If democracy continues to flourish in Pakistan and the establishment’s flawed policies are scrapped, Pakistan would finally become a peaceful country.
“Liberal newspaper Express Tribune cowed into silence by Pakistani Taliban,” reads a headline of The Guardian. Those of us in the media had of course heard about a policy shift after a second attack on Express’s Karachi offices last year and now it is out in the open as well. It is tragic that a liberal newspaper had to take such measures because they feel they are on their own and no one is willing to protect them.
Senior journalist Imtiaz Alam, who hosts two weekly programmes on state-owned Pakistan Television (PTV) and two weekly programmes on private TV channel Express News, says that everyone in the media should put up a united front to counter these threats. “Express Tribune is under serious threat because of its consistent radical position. They have been terrorised into silence because of the last attack in Karachi, which was a clear message. Similarly, other media persons who are vocal against militants also feel this threat. Media groups should not be silent on the plight of the other because tomorrow they would meet the same fate. An attack on one media house should be taken as an attack on the media as a whole,” says Alam.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Pakistani media does not feel this way. During the last few weeks, all we saw on talk shows (barring a few honourable exceptions) was various Taliban apologists and/or their representatives telling the government to talk to the Taliban and telling the people of this country to adopt Shariah (i.e. Taliban’s version of Shariah). Pakistan may be a conservative society and one where intolerance is rising day by day but it is certainly not a country ready for the imposition of Taliban’s Shariah. So, to have debates on what kind of Shariah should be imposed was rather meaningless, but at the same time it was quite disturbing.
In the meantime, the government’s response was neither here nor there, and can at best be termed ambiguous. From saying we want peace in the country and thus we are open to talks with the Taliban to carrying out air strikes in the tribal areas further confused the nation. Despite the national security policy that has finally been presented in the National Assembly, we still do not know for sure how the state will deal with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Some people are fast losing their patience with a democratic system because of this government’s noncommittal attitude vis-à-vis terrorism but all those who think a military dictatorship or a technocratic setup would solve our problems need to smell the coffee. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) patron-in-chief, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s tweet put it quite aptly: “Dictatorships are the incubators of terrorism. There is no longterm solution to terrorism without democracy.”
From his speech on the sixth martyrdom anniversary of his mother, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, on December 27 to his speech at the closing ceremony of the Sindh Festival on February 15, Mr Bhutto-Zardari has been making all the right noises lately. Those who heard his speech in Thatta last month were of the opinion that it sent shivers down their spines and they were fearful for this young man’s life. He called the Taliban ‘vehshi darinday’ (barbaric animals) and said he would make an example out of them – “I am the voice of the martyrs … even your own families would not come to your funerals and no one would be willing to give a shoulder to your dead bodies,” he said. No wonder then that the terrorists wanted to target Mr Bhutto-Zardari. Intelligence agencies apprehended a vehicle laden with 120 kg of explosive material that was meant to target Mr Bhutto-Zardari in Karachi.
The PPP, the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) are vocal against the Taliban and other terrorist organisations; the government in power needs to do the same. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should not bow down just because he is afraid of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) making inroads into Punjab. The PTI has already confused the youth of this nation to no end as far as terrorism and extremism are concerned. This war may not have been ours to begin with but how can we deny it is our war now that more than 50,000 Pakistanis have been killed by these barbarians? It is time to show the PTI and its affiliates that the state of Pakistan is not willing to negotiate with terrorists. Enough innocent blood has been spilled already. Things will not change overnight but if democracy continues to flourish in this country and the establishment’s flawed policies are scrapped, Pakistan would finally become a peaceful country.