Pakistan’s terror sitcom

Published: December 18, 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

All those bright and shining faces lost in the darkness of blood and violence. But will this be treated as Pakistan’s 9/11? Is this the moment when, after losing 132 children, we have recognised that we will have to fight this battle for our survival so that our children can live their lives peacefully and schools don’t have to close to mourn the death of the innocent? People seem to be in a state of shock. But there is also the likelihood that all of this may ultimately turn out to be a sitcom that we have played for the last so many years.

Painful as it may sound we are likely to mourn for a couple of days until someone will talk about this being a security lapse. People are already asking — as they probably did at the time of the Osama bin Laden operation — how could terror happen in a high security zone. How did these men walk through all the checkpoints carrying weapons and suicide jackets? Very uncomfortable questions indeed, which will provoke a battery of military apologists to point fingers at the sitting government and how it is so inefficient in handling the crisis. Former dictator Pervez Musharraf and his lackeys in the media have indeed started to raise the issue of why the need for the All-Parties Conference. It doesn’t matter to them that it is necessary to get a commitment even from a provincial government, whose leader took so long in condemning the Taliban. In this comedy of errors, it doesn’t matter that the Taliban have indeed admitted to their involvement.

Scene two: we will get a reaction from the government with its supporters reminding the PTI and its partners about not properly condemning acts of terror. This would probably let loose a barrage of criticism and abuses from supporters on both sides. Other parties, of course, will join in by reminding the entire world that they and their leaders sacrificed the most in the battle against terror. Ultimately, more than 72 hours would have passed and other differences would start to set in. There is a high probability that the PTI and its supporters will remember the significance of getting rid of the sitting government and we are back on the roads again.

More than the December 16 attack, it’s our inability to jointly view and assess the threat which is the greater national tragedy. It doesn’t matter that the men walked through barricades, as they did in earlier attacks on hard military targets or even soft targets like the church in Peshawar, to spill innocent blood. We don’t seem close to putting our heads together and our prejudices aside to think about what must be done to stop more bloodshed. Forget about the rest of the country, even the people in Peshawar don’t seem to have an agreement on how to deal with the threat. People are angry and would want every single Taliban to be smashed. One would assume from such reactions that they want the militants dead at any cost. Probe a little and they still hate the idea of drone attacks. A few gentlemen from Peshawar speaking on a BBC programme thought there is greater collateral damage. I thought the Taliban had just complained about collateral damage done from the military operation!

This is not about the need to agree on killing every single person suspected of being a Taliban, but at least develop a consensus regarding why this kind of violent politics ought not to be allowed. We are so divided on defining the problem that we may never get together on creating an alternative narrative. We are not even close to admitting that this is happening right in our midst. Ultimately, it is our next-door neighbours or outsiders in general who are smart enough to cross over, sneak inside our highly secure areas and carry out acts of violence.

Why even bother about the narrative being spread by those tucked away in the warmth of our heartlands as the good guys who may be confused in their ideology but will never attack us. The only people they kill are the outsiders. Thus, those who have struck a deal and promised not to attack hard targets will remain. Our condition can be compared with an American fictional character, Walter Mitty, and his fantasy world. A daydreamer, Mitty imagines himself rescuing helpless people. Our rich strategic imagination sees us as being the only Muslim nuclear power, which everyone is out there to destroy. So, some bad people must be befriended to secure our power. Like Mitty, who is actually very ordinary and ineffectual, it doesn’t matter that we are unable to protect our children, provide the bulk of them with proper education, clean drinking water and other facilities, as long as we can protect our nuclear arsenal.

We would not look into the fact that our good allies have produced a narrative that allows the killing of innocent human beings. Glance through publications that are available openly, in which the burning of a perceived blasphemer is justified. Then there are writings in which violence against minorities is part of a normal deal. Our friendly jihadis operate in another universe and offer a narrative that does not match that of the rest of the world — the American have lost the war and Indians the elections in Kashmir. The problem is not the two propositions here but the fact that there is an entirely different world created and an audience which revolves around these narratives. Those who disagree or don’t take sides are haunted and killed.

