A Method in The Madness?

Oct 21st, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan

Attacking a girl who expressed her will to educate herself and others like her is a crime most heinous is something every right-minded human being would assent to. There is, quite unsurprisingly therefore, an absolute consensus among Pakistanis and the rest of the world about the reprehensibility of the act_ and that certainly tells us our hearts are still in the right place. It is also a given that whoever is behind this attack is evil.

Thinking thus is not leftist or rightist, or liberal or conservative or religious or secular. It is just common decency. But I must risk being controversial beyond the facile narrative of this episode. There are vital questions that need to be asked. For one, who would do this, and why really? I am told it is the thing called Taliban. But I must be cautious against unproven assumptions. Not because I am a Taliban sympathizer, but because I do not know enough to make that conclusion other than the fact that one Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed it was the Taliban. He also tells me he wants her killed because she ‘promoted secularism’ and had the shamelessness to quote to me the Quran and the Sunnah to justify the most despicable act. Indeed, the devil can cite scriptures for his purpose.

I would really like to know and condemn whoever is behind this in the strongest possible terms. But I cannot but put my finger on a murky, dubious and elusive entity that is called Taliban. I do not know what that is, except that it is an umbrella-term for something far more nuanced and complex than the term implies; used more liberally, loosely and expediently than it should- by both those who call themselves the Taliban as well as those who use it for others. Because while it originally described a popular defensive struggle against warlordism and civil strife in Afghanistan and thereafter against the US occupation of the same, it is now adopted by a band of sorts, consisting of mercenaries, petty criminals, hired assassins, agency funded terrorists, double agents, spies and pathological fanatics. Their link with the original Pashtun resistance by this name in Afghanistan remains unclear and questionable, and often denied by mainstream Taliban leadership in Afghanistan.

The skewed up mindset I read in the letter by Ehsanullah Ehsan is sickeningly diabolical. I stop and think what kind of a mind would call for the killing of a mere child using a completely irrelevant, ill-fitting and utterly out-of-context sacred text to justify the point-blank targeting of a female child who had come to mean so much for so many. Even if one cannot expect moral scrupulousness from the Taliban, this sounds like a masterstroke of grandiose stupidity in terms of political consequences as well as psychological repercussions. It is an absolutely suicidal move on the part of the Taliban, given the fact that the very natural and very expected sympathy for the innocent victim will bring utter condemnation and ruination to their cause. It is only natural that a pretty little girl wanting to educate herself and getting shot in the head by misogynistic terrorists for it will deflect any sympathy there may have been for what the Taliban fight for and will provoke the ire of all feeling hearts.

But perhaps there is method in this madness? For one, the episode came to light right after Imran Khan’s peace march against drone strikes had managed to draw attention to this issue that ails the heart of many Pakistanis, and just when there was talk of creating grounds for an operation in North Waziristan. A news report in ‘The Express Tribune’ on September 17, 2012 entitled ‘North Waziristan Operation to Stay Under Wraps’ quotes a Pakistan government official saying that Pakistani authorities plan to create a ‘necessary environment’ for the Waziristan operation. Moreover, soon after the attack given the overwhelming public sympathy there is conspicuous effort to swing opinion in favour of the necessity to use drones to hit targets in the region and the necessity to begin a military operation in North Waziristan agency. This had been a demand from the White House since some time. I must be allowed to wonder who really is the beneficiary of it all? The pattern I detect is a familiar one. Before the Swat operation some years ago, opinion had been swung in support of it after the screening of a video that showed the Taliban lashing a yelping woman. Months later, a small news strip revealed the video had been a fake one. It did not matter then, for the deftness of the forgery had come in handy to justify the operation and to give an inept regime reasons for self-congratulation over something the Former Dictator had failed to do: rally public opinion before a military move into the restive, bleeding north.

Last month’s joint report by Stanford and NYU on the impact of the drone strikes in Pakistan calls them ‘damaging and counterproductive’ as opposed to the false US narrative of these being ‘surgically precise effective tools’ to hit specified targets with minimal collateral damage. The report documents 2562 to 3325 casualties by drone strikes since 2004, out of which 474-881 are civilians including 176 children. The number of injured is roughly between 1226 to 1362 individuals. The report includes harrowing narratives of survivors and victim communities in a region where the ‘free media’ of the country cannot dare to tread.

I may be dubbed a hopelessly ‘illiberal’ fanatic for linking up the Malala incident to the drones when I say that the sympathy generated for Malala must also be for all victims of terror, drone strikes, sectarian and ethnic killings, indiscriminately. We cannot discriminate between dead bodies just because it may not be ‘politically correct’ to question and condemn the cause of the deaths of some, depending on who the killer is. However, the necessary link between Malala and the drone strikes is best drawn by an anonymous lady holding up a most unforgettable placard that confounds the senses: ‘Drones kill so Malala can live.’ I commend her scathing honesty. Few can put so succinctly the political agenda behind the state-sponsored media campaign for Malala and the vital link that does exist between the two. It is, in fact, quite ordinarily a strategy of psychological warfare to generate favourable opinion and support for a planned military offensive which may otherwise be opposed and questioned on moral grounds. In American military terminology, this vital strategy is called PSYOPS (Psychological Operations). Wikipedia explains:

Psychological operations are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.The purpose of the United States psychological operations (PSYOP) is to induce or reinforce behavior favorable to US objectives. They are an important part of the range of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic activities available to the US. Strategic PSYOPS include informational activities conducted by the US government agencies outside of the military arena.”

So now again I hear talk of military operations with renewed vigour while public outrage is toned down and muted. Hawks who cannot see beyond a military solution to the complex, deep-rooted phenomena on the rampage in the tribal north must be patting themselves on the back for yet another tawdry, meaningless triumph. I shudder to think of the possibilities being contemplated.

And I wonder if this really is all about girls education as it is being made out to be? How effective will this be to further the cause of education for the girlchild in this country? Or will it blow to smithereens more lives, generate more terror wreaking havoc on human lives and keeping little girls away from school? And I think of those other victims it is not good manners to make mention of: those battered anonymous and unsung lives connected to so many other lives; of children whose dreams of brighter futures die away and recede into the falling debris; and of my religion audaciously sinned against and made a malleable ploy to the whims and unholy ambitions of evil self-appointed guardians of it.

But if we wish to reach solutions we must be ready to understand, ask questions and wonder why, really? If it is really an ideology that motivates the Taliban’s diabolical moves, I wonder why the ideology never drove these misogynistic Pashtuns into paroxysms of fury and frenzy when Swat hosted tourists and many young honeymooning couples a decade ago? A friend born and raised in Swat speaks of the cheerful, chivalrous, hospitable people with well-knit and warm community lives. My mother who went to school in Nowshehra and Peshawar reminisces of ruddy chivalrous Pathan youths escorting groups of girls to school and of bright-eyed Pathan girls following their dreams into high school and college, many of whom graduated as professionals. So where exactly has it all turned awry? Ideologies do not take birth instantaneously; but vengeance does.
And, if it really is an ideology that motivates the madness, can the use of wholesale, blind brute-force that does not discriminate, defeat it? The answer is a most basic lesson of history it would serve us well to learn.

And somewhere, this simplistic narrative I must believe, just does not cohere.

The pointer here is that maybe this uncontrollable hydra of insane extremism and terrorism is the work of our own fumbling, bloodsoaked, sinning hands? Maybe it is the inevitable result of the dirty deals we brokered and the unholy alliance we forged in indecent haste and sinister hush? And maybe the monster will not be tamed and cut down to size unless we dare to understand that violence begets violence, and the victim does not forget or forgive; that drones don’t see the faces in the dust nor hear the moans in the darkness, but that the faces are people and lives and stories forever knitted into several other stories with the silken ties of love. And by being complicit in this unholy mission, we make these sad stories ugly, grotesque, haunting, terrifying, vengeful. And our own story of ignominy and annihilation is writ indelibly by the Moving Finger.

Maryam Sakeenah

About the author

Maryam Sakeenah teaches Sociology, Literature and Islamic Studies in Lahore, Pakistan. She authored a book documenting Islamic and Oriental responses to the Clash of Civilizations thesis. Maryam is also a social worker running an organization providing free virtual primary education for the poor.

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  1. Beautifully articulated the thoughts that I had but could not have put up so eloquently. The articles on English dailies like Express Tribune and the confounding hysteria in our media, the condemnation coming immediately from Obama, Banki Moon and to top it all, our liberal fascists (using the world liberal from them, though in my opinion, is to disgrace this word) monotone harping indicates a method to the madness. I do have the right to ask a question about the Tariq Aziz (http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/7/us_drone_kills_16_year_old), who appeared with Clive Stafford Smith from Reprieve to be killed within 72 hours in a drone strike (of whose body parts you can’t tell forget acts like beheading) and yet, no sounds of him in our media, no remorse from Obama, no sympathy for his family. Women ,children and men assassinated dismissed just as collateral damage or militants whom could not be confirmed as militants. Our media is sold out, our leaders are puppets and we are hypnotized to believe in the altruism of our western rulers.

  2. Assalam u alaikum,

    no doubt that the Attack on Malala is very Bad.

    unfortunately the writer itself hit by the propaganda of Media and specially ‘conspiracy theories’ , which boomed before the first Swat operation. and still alive and productive .the the MASTER knows best about these/those Taliban and those “Freedom Fighters” who fought against the Russia… but at that time Pakistani Establishment itself taking part is this War as a Hero, thats why everything is crystal clear, but now the same establishment is against these ‘Freedom Fighters’ so every thing is ambiguous . 🙁

    the State Deptt. and state Controlled Media also propagate the False news that ‘Right’ Taliban were also Against the Education of Women, but Reality is 180 Degree Different. if these/those Taliban are against the Education of Women, would u like to tell me why they established the Religious Schools during his 5 years Govt in Afghanistan. and yes, in Pakistan, they run many Religious Schools Called Maradris in Pakistan’s Tribal Area … and they did not Destroy the Girls Schools during the SWAT Operation. you may Read the Saleem Shahzad book for more info.

  3. Beautifully articulated …. another great blog from MBFC …..

  4. Dear Ms. Sakinah,

    Your concerns about the authenticity of the claims by the Taliban regarding malala might be justified if they are not falling within your criteria but Hamid Mir and Saleem safi and many other journalists have no doubts about it as Mr. Ehsan Ullah Ehsan has communicated directly to them and I also received one of the copies of that document. The concerns he raised about Malala are not baseless as she was indeed being used by liberal NGOs and foreign agencies for propaganda purposes against the Taliban and the quality of her diary also shows how she was being used by her elders for what is called “psychological operations” to lay the grounds for Swat Blitz. Please also note that it is not the “Education for Girls” agenda that was the main objective rather it is only the pretext to hide the real agenda. Had Taliban being against Education then why Jamia Hafsa and many other girl schools are running in every corner of Urban cities? Why we see “madrasseh al binaat” on every street corner in every city of Pakistan? So it is not the girl’s education that Taliban are against rather co-education and secularized education that relegates Islam from education, politics, history and society. So do not make wrong assumptions while making your argument as it will only weaken your argument.

    Regarding Malala, I agree that it was due to lack of correct assessment and judgement by the Taliban that led to this blatant mistake but it was not the girl that they were against nor the cause for education but the propaganda she was part of and anyone becoming part of war process be it psychological operations, logistics, media, combat or espionage, he or she becomes legitimate target but yes there must be distinction made between willing participants and manipulated participants. In combat zone the manipulated participants (wither due to duress or deception, child, woman or old) become legitimate target BUT in other less-lethal areas distinction must be made. The main culprit was Malala’s father who was part of Swat Peace Committee who were responsible for propaganda and spying on taliban for military.

    Some of your statements are baseless and without any solid evidence other than what is propagated by Pakistani military press or foreign media like “it is now adopted by a band of sorts, consisting of mercenaries, petty criminals, hired assassins, agency funded terrorists, double agents, spies and pathological fanatics. Their link with the original Pashtun resistance by this name in Afghanistan remains unclear and questionable, and often denied by mainstream Taliban leadership in Afghanistan”

    How do you know that Pakistani Taliban are composed of mercenaries? How did you know they were agency funded? Which agency funds them? Who are double agents? And where is the authentic statement by Taliban leadership in Afghanistan denying their link from Pakistani Taliban?

    The fact is that you have no solid answers to above questions because you have no such sources. We know there might be many mistakes in Taliban due to flaws in their judgement, organization and training but making wrong assumptions about facts is also a wrong. Do you have any idea of the war dynamics between Taliban and Pakistani military? Do you know how a handicapped Alim Maulana Naseeb and anther Alim of Banori Town Maulana Aslam Shaikhupuri were assassinated by military intelligence for their support to Taliban movement? Do you know how Taliban activists are lingering in jails without trial for 4,5 and 8 years? Do you how the state security policies are being framed and executed outside the fold of law and constitution and most people are clueless about all this? Do you anything how many soldiers of Pakisani military are being killed for becoming part of US War? If “collateral damage” is acceptable in US or Pakistani military operations then should they not be acceptable in Taliban military operations? Are Taliban operations in Afghanistan also without any chances of civilian casualties? And do you consider NATO supply truck drivers, the policemen, intelligence personnel and weapons suppliers to this war as innocents? Are they not part of this war either willingly or unwillingly?

    So my advice is to review what you already know and expand your horizon both about the regional dynamics and Islamic teachings. Taking narrow and selective views about groups and events will only leave you clueless about many things that are happening around and also read Seerah of Prophet SAW on broader political and military context rather than subliminal superficial and narrow fixated perspective. Do not become victim of your own ignorance and handicapped religious thinking that remains in the prisons of past fantasies and conspiracy theories.

    I hope my advice shall be beneficial for you


  5. Read this also:

    مذہبی شعور کی معذوریاں
    کالم | November 1, 2012
    مذہبی شعور انسانی شعور کی بلند ترین اور کامل ترین صورت ہے اس کی وجہ یہ ہے کہ اس کے پاس علم کا وہ ’’ذریعہ‘‘ ہے جو شعور کی کسی اور قسم کے پاس نہیں۔ یعنی وحی دوسری طرف اس شعور کی بلندی اور عظمت کا تعلق اس بات سے ہے کہ مذہبی شعور زندگی اور کائنات کے اعلیٰ ترین حقائق سے متعلق ہوتا ہے یعنی وجود باری تعالیٰ۔ اللہ تعالیٰ کی ذات وصفات، آخرت، جنت ، دوزخ اور فرشتے وغیرہ۔ لیکن غلامی کے اثر نے اس شعور کو بھی اضمحلال کا شکار کردیا ۔ برصغیر میں علماء کا طبقہ اس شعور کی علامت تھی لیکن غلامی کے اثر نے علماء کو حق وباطل کی کشمکش سے لاتعلقی کی جانب مائل کردیا۔ چنانچہ روایتی علماء کی اکثریت جہاں دین کی جامعیت کے تصور سے دور ہوگئی وہیں اس کی نفسیات اقدامی نفسیات کے بجائے دفاعی نفسیات بن گئی۔ چنانچہ اللہ تعالیٰ نے اقبالؒ اور مولانا مودودیؒ سے وہ کام لیا جو برتر مذہبی شعور ہی کرسکتا تھا۔ لیکن اقبالؒ اور مولانا مودودیؒ کا تعلق روایتی علماء کے طبقے سے نہیں تھا۔ روایتی علماء کا طبقہ اپنا کام کررہا ہوتا تو اقبال اور مولانا مودودی یا تو پیدا ہی نہ ہوتے یا ہوتے تو روایتی علماء کے دائرے میں ہوتے۔ اس سے ظاہر ہوتا ہے کہ اللہ تعالیٰ اپنے کام کے لیے کسی طبقے کا محتاج نہیں۔ کوئی خاص طبقہ جب اپنا کام نہیں کرتا تو اللہ تعالیٰ اپنا کام کسی اور سے لے لیتا ہے۔ عالم عرب میں قطب شہید اور حسن البناء اگرچہ مذہبی شعور کی بلند ترین علامتیں ہیں اور ان کا پس منظر بھی مذہبی تھا مگر یہ شخصیات بھی روایتی علماء کے طبقے سے برآمد نہیں ہوئی تھیں۔ کہنے کو جہاد کا دور ختم ہوچکا تھا مگر اللہ تعالیٰ نے افغانستان میں سوویت یونین کی آمد کے بعد نہ صرف یہ کہ جہاد کو زندہ کردیا بلکہ جہاد کو روایتی مذہبی طبقات کے بجائے عام کردیا دائرے سے انسان فراہم کیے۔ پاکستان میں اس جہاد کی سب سے بڑی علامت جماعت اسلامی تھی۔ جمعیت علمائے اسلام اور جمعیت علمائے پاکستان نہ صرف یہ کہ اس جہاد سے لاتعلق تھیں بلکہ بسااوقات وہ اس جہاد کی مخالفت کرتی ہوئی پائی جاتی تھیں۔ کشمیریوں کے بارے میں مشہور تھا کہ وہ سب کچھ کرسکتے ہیں مگر جہاد نہیں کرسکتے مگر اہل کشمیر کے غیر روایتی مذہبی طبقات نے ایسا جہاد کیا کہ جدوجہد اور قربانیوں کے سلسلے میں حجت تمام کردی۔

    ہمارے مذہبی شعور کی معذوری کی ایک صورت یہ ہے کہ یہ شعور دین کی خدمت کے حوالے سے ’’مخصوص صورتوں‘‘ یا Forms کا اسیر ہوگیا ہے۔ مثال کے طور پر اگر آپ کسی مالدار مذہبی شخص کے پاس جائیں اور اس سے کہیں کہ میرے پاس دین کی خدمت کے لیے ایک مدرسہ قائم کرنے کا منصوبہ ہے مگر اس منصوبے کے لیے میرے پاس وسائل نہیں ہیں تو وہ مالدار مذہبی شخص مدرسے کے لیے دو منٹ میں دس کروڑ روپے دینے پر آمادہ ہوجائے گا اس لیے کہ اس کا خیال یہ ہے کہ مدرسے کا قیام دین کی خدمت ہے لیکن اگر آپ اس سے کہیں کہ مجھے دین اور امت مسلمہ کی خدمت کے لیے ایک اخبار نکالنا ہے یا ایک ٹیلی ویژن چینل قائم کرنا ہے تو وہ شخص اس کام کے لیے پچاس لاکھ روپے دینے پر بھی آمادہ نہیں ہوگا۔ اس لیے کہ ہمارے مذہبی طبقات کے نزدیک اخبار ، ریڈیو اور ٹیلی ویژن سے دین کی خدمت نہیں ہوسکتی۔ حالانکہ یہ تجربہ ہمارے سامنے ہے کہ ہماری دنیا ذرائع ابلاغ کی دنیا بن گئی ہے اور ذرائع ابلاغ کی قوت یہ ہے کہ وہ سفید کو سیاہ اور جھوٹ کو سچ ثابت کرنے کی صلاحیت رکھتے ہیں اور یہ صورت حال اسلام اور امت مسلمہ کے لیے ایک بڑا چیلنج بن گئی ہے مگر مذہبی شعور ابلاغیات کے میدان میں صفر بن کر کھڑا ہے۔ یہاں تک کہ مذہبی طبقات میں ایسے عناصر بھی پائے جاتے ہیں جو جدید ذرائع ابلاغ سے اپنی دوری پر ’’فخر‘‘ کرنے کے جہل میں مبتلا ہیں۔ یہاں تک کہ یہ لوگ سمجھتے ہیں کہ جدید ذرائع ابلاغ سے ہماری لاتعلقی ، ہماری مذہبیت، کا ایک بڑا ثبوت ہے۔

    بعض مذہبی طبقات نے ذرائع ابلاغ کے محاذ پر کام کیا ہے مگر ان کے فہم کے نقص نے یہ صورت حال پیدا کردی ہے کہ ذرائع ابلاغ بالخصوص اردو، صحافت میں مذہبی ذہن رکھنے والے ’’ابلاغی مزدور‘‘ تو بہت جمع ہوگئے ہیں مگر ان میں ’’رائے ساز‘‘ ایک بھی نہیں ہے۔ اس سے بلاشبہ ہزاروں مذہبی ذہن رکھنے والے نوجوانوں کو روزگار فراہم ہوا ہے مگر ابلاغ کے محاذ پر اسلام اور امتِ مسلمہ کو چار آنے کا فائدہ بھی نہیں ہوا۔ اس لیے کہ ’‘ابلاغی مزدور‘‘ اپنے ’’مالکان‘‘ اپنے ان ’’ابلاغی نگرانوں‘‘ کے سپرد ہیں جن کی عظیم اکثریت یا تو سیکولر یا لبرل ہے یا اسے ذرائع ابلاغ میں کسی نظریاتی جدوجہد سے کوئی سروکار ہی نہیں۔ پاکستان کی نظریاتی صحافت میں جو دوچار اہم لوگ نظر آتے ہیں وہ اللہ تعالیٰ کا انعام ہیں یعنی وہ کسی گروہ کی ’’منصوبہ بندی‘‘ کا حاصل نہیں ہیں۔ مزے کی بات یہ ہے کہ اس صورت حال کے باوجود مذہبی لوگ ذرائع ابلاغ سے سب سے زیادہ شاکی نظر آتے ہیں۔ یہ شکایت تکنیکی اعتبار سے درست اور اصولی اعتبار سے نادرست ہے اس لیے کہ مذہبی لوگوں نے ابلاغ عامہ کے شعبے میں نہ ادارے قائم کرنے کی کوشش کی نہ رائے ساز افراد پیدا کرنے کے لیے سرمایہ کاری کی۔

    ہمارے مذہبی شعور نے ہزاروں مدارس قائم کردیے اور دینی مدارس کا اتنے بڑے پیمانے پر قیام ہماری ضرورت تھا مگر سوال یہ ہے کہ ان مدارس نے مذہبی ادب کے سرمائے میں اضافہ کرنے والے کتنے لوگ پیدا کیے ہیں۔ بلاشبہ دینی مدارس کے فارغ التحصل طلبہ مساجد میں امام اور مدارس میں استاد بن جاتے ہیں لیکن یہ تو ہماری کم سے کم ضرورت ہے۔ اس کا مفہوم اس کے سوا کیا ہے کہ دینی مدارس بھی مقدار یا تعداد پیدا کرنے والے ادارے بن کر رہ گئے ہیں معیار جس طرح عام تعلیمی اداروں میں نایاب ہے دینی مدارس میں بھی اس طرح اس کا کال پڑا ہوا ہے۔ اوّل تو ہمارے اکثر دینی مدارس میں تحقیق اور تخلیق کا کام نہیں ہورہا اور اگر ہو رہا ہے تو اس کی سطح پست ہے۔ دینی مدارس سے جاری ہونے والے وسائل وجرائد میں جو مضامین شائع ہوتے ہیں وہ امت کی ترجیحات سے ہم آہنگ نہیں ہوتے۔ ان پر مخصوص مسلک کا رنگ اس طرح غالب ہوتا ہے کہ دین کی روح پس منظر میں چلی جاتی ہے۔ عجیب بات یہ ہے کہ آج تک کسی مالدار شخص کو اس بات کا خیال نہیں آیا کہ دو چار درجن دینی مدارس کو ماہانہ یا سہہ ماہی رسالے کی اشاعت کے لیے سرمایہ فراہم کرتا اور مدرسے کو رسالے کے مواد کے مخصوص معیار کا پابند کرنے کی سعی کرتا۔ نتیجہ یہ ہے کہ دینی مدارس کے پودے درخت بن جاتے ہیں وہ شاخیں بھی نکال لیتے ہیں اور ان پر پتے بھی آجاتے ہیں مگر ان درختوں میں سے کوئی درخت پھل دیتا ہوا نظر نہیں آتا یا اگر ان میں سے کسی پر پھل آبھی رہے ہیں تو وہ ’’صحت افزائ‘‘ اور ’’خوش ذائقہ‘‘ نہیں ہیں۔

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