The real war —Syed Mansoor Hussain

I can accept politics but I do have a problem with our supposedly free media. They spend hours covering those killed in US strikes across the Durand Line but they have no time for all those killed by suicide bombers
After the Marriott bombing, apologists for the bombers keep crawling out of the woodwork. Their contention is that it is all due to the US presence in Afghanistan and Pakistani support for the war on terror. Perhaps bombings of girls’ schools and CD shops are also a reaction to the US action in Afghanistan.

The silliest question being asked by these apologists is: whose war this is, ours or America’s? If Pakistanis are being killed then it is obviously a war against Pakistan and Pakistanis. And, we should fight against those that are killing us in Islamabad and Wah and Lahore and Quetta and Karachi.

This, of course, does not excuse US and NATO incursions into Pakistani territory. But, to the best of my knowledge, these forces have never attacked anything anywhere in the country except within a few kilometres of the Durand line — a lawless area as admitted by even the most diehard extremist supporters.

The problem between the US and Pakistan is going to be solved. The US cannot keep violating Pakistani borders and expect that Pakistan or its people will continue to provide — desperately needed — support for its campaign in Afghanistan. But that issue must not be conflated with the fight within Pakistan against extremists bent upon creating chaos and imposing a violent and extreme interpretation of Islam.

I fully support the government in its fight against religious extremism and the terrorism it fosters. This is a fight to the death, not just for ordinary citizens that are being killed by suicide bombers but also for our country as a democratic system that is obliged to protect all its citizens irrespective of their religious inclinations.

The apologists, especially in the media, hide behind obscurantist interpretations of our great faith or else take cover under anti-imperialist (read anti-US) sentiments. When more than sixty wage earners were killed in Wah, none of these self-styled defenders of Pakistan dwelled even for a short while on the victims — who had no sympathy for the US and were ordinary people trying to make a living.

In the Marriott tragedy, once again the bulk of people killed were security guards and drivers; wage earners, often the only breadwinners for their families, killed in the name of religion. Is this what our faith has become in the eyes of the apologists, a license to kill innocent people?

The question then is: what are these apologists thinking? Do they really believe the nonsense they sprout on TV or in op-ed articles? Being an old fashioned liberal who actually believes that most people are decent human beings, I am forced to posit that these people are afraid of being targeted by extremists if they don’t toe their line.

Members of the Pakistani media today have little to fear from the government but they probably all quake in their chappals when they say something that might offend the religious extremists. The greatest human ability is to rationalise points of view that might help in prolonging life.

A few years ago, when I returned to Pakistan after living in the US for many decades, many of my Pakistani-American friends in the US warned me about the rising tide of Islamism in the country. They said that most Pakistanis are now extremists, and as a westernised liberal I would never survive there.

Over the last four years that I have been in Pakistan, I have had the privilege of working with many people of faith, devout and practicing Muslims. All of them, contrary to my expectations, were willing to accept me for what I am as long as I was willing to accept them for what they are. And I must admit that professionally I got along better with the more religiously inclined than with the so-called liberal types!

There is no great divide in Pakistan between the devout and those that are less devout. It is an artificial separation created for political purposes by purveyors of political Islam. The simple fact is that most of us are Muslims that believe in much of the same things. And that, in my opinion, is a message that also needs to be emphasised during these difficult times.

For instance, I would love to see the leaders of the PMLN come out and openly and condemn suicide bombers and what they represent. That they have not done that is indeed extremely disappointing. Does that mean they actually agree with these extremists? I think not. Obviously the government of Punjab is actively fighting against the terrorist threat and will continue to do so. But at times, words are as important as actions.

I can accept politics but I do have a problem with our supposedly free media. They spend hours covering those killed in US strikes across the Durand Line but they have no time for all those killed by suicide bombers. If they actually believe that suicide bombing is a menace directed against Pakistan and that those that die in such attacks are innocent victims, then why don’t they highlight that?

Indeed, an hour every day on these supposedly free TV channels about victims of suicide bombers would let their audience realise that these victims are not US supporters but ordinary people living ordinary lives trying to support their families. Is that not a human-interest story that would indeed win them more viewers? Also, why no pictures of girls’ schools that are blown up, or some write-ups and programmes about them?

Let us not forget that this is also a fight to protect Islam from those that are destroying it in its own name. Just because someone says that he is doing a clearly horrific act in the name of religion, must we give him a free pass?

Syed Mansoor Hussain has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at

Source: Daily Times, 29/9/2008

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