Locating the Enemy

By Anjum Altaf

I speak as a layperson not as an expert on the subject and so may be missing a lot but I have a strong feeling something is very wrong with the way terrorism is being combated in the country. If I am mistaken, and I fervently wish I am, I would really appreciate someone explaining what might be going on.

Ever since the recent spate of suicide bombings a feverish campaign has been launched against terrorists and if reports are to be believed over a hundred have been eliminated just in a couple of days. What puzzles me is how the terrorists who have been eliminated have been identified and located so quickly. Did we always know where they were but were letting them be for some reason? If we were letting them be was it because we did not have enough evidence they were involved in terrorism? If that is indeed the case, how could we just go ahead and eliminate them without conclusive evidence? And, if we did have the evidence and knew where they were, why did we not arrest them and establish their involvement in some sort of a normal civilized manner?

These questions, as I have said, are very confusing and I cannot help but think that we are not being told the truth. Either that or our rulers have attained such a unique state of incompetence that they too do not know what they are doing. Both alternatives are frightening and frankly unacceptable. Once again we are faced with what we might call our enduring condition, the bin Laden phenomenon – did we know or didn’t we? Neither answer does us any honor.

It seems to me that the frenzy of maniacal activity is just intended to convey an impression of steely determination and purposeful action in order to placate the public and buy time. Who knows how many innocent people are being sacrificed to keep up this charade. In the meanwhile we are subjected to inane statements that the opening of the new Islamabad airport would promote the soft image of Pakistan and holding a cricket match would convince the world that the country is safe from terrorism and bring superstars flocking back to the country.

I fail to understand how spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe a handful of foreigners to play a game in a nuclear bunker can be convincing proof that the country is back to normal. Or how announcing that a permanent force of 15,000 military personnel needs to be deployed to protect a trade corridor would reassure investors that the country is safe for business. This is self-delusion carried to absurdity.

And what should one make of the resolve that terrorists would now be pursued into other countries? How would one respond if some other country takes that as a license to pursue terrorists into our country? This is jumping from the frying pan into the fire potentially pushing the entire region towards a conflagration. Is there someone thinking before shooting off at the mouth?

Add to that the spate of accusations that our enemies are exacerbating our problems because they do not wish us to succeed or even to hold a cricket match. Much as one would like to swallow this line it is really hard to believe that it was our enemies who convinced us to create these monsters in the first place. Or that it is our enemies who are forcing us to discriminate between good terrorists and bad, between real terrorists and mere sectarian killers, and between terrorists and philanthropists who rush to help the poor and needy in times of floods and earthquakes when the state fails to do what it is supposed to do. Is it all that difficult to comprehend that people can be philanthropists and terrorists at the same time if some all-encompassing ideology can make both compatible with a greater glory?

It is hard to understand why we can’t approach these matters with the normal process of state-to-state collaboration to eliminate terrorism from the region which would be a win-win outcome for all. Or maybe it would not. Otherwise why do we seem to be in this game of ranking terrorists along some scale of goodness or usefulness? If that is indeed the case, could someone have the courtesy of taking the nation into confidence, explaining how some terrorists are better than others and what is that we are aiming to do with the good ones?

And while we are being made wise to that could we also be told if we are succeeding or not and how far are we from the grand objective we have set for ourselves, whatever it is?

A failure to provide convincing answers can only lead to one conclusion: We have met the enemy and he is us.

This opinion appeared in Dawn on March 7, 2017 and is reproduced here with permission of the author.

Note: There are 170 comments on this opinion on the Dawn website. The wide agreement amongst readers and the absence of the usual trolling is an extremely encouraging sign.

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