By: Syed Kamran Hashmi
To an extent, our repeated and consistent capitulation to the Taliban’s intolerance has actually become our real tragedy that is not limited to the assault on a young girl.
After a brief moment of solidarity and a genuine outrage on Malala’s shooting incident, Pakistanis have once again succumbed to conspiracy theories, disinclined to take the bull by its horns. We have leaned towards appeasement instead of confronting the Taliban for their atrocities. Just after two weeks of the attack, as we have witnessed, we became a nation desperate to avoid a conflict with the perpetrators, deeply fragmented and despairingly confused, failing miserably to yield a coherent response against their shameful act.
To an extent, our repeated and consistent capitulation to the Taliban’s intolerance has actually become our real tragedy that is not limited to the assault on a young girl. And our cowardice to confront them has only made us more vulnerable to be attacked again and again, as if we were one herd of sheep, assembled in front of the slaughter house, shivering under our skins, waiting quietly to be butchered by the Taliban, one by one.
Logically speaking, the first attempt of this confusion was made when a deliberate Red Herring of drone attacks was inserted in the debate out of nowhere. A parallel with the victims of the North Waziristan was then deliberately drawn by the right leaning leadership of the country to obfuscate the real issue. Multiple pictures of the dead bodies of women with their children who had allegedly lost their lives in the missile attacks were put up in the social media; and through them common people were criticised for not being sympathetic enough towards the suffering of the tribal people.
Although, we clearly understand that these techniques are logically fallacious at multiple levels from appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam) to accuse everyone of supporting the American Agenda (reductio ad Hitlerum). Nevertheless, it is still not my intention to bring the dry and boring rules of philosophy regarding the informal logical fallacies into this discussion when the real question is much deeper and fundamental than the current attack on Malala Yousafzai. The question is purely ideological; it is about women’s empowerment and their defined role in society. It is also about how to handle the courageous, independent and assertive females who do not necessarily agree with the Taliban-like interpretation of Islam. The answer can be understood easily if we agree on one basic fact that the Taliban mindset has a problem with women living independently, fiercely guarding their rights as equal partners to contribute in the welfare of society at large.
As a matter of fact I believe that this problem originates outside of Pakistan and in reality, resides in Saudi Arabia. That country provides the spiritual inspiration for many Taliban-like groups to cage their women in their homes, not allowing them to drive, travel or work (at most places) freely; and to even proscribe them to vote or participate in the democratic process. In addition, women’s right to get comparable level of professional and technical education as men is only accepted by the ‘moderates’ among them, but their hardcore colleagues only want to provide basic religious curriculum to their female counterparts. To a certain level, this is the living truth in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the ‘old great’ Taliban of Afghanistan had practised the same code of ethics when they were in power. If we remember their ‘golden’ era before 9/11, they were (in) famous for their (mal) treatment of women throughout the world. Even in Swat, Maulana Sufi Muhammad had announced unequivocally that women had no business to go out and that they had to stay home all their lives subordinating their will to please their men.
In Lahore, a crude yet similar mindset is displayed by Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) — the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami (although denied) and the younger sibling of Taliban — in the Punjab university. There the boys and the girls are beaten up or threatened respectively by the members of IJT if they are just found talking to each other in the university campus.
Our society, on the other hand, is predominantly moderate: it is not western and is definitely not Saudi Arabian at all; we have always enjoyed a middle of the road approach. We were happy to be led by Fatima Jinnah — the mother of the nation — 50 years ago in an election rigged by a general. We elected Benazir Bhutto as our first female prime minister after her father was murdered. We are content with the current woman speaker of the National Assembly and we take pride in our female foreign minister. In short, there is a traditional realisation of the importance of their education and respect for their interaction with the opposite gender. We also encourage them to boost their confidence in order to take on the challenges of the real world through our mixed education programmes at the professional and the university levels.
In this situation, while most Pakistanis thought of Gul Makai as a lion-hearted, confident and innocent child with a zeal for education, the Taliban mindset considered her as a threat to their ideology and their whole definition of a subservient female. Intimidated by her intelligence, they could not have let their faith be over-run by an amateur young girl; she was too dangerous, and she had to be taken out.