Violent delights have violent ends
If we rear Rottweiler dogs to terrify our neighbours and the neighbours learn the art of controlling our ferocious dogs, why should we blame them?
Apologists of extremists, from e-jihadis to naïve patriots, take great delight and consolation when some incident of violence happens in a western country. They were jubilant when Anders Breivik, a rightwing Norwegian extremist, shocked Europe by carrying out a massacre of 77 innocent people to show his contempt for supporters of ‘multiculturalism’ in Europe. Similarly, when 27 lives, including those of very young children, were lost after a mentally ill man went berserk in a primary school of Connecticut, the news item was splashed on social media networks with a self-comforting message: “Look, even in these countries violent incidents happen.” No one can contest their claim that there are similarities in the incidents of violence that occur in Pakistan and in other countries of the world. Those who take part in these activities, irrespective of their location, suffer from some kind of mental disorder. No section of society, however, condones such acts in these countries while we invent justifications through an anti-US rhetorical discourse.
Recently, a case of the seven-year-old cancer-suffering child, Neon Roberts, grabbed headlines in the British media as he went missing along with his mother. After a nationwide manhunt, both were found safe and well. The mother had taken her son into hiding because she did not want doctors to carry out a brain tumour removal surgery and related radiotherapy treatment. The distraught mother was apprehensive of invasive surgery and wanted to rely on natural remedies. She therefore was not ready to give her consent to the surgery and the case finally went to a High Court judge who ruled that the doctors’ decision should be honoured and implemented. I am sharing this case to show that when individuals go astray and make whimsical decisions, it is the job of the state to step in and ensure that sanity prevails.
Remaining in a state of denial is our favourite pastime. Despite the fact that the chief of the Pakistani Taliban in a recorded video speech vowed to attack Jamaat-e-Islami for supporting democracy, and despite the fact that at least two major bomb attacks have been made on the processions of the party, its leaders offer verbal support to the extremist outfit. While under Prime Minister Erdogan, Turkey has emerged as a leading partner of NATO against its enemies, Imran Khan wishes to open a dialogue with the Taliban. Despite the fact that Mian Nawaz Sharif has been consistently promoting the discourse of a new Pakistan built on regional trade, Chaudhry Nisar still is unable to condemn categorically those forces that have the ability to sabotage such a dream. What is conspicuously missing from our national discourse is the grand strategic consensus over our response to those who challenge the writ of the state. A few days ago, militants carried out a meticulously planned attack on Peshawar Airport to damage the Pakistan Air Force’s planes parked there. Thanks to the premature bomb explosion, all five attackers were killed in the first act, thus preventing the intended havoc on the scale of Mehran base Karachi. But, owing to the imprudent and ill-judged publicity given by the information minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the fact that some tattoo designs were found on the body of a killed militant, the media lost no time in weaving the conspiracy theory of a foreign hand.
We lit candles in Malala’s name, wrote articles in her favour and sang a few songs of praise. And then it was business as usual again. We refrained from recognising the enemy within. A sizeable section of our media and public opinion continues harping on an ‘external hand’ explanation for our situation. If we rear Rottweiler dogs to terrify our neighbours and the neighbours learn the art of controlling our ferocious dogs, why should we blame them? All militants arrested and interrogated so far are found to be homegrown, who are motivated by the rhetoric of pan-Islamic jihad. Some of our commentators, led by some political leaders, opine that if we come out of our cooperation with the NATO forces the Taliban will be pacified, as the source of complaint will cease to exist. What these commentators are essentially telling us is that one of the main purposes of our foreign and domestic policies should be to please the Taliban. What if tomorrow they make a demand that since India is a country ruled by infidels we should sever our relations with her? Policies are made for the overall welfare and interest of the country. If any group thinks that it has a better solution it should seek the support of the electorate and after getting a two-thirds majority may change the constitution as it wants to. But no group should be allowed to impose its will, just because it can shoot girls in their heads
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries where polio still remains endemic. The shooting of polio workers tells us that the virus of extremism is much deadlier than the poliovirus and we, therefore, should run a concerted campaign of vaccination against the virus of extremism that has plagued the country. “These violent delights have violent ends.” The friar’s quote from Romeo and Juliet aptly describes our national scene. We have long been putting up with the violent delights of jihadi groups. It is high time we let sanity prevail, as the current situation is not sustainable for long.
The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org