Lest we forget, the majority of the 141 who died in Peshawar were downright honest believers. They didn’t challenge faith or blaspheme but they were still killed. And yet, we don’t have the strength to agree not to allow any group or network the freedom to market terror, inside or outside the country. While some moan about the continued absence of organisational structures like Nacta, they can have a good laugh at the fact that we don’t even have an agreement to take on the enemy. The attack may just be another curtain-raiser on our comedy of errors.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th,  2014.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • MSS
    Dec 18, 2014 - 1:50AM

    Ayesha, you are talking about a sad event that has brought tears in the eyes of men in many parts of the world. Yet, it is Pakistani politicians who are dragging their feet and are refusing to accept that they have blundered by encouraging militancy purely for politican gains.
    You are spot on in your predictions about the potential outcome of these APC and meetings. IK will be back to his ambition and refuse to condemn the TTP while others will be invited to TV talk shows and relish their fame. Then another such or may be more horrendous event will set a new benchmark, new outcry and back to square 1. What a sorry state.


  • Mukund
    Dec 18, 2014 - 2:59AM

    Pakistanis are not opposed to terrorism as long as it is on others- civilians of India for example. Please be honest. Your countrymen may be opposed to specific types of terrorist attacks here and there but you are not opposed to terrorism per se. You can frequently see Pakistanis asking Indians to define terrorism!!. This is what you call lukewarm attitude…. may be!


  • Asok
    Dec 18, 2014 - 3:08AM

    My personal condolences from India.

    I can understand why the author is angry and justly so. Everyone should be. However, I am a little more optimistic than she is. This atrocity is so shocking and so directly affects the army itself that I think some changes in ideology will start happening from the very top.Recommend

  • Ranjha
    Dec 18, 2014 - 3:19AM

    If we are “so divided” then most of the blame rests on wannabe scholars like you who–out of personal grudges–take a stance and build a narrative around it and despite it being proven wrong, continue to pound it into people’s minds.

    The only divided people amongst us the cursed “analysts”, “anchors” and other despicable characters wearing bad ties, ill fitting suits, spewing utter balderdash in bad grammar, horrid vocabulary, fabricating, lying in broad daylight but pretending to be educated, honourable, intelligent and patriotic. I am sorry to say, you are amongst this parade of dangerous cartoon characters!

    We are NOT DIVIDED; we are BEING DIVIDED by sick, vengeful nobodies!!!


  • Mayuresh
    Dec 18, 2014 - 3:44AM

    Stinging article. For the sake of Pakistan’s people and rest of the world, I hope the Chinese and Americans for once come out of their “strategic games” and see the situation in Pakistan as it is and not pretend what it could be to suit their narrative. Only way to coerce Pakistani deep state and political parties is real pressure from China and US to behave. No other change agent is powerful enough. Alas, the Chinese and Americans will play for their narrow and short term gains terming it “realpolitik”


  • Saleem
    Dec 18, 2014 - 4:04AM

    We are so divided because we don’t see the things happening around these things any more. And the biggest blame for this goes to digital media. Not a single digital media channel has a courage to show what happened to ones left behind. How they are morning loss of their loved ones. It kept broadcasting same scumbags who show up on digital media every night as if those pundit have any clue. Has any digital media showed those whose homes were devastated because of loss of their loved then when politicians, so called religious champions, and sitting government members wouldn’t have courage to face the public & we all would have seen things differently and consensed on a single point agenda, which this so called MPC is still trying to define even after its 10th meeting.


  • Wellwisher
    Dec 18, 2014 - 5:56AM

    Action should also be taken against extremist rightist elements. Especially ways and means must be explored to keep them away from madrasas to stop them from preaching extremism and training militancy.


  • It's (still) Economy Stupid
    Dec 18, 2014 - 6:51AM

    But there is also the likelihood that all of this may ultimately turn out to be a sitcom that we have played for the last so many years.

