Collective suicide

Published: November 6, 2014
The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc. She tweets @iamthedrifter

The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc. She tweets @iamthedrifter

On Sunday, November 2, more then 50 people died in Lahore at the hands of a suicide bomber. The TTP and Jundallah hurriedly claimed responsibility for the heinous act. And we can all now go to sleep peacefully with the conclusion that this might be some Pashtun radical from Waziristan, who has struck a blow in retaliation for the military operation taking place there. All we now have to do is to watch out for people and communities that may look different or have links with the northern part of the country.

Sadly, we will not take the trouble of linking this incident to another act of brutality that took place two days later in Kot Radha Kishan near Lahore, in which a Christian couple was beaten and then burnt to death in the brick kiln where it worked, by the local people for allegedly committing blasphemy. As Christians are a minority, whose majority belongs to the socioeconomically lower class, the couple was either mad or suicidal to have desecrated the Holy Quran, if we are indeed to believe in the allegation. In a country where the mob is the accuser, the judge and the implementer of a judgment, why would anyone take this kind of risk? Many sane people have talked about making provisions that would reduce, if not eliminate, the risk to innocent people from the misuse of the blasphemy law.

Coming back to the suicide attacker, is there really a difference between how he and his handlers operated, and the homicide of those in Kot Radha Kishan? In both instances, it is the creation of an ideology that merely uses faith to create a belief system to gain power. More important, the second incident just superimposes the fact that people did not probably come from outside to kill innocent people. They live right amongst us.

Jundallah or the TTP are basically names, which are used to confuse ordinary people and hide the links that militants have with one another and across regions. The names create categories that tend to hide details, such as the fact that be it Jundallah or the TTP, they are both born from the womb of militant groups like the Sipha-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its sister concern, the Lashkar-e-Jhangavi. While the Jundullah busied itself in Balochistan and across the Iranian border, other sister concerns born of the same womb, like the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) remained focused on Kashmir and India. Born with state collusion and al Qaeda money in the early 2000s, the JeM has a base in Punjab and urban Sindh. In the last year or so, it has resurfaced in places like Karachi. Unlike the Jundallah or the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, whose boss sits close to the capital and was inducted into the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, the JeM’s selling point was never sectarian violence, but hostility towards India.

Then there are other groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which markets itself on the basis of its desire to free Kashmir and fight India. The LeT/Jamat-ud-Dawah (JuD) network concentrated on building itself as a welfare organisation with no links with terrorism. In fact, people were tweeting about how the JuD’s sub-organisation, the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, was rescuing people after the Lahore blast. One doesn’t doubt these facts that ought to be presented side-by-side with the reality that the LeT/JuD recruits people, not on the basis of welfare work, but its call for jihad. Its billboards, hoardings and graffiti attract and invite the youth towards a certain cause and no other.

The reason that the attack on Wagah may not be retaliation for Operation Zarb-e-Azb is possibly because this appears more focused on destroying any build-up in India-Pakistan relations than simply avenging the reported death of militants in the north. Given the fact that Punjab is full of militants to such a degree that there would be a blood bath in almost every street if the militants were serious in responding, indicates that the strategy of the attack was built around a specific purpose (even Lt General Khalid Rabbani had recently mentioned the need to end militant networks in Punjab if militancy was to be eliminated). In this case, the signal was certainly the political government, which has not abandoned the idea of improving trade relations. More important, the message was also to the trader, merchant and farmers’ communities in Punjab, which seemed to be inching closer to an understanding that building trade relations is the key to improving state relations and also improving their own lot in Pakistan.

In the past couple of years, Indian and Pakistani governments had also involved key players from the business, industrial and agriculture sectors to become part of bilateral negotiations. Hence, the initial reservation from the farming sector was gradually diluting. Trucks lined up on the Wagah/Attari border indicates both persisting problems in improving trade ties, but also the potential. The trader-merchants and farming communities on the Pakistani side are certainly more eager in thinking about commercial links beyond Kashmir. Not that they propose abandoning the Kashmir cause, but many believe that it should be put on the back burner while Pakistan improves its economic conditions, in this case, through enhancing trade with India. When asked about trade versus resolving the Kashmir issue, a lot of trader-merchants and farmers, for instance, would remind me not to ask political questions, indicating how many had moved beyond framing bilateral ties in a particular manner.

Interestingly, the LeT/JuD trader and farmer associations are the only ones hell-bent against trade ties. Even if we are to imagine that Jundallah and the TTP were involved in the Wagah border attack, though there is weak evidence to prove the claim, the signalling is for the general public and the trading community rather than the state, which continues to hold itself hostage to a number of militant outfits. But such compromises are written in blood and surrender. Let us not forget that if the IS could free itself and capture the state in Iraq, so can others.

