By: Babar Ayaz
If today Gordon Brown, the US and UN support the women’s education cause in Pakistan and Afghanistan, should we stop supporting the right cause?
If I am killed by a stray bullet in a gunfight between the security forces and terrorists or dacoits, as bad luck would have it I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. But surely I would not be and should not be labelled as a ‘martyr’ or a ‘hero’. Why? Because I have in this case either died or was injured by accident serving no greater cause.
That is one of the many differences between Malala Yousafzai who was targeted by the Taliban for criticising them and those non-combatants who are killed in just and unjust wars around the world. Terrorists who fight an unconventional war are never hesitant to use human shields. They stay/hide in houses that have women and children, sometimes by force and many a times with sympathisers. Sometimes they have their own family. So when they are killed in a war waged by the jihadists, they cannot be compared with Malala because their death is by accident. More innocent people have been killed in terrorist attacks of jihadist organisations in Pakistan than by drones and Pakistani forces. But the ultra-nationalists’ statements are apologetic as they plead that the Taliban’s terrorism is only a reaction to the US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s support to them.
I think there is lot of confusion on the international recognition given to Malala. The Taliban and their allies are visibly irritated because Malala’s message was carried around the world effectively. They have changed their position against women’s education and said that Malala was attacked because of her opposition to their ‘just jihad’ waged to bring sharia in the country and not because she wanted to study. However, they have rejected all modern education as an imperialist forces conspiracy to spread democracy and secular thinking. They are still stuck with the British Raj’s conspiracies and reject modern education. The trouble is that Muslim societies reject rationalism and believe in blind faith strongly. It is something confusing for vacillating Muslims who are living in the modern global village.
On the other hand there are some confused liberals/left extremists who are criticising Malala for playing in the hands of the west, whom they detest. True the US, UK, and other forces invaded Iraq under the flimsy cover of looking for WMDs. We all condemn that. But we should not dismiss some of the gains and losses made by the people as a result of the American invasion. The gain is that Iraq has now an elected government instead of a ruthless dictator; the Iraqi Kurds have more autonomy, which was denied to them by Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqi Shia population has now their due share in government after suffering massacres during Hussein’s regime. The downside is that the simmering Shia-Sunni conflict has now flared up, incited by the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It has now engulfed almost all Arab countries and Pakistan. Again hundreds of people have died in these sectarian killings.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan the case was and is different. We all know that the Americans had left Afghanistan after their objective to oust the Soviets forces was achieved. Many in Pakistan criticised the Americans for dumping the garbage of the Afghan War on Pakistan. Afghanistan was damaged more by the same so-called Mujahideen groups than it was in the anti-Soviet war. We were all clear on the issue that the Afghan Mujahideen and their Islamic jihad would have disastrous implications for Pakistan. At that time Ziaul Haq’s treacherous government maintained that the Afghan war was in the national interest. Even some left extremists and liberals supported the CIA covert operation as a national liberation war. Today the same lobby believes that the ISI-backed Afghan Taliban are fighting a national liberation war.
Nobody can deny that the Pakistan-backed Taliban established a fascist government and made Afghanistan a granary of Islamist terrorists of the world. Thus any sympathy for them among the liberals and left extremists is due to lack of understanding about what qualifies as a ‘national liberation war’. The Taliban do not believe in democracy, instead, they want Khilafat where one man rules a theocratic state. No pluralism is tolerated whether it is of religion, thought or ethnicity.
The Pakistani Taliban are ideologically and organically an extension of the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, which is evident if one reads the Taliban’s own literature to understand their worldview. They banned not only women’s education but restricted their movement and forced them to wear tent-like burqas. Malala stood against the Swat Taliban’s plot courageously for defending women’s right to education. All of us have to support this cause without casting aspersions on her efforts.
The stupid political formulations that support what the enemy opposes and oppose what the enemy supports is being extended by the argumentative critics of Malala. Their stance is an extension of this political formulation, which is neither logical nor Marxist as they want us to believe. The question our confused friends should ask themselves is that if today Gordon Brown, the US and UN support the women’s education cause in Pakistan and Afghanistan, should we stop supporting the right cause? If today religious extremism is opposed by the west, should we start supporting the Taliban and their many allied jihadi outfits? If today the Taliban want to impose a medieval theocracy on the people through the barrel of a gun and it is opposed by the west for whatever reasons, should we adopt the Taliban’s primitive agenda and reject democracy just because western countries also support it?
The point that should be noted is that we support causes that are pro-people and if the west supports them, that is because it suits them and we should not be distracted and shun their support. In politics on different points, interests of different forces converge; we should not be blinded by our anti-west theories, without understanding the fact that we live in a post-industrial period where globalisation is both good and bad for the people. (Re-reading of the Communist Manifesto and Volume One of Das Kapital to understand the role of capitalism may help confused left friends.) We should stop seeing issues and things in black and white. There are many shades of grey in between.
The writer is the author of the recently published book What’s Wrong With Pakistan? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org