable without them. The real tragedy is that they have died in vain, for even their deaths is likely to fail to spark government action.
Condolences, tributes and praises pouring in from high-profile politicians and leaders mean nothing if the people of Pakistan continue being targeted while the government mulls over conducting a dialogue. Speaking with the Telegraph, Khan once said, “They carry out bomb blasts in my city. Should I go and talk to them nicely? If they throw bombs, should I start throwing flowers?” With no real framework in place and only a vague and confused negotiation strategy conducted from a stance of weakness, little should be expected from the current leadership.
If Aslam Khan’s assassination has left a major void in Karachi’s fight against militancy, Aitizaz Hasan’s sacrifice has put the entire nation to shame. The militants claimed that they were avenging the deaths of 40 to 50 of their comrades, who were tortured and killed by Khan. What then of the scores of innocent civilians who have been killed at the hands of militants? Are they not worthy of being avenged? But the state remains mum and instead of receiving hollow condolences and empty promises of avenging the deaths of those who have fallen, the people of Pakistan might be better off settling for silence.
Our heroes, few and far between, are falling everyday. The rest of us remain paralysed by fear or disenchanted with a political leadership that fails to deliver. Preoccupied with putting a former COAS to trial, it is perhaps, in the best interest of a democratically-elected government to realise that it is far more answerable to the people than any ‘military dictator’ ever is. Rest in peace you brave men of Pakistan. Courageous souls like you are not born everyday.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2014.