The de-linking of the state from non-state militants is just one step that may not happen without changing the narrative. A state generally unwilling to exercise control would, in any case, be on a path towards committing collective suicide.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2014.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (11)

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Nov 6, 2014 - 12:51AM

    Spot on analysis. May there be more of your tribe showing your countrymen a mirror!

    And more importantly, with clarity of thought and views such as yours, stay safe!!


  • Sinclair
    Nov 6, 2014 - 1:09AM


    Nice of you to always leave the reader to draw the final conclusions, than penning them yourselves in the articles. In this context, let me just say that commentators in Pakistan have already begun claiming that IF there were a terrorist attack in India (like Wagah, or a repeat of Mumbai) tracing back to Pakistan, the Pakistani state should not be held responsible as they cannot control attacks on their own Rangers. What kind of people start rationalizing role of the ineffective state even before an attack has happened? The cowardly kind.


  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Nov 6, 2014 - 1:10AM

    The terrorist Modi, and India are responsible for the Wagah killings.
    Shame on this liberal, secular author, and others like her who propagate “Aman Ki Asha”.


  • Nov 6, 2014 - 1:23AM

    The philosophy, the ideology, the thought processes, call it with whatever
    name, has been ingrained, brainwashed, stamped into the population for It was planted by the Devil’s Spawn Zia. And over the years,
    illiterates, working in Saudia and the Gulf, came back with a more virulent
    strain. A very potent religious Khawariji poison. Even if every single
    blasphemy law is eradicated tomorrow, it will not change anything. People
    will still go about with this sick mob rule, burning and killing, in the name of
    Blasphemy. It does not need to be on the books anymore. It is now in the
    stream of consciousness. Accepted behavior,..sanctioned by mullas.


  • observer
    Nov 6, 2014 - 2:14AM

    “The de-linking of the state from non-state militants is just one step that may not happen without changing the narrative. A state generally unwilling to exercise control would, in any case, be on a path towards committing collective suicide.”

    Wise words from the author. The same truth is also spelled out in the latest US Department of Defense Report mentioned elsewhere in ET:

    “Afghan- and Indian-focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military. These relationships run counter to Pakistan’s public commitment to support Afghan-led reconciliation. Such groups continue to act as the primary irritant in AfghanPakistan bilateral relations.”


  • Feroz
    Nov 6, 2014 - 7:54AM

    Ego and pride have come in the way of State acknowledging its gargantuan policy failures, leave aside accepting them. Without this basic premise course correction cannot happen, change of narrative being far away. Definitely the State is on a suicidal path while faulting every thing except its own behavior.


  • Aysha M
    Nov 6, 2014 - 9:19AM

    Extremism is decades old and state initiated. Is it not extremism to make it business of the state in 1974 to identify citizen as muslims and non- muslims. Instead of developing a societal understanding that anybody who claims to be a muslim should be considered a muslim, the state of Pakistan by way of law brought the faith of people in the public domain. Hence gave birth to a judgemental society. From there on people considered their responsibility to judge others’ belief system, mindlessly and ruthlessly. In 1974 the nation was led onto hate path by bringing religion into public domain and making people express uninformed hate of a claimant they have never heard of, know nothing about him. Then there was no stopping to hating and expressing hatred at will in any form whatsoever. Leaders can announce ceasefire and return from warpath, but once down the hate path there is no returning from there, hence we stand today as a barbaric, & violent society, they looked like a nice couple, may Allah bless their souls ameen, heart wrenching & embarrassing to phenomenal levels.


  • Yo2Da2
    Nov 6, 2014 - 10:52AM

    @3rdRockFromTheSun: This analysis by Dr. Siddiqa comes on the same day as the Pakistani FO protests the US DOD report on militant groups in Pakistan. How ironic! Is the FO so clueless and tone-deaf at the same time? Perhaps the FO was asleep during the last few decades as the military has been making foreign policy, not the civilians.


  • Yo2Da2
    Nov 6, 2014 - 10:58AM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir: How are you so sure, Sir? Were you .involved in the operation yourself so you know first hand? What about the group that claimed responsibility? Maybe they were from Mars. What about all those other bombings and killings that have been going on for quite some time now? I remember reading in this newspaper several successful (and unsuccessful) attacks against the armed forces (including at a Naval base) and one recently at Karachi airport. I suppose they were all the work of “Indians”.


  • MSS
    Nov 6, 2014 - 1:59PM

    Ayesha has, as always, hit the nail on the head. Pakistan is committing a suicide albeit a slow one.


  • javed Iqbal
    Nov 8, 2014 - 5:02PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:
    the people like u who create hatred between the nations & religions. U have same mindset as like hindu fanatic in india. double shame upon this minset


More in Opinion