How possibly could a party such as the secular ANP get into such a low deal with those of the Taliban’s ilk?

Barbarians at the gate

By Kamran Shafi

SORRY for the trite title, but its blood-chillingly true, isn’t it? As my readers well know, I am quite quickly moved to tears: films like Il Postino and East is East and books like Chronicle of a Death Foretold can set me off like a little baby.

Even the logo on the tail of a PIA airliner taking flight makes me weep happy and bitter and heartbreaking tears as I pray to God our country could also one day lift its head and reach for the stars.

But the horrific pictures that beamed out of my television set this past week showing a young Swati woman — how does it matter whether she was 17 or 34 years old, dammit — being held down hand and foot and mercilessly lashed on her buttocks and thighs by a bearded Yahoo in public, 37 times, only made me furious; absolutely incandescent with rage.

Far more than being livid at the Taliban Yahoos, I raged at those representing the ANP so-called ‘government’ of the Frontier. Even there whilst I could understand the likes of Senator Zahid Khan and Law Minister Arshad Abdullah and someone called Pervez Khan try so futilely and so foolishly to defend their government and the Taliban, whilst I could understand Muslim Khan try to defend the Taliban, I just could not get myself to give any let to Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

Iftikhar Hussain whom I have met and appreciated (kindly note the past tense) as a secular and well-read man, actually had the gall to accuse Samar Minallah who has done so much good (and courageous) work for the cause of the dispossessed, specially faceless women and innocent children, of being part of a conspiracy to derail the ‘peace deal’ with the Taliban in Swat. What in God’s name has the person of Ms Minallah got to do with the Taliban publicly lashing a woman in public? Why did he name her? Does Mian Sahib not know that Samar is not an unknown; that she is the much-respected Nasruminallah Khan’s daughter? That she does not hide behind pseudonyms and innuendo, and says what she says in your face?

He then has the impudence to say that the lashing ‘took place on Jan 3 while the peace agreement with the TNSM was signed on Feb 16’. Well, doesn’t that in itself make your deal with such barbarians doubly disgraceful, Mian Sahib? How possibly could a party such as the secular ANP get into such a low deal with those of the Taliban’s ilk? Is this ANP, the successor to the National Awami Party of Bacha Khan?

Let me go back in time for the younger of my readers who may not know the tortured political history of our poor country. No matter which political party one came from, no matter which political thought one was enamoured of, no matter what the establishment said about the NAP one always admired it for the fact that it was solidly secular, and always stood by its principles. Is this present ANP even a shadow of the NAP of Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo?

What ‘peace deal’ do you talk about, Mian Sahib? Is cravenly throwing down your weapons before a cruel and monstrous enemy who has wrought so much pain and misery in your home a ‘peace deal’? An enemy that your own and federal forces outnumbered 30 to 1? An enemy, moreover, who was far poorly equipped than your own forces? What ‘peace deal’ do you speak about, sir?

Which reminds me. Against my own better judgment, I went to see President Zardari along with about 40 or 50 other TV anchors/journalists a week or so ago. I had been to the presidency in days gone by but had forgotten the opulence and the sheer massiveness of the place. Which, be as it may, the man was completely out of his depth, his grip on reality tenuous — being completely satisfied with the way the army conducted itself in Swat(!), and talked as if he knew everything about everything under the sun.

Unforgivably, he was snide about the judiciary — when asked to ensure the safety of working journalists he said, ‘Why don’t you go to the restored Supreme Court which you said will fix everything?’ Tragically, he did not even know that Nawabzada Balaach Marri, son of Nawab Khair Bukhsh Marri, was dead, murdered allegedly by the Pakistan Army in Afghanistan in November 2007. And this despite Benazir herself visiting the old nawab to condole his son’s death, to the utter chagrin of the Commando.

But nothing lasts forever, particularly in this case, for his buddies Salmaan Taseer and Rehman Malik have grievously wounded and weakened him by the needless and mad adventure mounted in Punjab. It defies description, though, how the three can so brazenly carry on as if nothing happened at all. The sad part is that the shenanigans of these three have greatly hurt the Pakistan People’s Party, a national asset that the country can’t afford to lose, just as it cannot afford to lose other political forces that represent the people.

But back to the matter of the increasingly successful assault on Pakistan by the Taliban. What gives? We will know all if a few very basic questions are answered. One, how come the Pakistan Army, the ISI, the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence and the Frequency Allocation Board could not find Mullah Radio’s FM station in six years?

Two, ditto. Three, ditto. Four, ditto. Ninety-nine, ditto. Just who is preventing all these when-they-want-to-be most oppressively efficient organisations from finding the clandestine broadcaster that is the foundation upon which Mullah Fazlullah has built his dreadful empire of death and destruction?

To the government I say this: If it is true that the cake and pastry and tikka-selling, property-dealing industrial and banking conglomerate, the Pakistan Army, has failed to tactically defeat (I did not say bomb and shell and strafe, sirs) a ragtag militia, then demob large parts of it and distribute its weapons and equipment among the populace. We well know how to defend our hearths and homes, and wives and daughters and sisters and mothers; and neighbours, against the advancing barbarians.

To our visiting paymasters who are presently in the Citadel of Islam, I say this: if the choice is between having a strategic and a transactional relationship with this regime when it comes to doling out money please do yourselves, and us, a favour. Please opt for the transactional, COD (cash on delivery) as they say in business. Only then does this country have a chance of survival. Otherwise it is dead in the water.

Witness Chakwal. It broke my heart to hear friend Ayaz Amir, MNA, say, ‘I never thought Chakwal would become a target, sir’ when I called him on Sunday afternoon to condole the wanton death and destruction spread in his city by the self-same barbarians.

He was at the hospital at the time and the screams of pain in the background made me invoke the Almighty’s curse on those that kill and maim innocents.

Daily Dawn — 8th April, 09