We, Pakistanis, love to live in a state of denial. Covid-19 blighted millions of people around the world but our decision-makers told us that the pandemic was not harmful. It was confined to China only. It cannot reach Pakistan. The clerics told us that there was nothing like Corona; it was a conspiracy of the West against the Muslims. They encouraged ‘social mingling’ instead of ‘social distancing’ and discovered the treatment of the virus in the Quranic verses. A huge proponent of this doctrine, Jamia Binoria’s Mufti Naeem, had died of Corona but his disciples were still preaching handshaking and embracing denying the dangers such interaction entailed. Corona attacked us harshly, affecting 1.5m people and taking more than 30,000 lives.
We waged jihad against the polio drops by declaring them a conspiracy of the infidels to make the Muslims impotent. We resisted its administration and killed hundreds of male and female polio workers in every nook and cranny of the country. Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah aka Mullah Radio was a victim of polio. Instead of spreading awareness about polio, he justified the killing of the polio workers through his FM Radio in Swat.
Another brand-new denial is the return and revival of the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Swat. On the night of 8 August 2022, some militants attacked the Chapral Police Station of Tehsil Matta, Swat. A senior police officer Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Pir Syed chased them to the Balasar Top. Some army soldiers also reached there. They were led by Major Ahsan. The militants overpowered all of them and seized them hostages. The DSP was seriously injured and needed medical treatment immediately. The local tribal leaders had to hold talks (jirga) with the militants to seek their release. The militants released them the next day.
The army maintains a heavy presence in Swat. It should have immediately launched an operation against these terrorists. The people of Swat are also making such demands in rallies and seminars. But we are told that Swat is still peaceful! An operation was certainly launched – not against the TTP but the protesters.
When the army and the local administration were denying the above incident, the local people of Swat had uploaded a video on the Youtube. It was quite disturbing. DSP Syed was critically injured and lying on mountains. Major Ahsan’s hands were tied and Taliban were interrogating him. But the army and the local administration are still hellbent to deny TTP’s return to Swat.
Our habit of denial has cost us hugely in the past. It has caused disintegration of Pakistan. Our rulers treated the Bengalis with contempt, denied them their rights and forced them to rise against oppression. The Bengalis got rid of us with the help of India. While our army was surrendering to India, our rulers were telling us that we were winning the war!
We initiated the 1965 War with India through ‘Operation Gibraltar’ but our school books tell us that we were sleeping and enjoying the sweet dreams when India attacked us. We woke up, fought bravely and forced India to run away. The school-books concoct similar stories about the war in 1971 as well as the Kargil War. We never tell our kids that India has never attacked us since our creation. We have always attacked India in a bid to liberate Kashmir and suffered humiliating defeats. We had assumed the responsibility of liberating Kashmir and Palestine but we failed to defend the East Pakistan. Instead of learning any lesson from the fall of Dhaka, we started alienating the Pashtuns, the Balochis and the Sindhis and would perhaps claim the creation of Bangladesh today, as a feather in our cap, i.e., for having carved out another Muslim country on the world’s map!
We were hatching the Taliban; people of wisdom were saying that we were rearing snakes; they would bite the hand that fed them. But we were told that they are our boys. They will remain loyal and obedient. But the kids soon started killing the army soldiers. They beheaded them and played football with their heads. They killed and hanged the civilians in Swat’s squares. They carried out suicide attacks in every part of Pakistan. They showed the audacity to successfully attack the Generals Headquarters (GHQ), the naval and air bases. To woo them, we had to hold talks and sign peace treaties which they blatantly violated.
Afrasiab Khattak, a Pashtun nationalist, leader of National Democratic Movement (NDM) and former chairman of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) talking to Naya Daur TV said:
‘Taliban is a project. Pakistan has brought them back from Afghanistan and installed them in Swat. First of all, the Taliban were brought to Waziristan. Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar (leaders of NDM) had talked about their presence in Waziristan in 2020. Jirga and talks are a camouflage. The Taliban were used against the Pashtun nationalists in the general elections of 2008, 2013 and 2018. The Taliban killed hundreds of people in Waziristan during the last two years including the JUIF (Jamiat Ulemai Islam, F) politicians. To divert attention from Waziristan, the security agencies have shifted them from Waziristan to Swat claiming that they (the Taliban) have gone. They have not left. They are around us. We don’t see our prime minister talking about them. The Army and the Taliban are on the same page. This is a game.’
The people of Swat don’t think differently from Afrasiab Khattak. Mukhtar Khan Yusufzai, President, Swat National Jirga, Mingora says: ‘Situation in Swat is bad. In the name of talks, a dangerous game is being played for the last two months. The talks are going on between the Army and the Taliban. No representative of the people is part of it. But people of Swat cannot be fooled this time. We will extend our protests to the length and breadth of Pakistan.’
Awami National Party (ANP) leader Dr M Salim Khan says, the Taliban never came at their own in the past. They are brought and harboured. Salim’s two nephews were killed by Taliban in Swat. He informed the Army, but it took no action. He says that the Army has failed to answer the question: how come the Taliban are entering Swat, even if Afghanistan has no border with Swat?
The police force is the first line of defence when people’s life and property is threatened. The TTP strategy is, destroy the first line of defence and move forward. TTP in Swat has become so strong that it has started receiving protection money from the business community of the area. The tourists have vacated Swat. Those who had booked rooms in hotels and guest houses have cancelled their bookings.
When the TTP had gained full control in the tribal areas in the wake of 9/11, we feared that Islamabad is not too far for them. But we were told that the Taliban can never reach Islamabad. The Taliban were already in Islamabad in the form of Maulana Abdul Aziz, the prayer leader of the Red Mosque. When the Red Mosque brigade kidnapped the Chinese, Musharraf had to sanction a military operation against the mosque. The history is repeating itself but we are living in our usual state of denial.
This is being published as an opinion piece in Journal of Peace Studies, April-August 2022
Mohammad Shehzad is an author, writer, researcher and journalist based in Islamabad. Email: Yamankalyan@gmail.com