    In October 2011, Hillary Clinton had told Pakistani officials that “you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.”


  • Bahadurkhan
    Dec 18, 2014 - 7:14AM

    This sitcom started in October 1947, trailers in 1965, 1971, 1988, 1999, all trailers were flops. One director named Zia ul haq had partial success of movie indian punjab.


  • Riya
    Dec 18, 2014 - 7:40AM

    I am afraid that the so called hard political “reality”, the so called self interest of Pakistan, the need to “rescue” Muslims everywhere from “oppressive” forces, the immediate need to neutralize my opponent in politics, the need to gain a foothold in my neighbor’s backyard, the need not to displease the fiery preacher, the need to appease the foreign donor — may all make this grief short lived, even if they are our own children who died. Even if it was a part of the soul of Pakistan that died. Yet, I sincerely hope that the opposite is the truth.


  • Hameed Arafath
    Dec 18, 2014 - 8:26AM

    U were spot in in ur observations. No words are enough to condemn such barbarism. As an Indian Muslim I share Pakistans grief. But honestly I’m curious to see if the Pakistan s army has in it what it takes to avenge this brutality.


  • jj
    Dec 18, 2014 - 9:50AM

    Well said


  • confused
    Dec 18, 2014 - 11:15AM

    I dont know why twitter facebook and blogs are filled with statements against taliban apologists. It is unimaginable that someone, except the taliban, can support or justify this barbaric incident. I have not seen anyone who has in any slightest way justified the act. Why is everyone talking about the differences? Why cant we just unite the people by mentioning our similarities. Peshawar is OUR city, they were OUR children, their parents are one of US, the school is one of OUR schools. WE are going through the pain and WE have to come out of it and stand against the culprits.


  • Raheel
    Dec 18, 2014 - 11:23AM

    100 million question
    How could terror happen in a high security zone. How did these men walk through all the checkpoints carrying weapons and suicide jackets?


  • Tony Singh
    Dec 18, 2014 - 11:52AM

    Time to wake up and smell the coffee. Ostriches like you are the reason Pakistan is what it is today – In denial of reality.


  • bahadur khan
    Dec 18, 2014 - 12:11PM

    @Raheel: whether we like it or not, army uniform, boots, id is sold in black market in sub continent. organisations like Tablighi Jammat, have penetrated everywhere, Nowadays the game is educated persons with software knowledge to handle terror,


  • bahadur khan
    Dec 18, 2014 - 12:13PM

    @Hameed Arafath: as indian muslim, i think the answer is no. it will open many other black deeds of army.


  • Reddy
    Dec 18, 2014 - 12:18PM

    come on,cut to the chase…even this dastardly attack will be forgotten in few days,hafiz sayyed,syed saladdins always be halaals in pakistan ,but don’t ever complain you have nobody but yourselves to blame


  • bahadur khan
    Dec 18, 2014 - 12:23PM

    @Saleem: spare a moment for Mohammed Ali Jinnah from Gujarat India, Liaquat Khan, Justice Cornelius, Justice Rana Bhagwandas , all who said separate religion from justice. Sharifuddin Pirzada who has said Pakistanis do not have mentality for democracy, justice hence have to be ruled by military. Finally Nawab of Mamdot who began his games of leg pulling, chair pulling, communal games even before MA Jinnah called it a day. pl make your own judgments,


  • Roshaan
    Dec 18, 2014 - 12:35PM

    The Peshawar terrorist attack have actually shunned the whole world. The sacrifices made by Pakistan forces must not be responded in this way. Actually the failure to implement policies regarding terrorism have brought this point that we lost our future in the form those 142 children. An over all grand strategy with proper implementation is required so that to avoid the dangers of these threats in future. This is the very point where just showing condolences for the suffered our government must do something so that the blood of those children doesn’t go unanswered.


  • Mirza
    Dec 18, 2014 - 12:38PM

    Would our right-wing politicians and parties show the same disgust and zeal as they are showing for power and PM seats? Are they going to mobilize the same people against these fanatic terrorists that they had for their own power? PTI and IK has to solve the problems of KPK before they interfere in the affairs of other provinces.


