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Culture of appeasement
Express Tribune – Editorial, March 4, 2011
The killers of federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti must be puzzled by the way their murder, which they have claimed, is being interpreted in the media. They had put their identity on the pamphlet they threw in his car after killing the minister, and it said: (under the patronage) of al Qaeda and Tehreek-i-Taliban. They said they were from Punjab (Tehreek-i-Taliban, Punjab chapter) and were declaring their connection with the two binary organisations that are tormenting Pakistan and have brought its economy to a grinding halt.
The official interpretation of the killing of Mr Bhatti is that ‘foreign powers’ are trying to cause divisions in the country. This is what Interior Minister Rehman Malik has been saying since the murder; this is also the gloss he has been putting on most killings of the past where the Taliban had actually announced their complicity. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has taken exception to anyone callingthe killers ‘Punjabi Taliban’, thinking this was name-calling under a kind of provincialism practised by the PPP. In the process, the killers are let off the hook: they are not to blame because ‘foreign powers’ are doing the killing; and they are not from any province because naming the province would be base provincialism.
Many TV channels have resorted to relying on ‘experts’ like ex-ISI chief Hamid Gul to further help this effort at appeasing the terrorists. Gul has made it fashionable among callers on many a talk show to say that the CIA is doing the killing to sow seeds of discord among the Pakistanis with the ultimate goal of getting at Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The police and the administrative officers have caught on to this practice of putting the blame on distant lands (the US and Israel) and the ‘near enemy’ (India) to abdicate their own responsibility of identifying and catching the terrorists.
The Taliban feel insulted when our officials say that the CIA is funding them to kill innocent Pakistanis. It particularly riles the chief of the Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, who got himself proudly photographed with the Jordanian suicide-bomber who went across the border and succeeded in killing a group of CIA officers; he also appeared in a photograph together with Faisal Shahzad who tried to blow up Times Square in New York and with ex-ISI officer Colonel Imam as the latter was being executed. The message is: We are fighting the Americans under the guidance of al Qaeda and feel insulted by your abject appeasement.
What is the psychology of this appeasement, which began in the early 2000s after al Qaeda arrived in Pakistan and hired the Taliban warlords to spread terrorism in the country? It practically forgives the terrorists, signalling that they are not the real enemy; the real enemy is India and the power that now stands behind India, the United States. The persuasion here is: Why are you killing us; we are with you in your jihad against the US. The rest of the Pakistani mind, however, is more complex. A part of it is subject to what is called the Stockholm Syndrome, seeking empowerment by embracing the tormentor instead of confronting him. And we can’t rule out the possibility that some Pakistanis actually expect the terrorists to lead the ‘game-changer’ revolution that every leader in Pakistan is loudly praying for.
The world knows what is happening. Minorities minister Bhatti knew of these realities and, if some reports are to be believed, did not trust the security detail allotted to him, not even the Christians he had as guards, because he knew that many Pakistanis secretly approve of actions where non-Muslims or apostates are killed by those claiming to speak for Islam. The ‘peace accords’ of 2004 and 2006 with the terrorists in South and North Waziristan respectively were instances of such appeasement. The terrorists were contemptuous of this appeasement and have continued killing innocent people and destroying markets and schools with impunity, declaring their identity every time. It is no use telling them that Pakistan, too, is with them in their war against America since they focus relentlessly on killing Pakistanis and taking over Pakistan. What we need to do is open our eyes and confront them.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2011.