The dead we grieve for

Source: Published in Politics on Monday, February 24, 2014

WHY is it that those who support enforcement of a regressive brand of Sharia, those who endorse a worldview that supports turning back the hands of the clock on human progress, those who back replacing the nation-state system with a caliphate ruling by the sword, those who support the Al Qaeda form of jihad, are also the ones who sympathise with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and insist that no force be used against these ‘misguided’ terrorists irrespective of their crimes?

There is nothing about war that deserves to be celebrated. There is nothing about death that deserves to be celebrated. Muhammad Baksh said it best in Saiful Malook: ‘dushman maray te khusi na kariyae, sajnaa ve mar janaa ai’ (don’t celebrate the enemy’s death for the beloved must also die). But don’t some deaths pain you more than others? The fact is that once a war starts you have to pick a side.

Why do we cheer for the Pakistani team in a cricket match, and more so in one with India? Why can we not be happy for the Indians when they defeat Pakistan after playing well? Why do we call our soldiers lost in war ‘martyrs’ and celebrate their gallantry, and address enemy soldiers as those ‘killed’? Do they not have mothers, wives, sisters and children who suffer an irreparable loss? Why do we not grieve for them?

Wars are terrible things. Irrespective of which side wins, there is loss of precious human life. So you never wish to invite wars or prolong them. And even in war, not all is fair. You fight those who fight you. You don’t fight civilians. You don’t fight those who surrender. You allow medical treatment to the injured. You don’t mistreat prisoners. You don’t disrespect bodies of the dead. This is all part of ancient codes of honour, now codified as laws of humanitarian conflict.

Why does the barbaric slaughter of FC soldiers taken prisoner by TTP pain some and not others in Pakistan? Pervez Rashid has rightly asked whose Sharia and which law of war allows decapitation of prisoners? Do these soldiers not have parents, siblings and children whose lives will be haunted forever by their gruesome massacre? But will they become suicide bombers and blow up other innocent civilians in revenge?

Why does Munawar Hasan’s heart bleed for local or foreign terrorists who are killed by Pakistani forces (or US drones) but not for Pakistani civilians killed indiscriminately and deliberately in suicide attacks planned, executed and owned by the same terrorists? Is it a coincidence that Jamaat-i-Islami’s founders opposed the idea of Pakistan as a separate nation state tooth and nail? Is it a coincidence that many of the Al Qaeda operatives recovered from Pakistan have been recovered from houses of JI supporters?

Has Al Qaeda’s new chief Ayman al-Zawahiri not been inviting Pakistanis to revolt against the state in the aftermath of the ‘Arab Spring’? Hasn’t Al Qaeda now called upon Bangladeshis to revolt against the Bangladesh government in the name of Islam? Does Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid not publicly proclaim Osama bin Laden a hero, while calling upon Pakistanis to rise against the state and its depraved rulers? Does Aziz also not support the TTP agenda?

Has the TTP spokesperson not given a detailed interview to Newsweek explaining TTP’s vision of a caliphate in this region run on the model of Sharia that is not different from the one advocated by Al Qaeda? If this war that has claimed 50,000 Pakistani lives is a foreign war against US occupation of Afghanistan that has angered and destabilised Fata, why are TTP and Al Qaeda expropriating Karachi piece by piece? Why are those fighting a foreign war threatening to kill the Kalash tribe unless it embraces TTP’s version of Islam?

No one is born a terrorist. Most of the criminals are themselves victims of their circumstances and this is probably true for members of TTP, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Al Qaeda too. But in no civilised society are murders let go scot-free because they were mistreated by state, society or the world at some point. Just because you feel wronged by some doesn’t give you the licence to wrong others. The explanation that terror is a consequence of mistreating tribesmen and only needs a healing touch for its eradication has run its course.

The causes that led to the creation of various terror groups (TTP, al-Qaeda, LJ, Jaish-e-Mohammad, LeT, sub-nationalist groups etc.) are varied. There is also no denying that our state has been complicit in nurturing and strengthening them. But these divergent groups have now come together to form an operational alliance on the basis of a shared religious ideology and goal of capturing the Pakistani state and using it as a vehicle to pursue their revisionist objective of establishing a caliphate. While North Waziristan is the headquarter insurgents are spread across Pakistan.

The support and sympathy for our terror syndicate also doesn’t emanate from disgruntled Fata residents alone but from religious groups across Pakistan who share the terrorists’ ideology and goals. It is these groups that grieve the death of terrorists when we grieve the loss of our soldiers and citizens. When they say it is a foreign war, what they mean is that Pakistan must endorse the Al Qaeda-TTP worldview. This ideological war is now indigenous and isn’t going away soon. So let’s pick the side we wish to grieve for.

The writer is a lawyer.

Author Information

Written by Babar Sattar

Author Information: The writer is a lawyer.

More by Babar Sattar
Read all from Babar Sattar»