Guest post by S. AKBAR ZAIDI [This post was sent to us by our friend S. Akbar Zaidi. Though published earlier in The International News of Pakistan, we are reproducing it here because it represents a position that is felt by many inside Pakistan but which right-wingers in India would love not to see. Like right-wingers and Talibanis in Pakistan, our very own Hindutvavadis too thrive on presenting a monolithic picture of something called ‘Pakistan’.]
This was a massacre, nothing less. We should call it that, nothing less. We may want to call the children ‘shaheed’, but they were not engaged in any war against anyone. They were too innocent and blameless for this. They were victims. Let us call them that. They were victims of our politics, of our opportunism, of hiding in the dark, and especially of protecting the murderers. Do we simply pray for innocent victims, and absolve ourselves of the crimes that we have allowed to persist which resulted in this massacre? As Mohammad Hanif has so eloquently argued, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership needs to examine their own bloodstained hands when they raise their hands in prayer. It was the bloody Taliban butchers who killed these children, not militants or some obscure, unspecific category called ‘terrorists’. Let us name them for who they are. We cannot hide away from this reality and unless we name names, we will not alter our political economy, our direction. If we are waiting for the good Taliban to emerge and denounce this massacre, we need to stop hoping. We must stop differentiating between different types of killers. There is no good Taliban, just one ideology represented and manifest in different groups and forms. While the massacre of schoolchildren is what moves us more than anything else, we cannot simply cry and be saddened at their murder and forget about the many hundreds of other Pakistanis who have regularly been targeted and killed in Quetta – and across Pakistan. While we focus on the Peshawar children and this is what makes action possible, we must see the connection between killings of the Hazaras in Quetta by the same type of organisations, the same type of killers with different targets. We must make the links, and name names. Of those who kill and of those who protect them. If there is any resolve to go after the Taliban, we have to go after those who continue to protect them. They have to be exposed and named. The Taliban in an earlier avatar have been called ‘strategic assets’. All such strategic assets need to be eliminated by those who hope to gain something by using them against so-called enemies. It is the strategic assets which have gone awry and have come home to massacre those who raised them. Let us also name those who believe in this theory of the strategic assets and continue to have illusions of grandeur and false expectations from these people. We must also name the journalists and anchors who frame the public debate, spinning facts to suit their paymasters. By twisting reality, facts and evidence, they twist the narrative to blame others who have also been victims of similar sorts of action. We must also name those who are behind these so-called journalists and anchors and who profit by protecting killers. By deflecting the discourse towards India or Afghanistan and arguing that they were behind this and other massacres, by suggesting that ‘Muslims can’t kill’, and these just couldn’t have been Muslims, or Pakistanis, that they were from some other ethnic or national group, just allows us not to take responsibility for our political economy, for our militarisation, over many decades. Let us call the killers Pakistanis, for that is what they were, and that is who they have been in so many other massacres of fellow Pakistanis, since that is the only way we will truthfully expect how to deal with our own crises, created by ourselves, by our own institutions. The writer is a political economist.