War hysteria is at its peak. Otherwise sane people have overnight become war-mongers, thanks to ISPR propaganda. The multi-dimensional problem of Islamic militancy has, it is said, only one solution — crush the Taliban to death, show no mercy, conduct a full-scale military operation and let the people suffer meanwhile because there is ‘no alternative’ to the military option.
Is war an ‘option’ either, one may ask.
It would be a gross understatement to call it an ‘operation’ since it is a full-fledged war. Over 1.5 million people have been displaced because of heavy aerial bombing in Swat Dir and Buner. The NWFP minister for information says their number can swell to 2.5 million in a few days. This is the hugest human catastrophe our country has seen since 1971. These ‘refugees’ are the people who, until a few days back, had their meal in the peace of their homes. Now they are living off charity in IDP camps with poor toilet facilities.
Without a single exception, all the ‘internally displaced persons’ one met at a recent protest demonstration against the war on Pakhtunkhwa outside Karachi Press Club blamed the army for their woes. There is heavy aerial bombardment taking place in Malakand division in the name of military operation against the Taliban. Entire villages have been wiped off the surface of earth by missiles. Where are the Taliban? All we know is what the DG ISPR tells us every evening – 40 militants dead, 60 Taliban killed, 90 insurgents exterminated. What is ISPR’s credibility? It wants us to believe that the army killed these many Taliban in ‘aerial strikes’? What were so many militants doing in one place in the face of imminent danger from the army? What about the female casualties? Do they show us any dead bodies? Is independent media allowed in the war zone? They want us to trust the army which even failed to stop the illegal FM broadcast of Mullah Fazlullah – something even a telecom sophomore is well capable of doing?
We have forgotten the ultimate result of the ