Saturday, February 07, 2009

Responding to terrorism in Pakistan

Perhaps, the Taliban takeover 0f Swat may turn out be a true wake-up call for Pakistanis. Remember, that Swat is quite further removed from the tribal belt and is only 100 miles from Islamabad. When I was visiting Pakistan just this past December, there was a weird attitude of denial towards the Taliban. Every event was being interpreted by TV pundits and other talking heads (yes, I know its a broad generalization - but you get my drift) as a conspiracy against Pakistan - it was siege mentality at its best. It was also the time of the Mumbai attacks - so everyone's attention shifted back to India - the enemy Pakistanis love to hate. But the real threat lies on the western border and already inside Pakistan. And this enemy is brutal. So its great to see this editorial in today's Dawn, A Country's Soul, about religion and terrorism in Pakistan:
Pakistan was not like this a few decades ago. True, sectarian trouble used to flare up from time to time, but the scale of the conflict simply cannot be compared to the mayhem that is now on display. We have amongst us not just one but several generations of brainwashed young men who believe that the path to heaven is lined with death and destruction. Kill Shias and your place in paradise is promised, they believe, murder Sunnis and God will greet you with a kindly eye. Meanwhile, many influenced by orthodox ideology are convinced that theirs is the true interpretation of Islam and that killing Sufi pilgrims will book them a place in heaven. All this has happened in Pakistan in recent years and will no doubt continue to take place until we wake up and shout and demand that this madness must end.
Yes, this is a crucial time. Taliban are continuing to blow up schools in Swat and in the tribal belt, and violence has started to hit major city centers. Here is Dawn's call out to religious groups who are often the most vocal (read - loud without substance) in Pakistan:
Where are the religio-political parties when schools are bombed or burned down in Swat and the tribal areas? If they don’t condemn suicide bombings, should we assume that their interests are linked to those of the Tehrik-i-Taliban? What we get is the same old prattle to the effect that Muslims couldn’t possibly be behind such heinous crimes. Nothing could make less sense and it is important that we stop living in a state of denial. Wake up and smell the reality. What we have in this country is Muslims killing Muslims, and a society that is becoming increasingly intolerant of difference. The manner in which different sects of Islam interpret the holy word ought to be a source of discourse, not conflict.
And about taking responsibility:
We blame the West and America for all our ills but don’t for a moment stop to think how we are destroying ourselves. Hatred oozes out of our pores, we are quick to brand as an infidel anyone who takes a broad-minded view. Many amongst us feel that those who think differently are worthy of death. We have only ourselves to blame for our misfortunes.
Read the full editorial here. Also see this Pakistani campaign against terrorism: Yeh Hum Naheen and the "Band Aid" inspired song (video below)
Yeh Hum Naheen was a unique musical event. Featuring the vocal talents of some of Pakistans biggest music artists, including Haroon, Ali Haider, Ali Zafar, Shufqat, Strings, Shuja Haider and Hadiqa Kiani, uniting to sing out the message the world needs to hear.

Written by Ali Moeen, Pakistans foremost lyricist, with music composed by Shuja Haider, its the central message of the song that has compelled so many people to become involved. It is a message of reconciliation, a message of peace and a message of truth. Capturing the imagination of people across the board, Yeh Hum Naheen has given a voice to the silent majority, those in the Muslim world who have for too long been mis-represented. These are the people who although not appearing on our television screens are saddened and shocked at the high-jacking of Islam by terrorists, and want to stand up and shout “This is Not Us”. The song was the brainchild of Waseem Mahmood, author and media consultant, who took inspiration for the project from his children. The song was recorded during a three month period from November 2006 to January 2007 at Sound of Speed studios in Karachi.



Not to complain on this effort - but a more gender balance on the song would have been nice (though the images do keep the balance). But its fantastic to see this effort. Here is the link to this foundation.