“Dartey hain bandooqon waalay ek nehatti larki se, Phailay hain himmat ke ujaalay ek nehatti larki se.”
When I first heard about the brutal attack on Malala Yousufzai, these lines from a poem by Habib Jalib haunted me. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took responsibility for shooting this young girl. Their justification for shooting an unarmed child: Malala was “pro-west”, “promoting western culture in Pashtun areas” and “speaking against the Taliban”. It should come as no surprise that an unarmed, harmless young girl is capable of terrifying monsters who are armed to their teeth. What terrified these monsters was a young girl who could read and write, who could speak up for her rights, who could raise her voice for girls’ right to education, who denounced violence in the name of religion, who could call out the Taliban’s bluff. It should put to shame our military, those politicians, those journalists and hundreds of thousands of those Pakistanis who are terrified of saying anything against the Taliban lest they harm them that these terrorists are actually terrified of Malala and others like her.
It should have made our blood boil that a young innocent girl was shot by these terrorists; instead we saw countless Taliban apologists giving a spin to this shameful incident by painting this tragedy as an international conspiracy against Pakistan. Other countries don’t need a reason to give Pakistan a bad name because we are quite capable of doing it ourselves. Adopting an ostrich-like position in the case of Malala Yousafzai is not going to help solve our problems. In fact, it will only make things worse. The most worrying aspect of all this is that the state of Pakistan has abdicated its responsibility to protect its citizens. President Zardari’s recent address to the delegates of the 5th National Conference of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) conference couldn’t have made it clearer: “You don’t ride a tiger unless you know surely when to get off... are you ready to take the blowback? You know how many madrassas there are and what little it takes to get them united? […] Even if security had been there [for Malala], what could they have done? They’d have probably lost their lives also because they [the TTP] would have mounted a larger attack.” The president did say that we have to fight this war against militancy either today or tomorrow but not till there was a national consensus. Granted that it is not going to be easy to get rid of these terrorists but how long are we going to wait for a ‘national consensus’?
Are we going to allow these terrorists to maim and kill at will as long as we don’t have a national consensus? If this is the case, then what is the use of spending billions on an army that is not ready to take on these terrorists head-on? Why do we spend so much money on procuring arsenal when it cannot even help us protect a young girl from bloodthirsty monsters? It is an open secret how our military has nurtured, trained and protected ‘non-state actors’. Instead of abdicating state responsibility to protect its citizens,we should ask our military to stop aiding and abetting killers.
If someone dares to question these policies, they are labelled ‘pro-west’, US/Indian/Israeli/ Western agents’.
Do we, as the citizens of Pakistan, have no right to question the flawed policies of our military and the ruling elite? If the state wants to abdicate its responsibilities, go ahead. Call us ‘agents’ or ‘traitors’ all you want but you cannot take away our right to dream of a secular, tolerant, pluralistic and democratic Pakistan.
The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org