  • Dec 18, 2014 - 12:41PM

    @Ranjha: thanks for your rant exposing that writer is so very correct in her analysis that “We are not even close to admitting that this is happening right in our midst. Ultimately, it is our next-door neighbours or outsiders in general who are smart enough to cross over, sneak inside our highly secure areas and carry out acts of violence.”
    If the people like you will keep making fun of writers and sincere anchors,wedded to good of Pakistan, then dear friend there seems to be no end to the terror openly stalking your land.


  • Tony Singh
    Dec 18, 2014 - 12:49PM

    The Sunni Pakistanis did not raise a voice when Hazaaras, Ahmedis, Shias, Hindus and Sikhs were massacred thinking that this happens only to other people. Now that this tragedy has happened, its time to introspect and learn to live with the other.


  • AM
    Dec 18, 2014 - 1:18PM

    In my view, no single center of power controls the narrative. What we get as a consequence is a mixed bag of opinions churning into a very confused collective thought leading to confusion at all levels within the state machinery and general public!
    The change has to start somewhere and being pragmatic, i would say that the army and the govt need to drive that narrative collectively across the country; be it media, mosques, battlefields or public and foreign policy


  • Altaf
    Dec 18, 2014 - 1:47PM

    So nice of you to forget the creator of Taliban and put the blame entirely on politicians. Just another army apologist trying to confuse the nation.


  • Khan Gul
    Dec 18, 2014 - 1:54PM

    on the day of the attack, a very decorated lawyer was trying to convince me that Nawaz Shareef was behind the attack. You will see in tomorrow’s APC that Imran Khan will cancel his dharna and Nawaz sharif can go to any level to get this dharna cancelled.


  • kelly
    Dec 18, 2014 - 6:19PM

    Mixing hindu religions with politics does not lead to imperialist violence and aggressions – but mixing islam with politics does it all over the world.


  • Ahmad
    Dec 18, 2014 - 6:19PM

    Absolutely shocked and stunned! That’s at least 200 families destroyed and devastated. And probably 150 million people are traumatised, the rest will be forever in denial, no matter what happens – or until tragically they come for them too. Living in Scotland, I remember the shock that we all went through when 12 children were killed in a school in Dunblane. its unbelievable to think that this is at least ten times worse. May we come to our senses, otherwise we will go down in history, literally and for the wrong resond. As for forrign hands, we don’t need enemies outwith when we have enemies like these within us. God help us.


  • Dilip
    Dec 18, 2014 - 7:51PM

    Pakistan was created for the muslim population of India to live peacefully without hindu domination. Today muslim is killing muslim in the Land of the Pure. Why ? Why is it that in India there is no killings amongst the muslim communities. There are Sunnis, Shias and Ahmeddies living in the same areas side by side ? They respect each other. They have their own mosques and madressas. But all schools are intergrated.


  • Nisaar Ahmed Jogi
    Dec 18, 2014 - 9:20PM

    Dear Ms Ayesha,

    You are spot on, in your assessment of the situation and how the political farce will play out.

    Though Mr Nawaz Sharif, the honourable Prime Minister of pakistan has said that all Taliban are bad and that there are No Good Taliban, he says not a word about outfits like the Lashkar e Taiba, the Sipah e Sahaba, the Lashkar e Jhangvi or the Jaish e Muhammad, to name just a few.

    These are also as much terrorists as are the Taliban. The only difference being, they are yet to turn on Pakistan. The day they do, what will be the response of the Pakistani People, the Pakistan Government, the Pakistan Army and the Pakistani Politicians?

    Pakistan can not be like Janus! It has to face up to the fact of what Ms Hilary Clinton had said in such a prescient manner in 2011. Ms Clinton said, ” you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard!!!”

    The earlier Pakistan faces up to this fact and dismantles all types of Terrorist groups the better it will be for Pakistan as well as the world.

    In the end, I would like to say that people the world over share the grief of each and everyone who lost a dear one in this dastardly attack. We pray for their souls and hope that the Almighty will grant them peace and strength to their families to bear this loss.


  • shahid
    Dec 18, 2014 - 10:28PM

    It doesn’t matter to them that it is necessary to get a commitment even from a provincial government, whose leader took so long in condemning the Taliban. In this comedy of errors, it doesn’t matter that the Taliban have indeed admitted to their involvement.

    One of our real problems is authors such as this one who will not let any opportunity go by to score political points. Trying to present a blatantly false perspective about a leader who had the guts to stand up and tell the truth much more often, at the cost of his personal popularity, than the esteemed author is really sickening. But it goes on. These are the same people who want to force on the people of Pakistan a manufactured narrative of history and what has been going on since the cold blooded Russian invasion of Afghanistan since 9/11. They will go to any extent to push their agenda disguising themselves as “scholars” and intellectuals. No amount of disfigurement of history and facts is enough for them. They will cross all boundaries.


  • SJ
    Dec 18, 2014 - 11:48PM

    Seriously? Not a tiny bit of shame for gloating at such a time? As a Hindu I’m ashamed for you. And then there is the added embarrassment that you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.


  • Ranjan
    Dec 19, 2014 - 12:32AM

    I am a Hindu and I want to say that you disgust me as much as the those murderers who killed the children. Forget religion, you are neither spiritual nor humane. If you have children – or nieces, nephews, babies in your neighborhood – go and tell them what you said here. See what they think. I’m sure they’d be more humane than you.


  • Parvez
    Dec 19, 2014 - 1:14AM

    Did any politicians child die………..NO.
    Did any senior armed forces child die ……..NO.
    Did any senior bureaucrats child die …..NO.
    Did any super rich business man’s child die…..NO.
    A lot of noise and some action will happen……but then those that support and nurture the terrorists will be pushed into the background…..until the next attack……and so it will go.

  • Benam
    Dec 19, 2014 - 9:37AM


    You are right. Hence, you will see all the usual response. 2-3 days of major bombing of the regions which were already bombed before.

    Many meetings and talks for next two weeks. A lot of TV interviews and hand wringing about things about to change.

    Army will continue to support its one group of terrorists while fighting the others.

    First step to recovery, is to acknowledge that you have a problem. It seems that Pakistani leadership has no interest in doing that. Hence, there is no discussion whatsoever to eradicate root cause of terrorism – Madarassas, Army’s influence in politics and aspiration to control Afghanistan and Saudia Arabia’s salafi movement.


  • Ranjha
    Dec 19, 2014 - 3:07PM

    @Tony Singh:

    Horrible characters you are–you first aid and abet these monsters, set them loose on our children and then have the temerity to come to these forums cross dressed like “well wishers.” Shame on you and your repulsive psychology.

    We know that this problem was created by our own misguided policies but to think that the little hindus across the border have not taken a delight in exacting revenge is far fetched.

    Einsteins, why don’t you get back to your customer support desks, pretending to be William’s , Johns, and Dicks? Empathy is something your rancid society is incapable of.


  • roma
    Dec 19, 2014 - 8:00PM

    Pakistan has entered a new phase in it’s history .
    Unfortunately , this is not a one-off event
    It would be, if Pakistan seriously repented it’s system,
    But can they ? will they ?
    It is not only the Bible which says those who live by the sword shall
    by removed by it – many other religions and philosophies say
    essentially the same thing.

    The leadership of Pakistan it seems to me , think that
    they can cheat this law of nature – i hope they will repent
    in time to save others from such reactions of the law.


  • bahadur khan
    Dec 22, 2014 - 2:02AM

    the death warrants of the terrorists executed recently in pakistan, were signed by army chief. Where is Mr Mamnoon, is he biting nails ? or supreme court chief justice, law ministry. Army distributes and decides law, Best example of a fuedal mindset and state of affairs. In some time we will hear army has decided to prosecute and execute x or y. This is another sitcom.


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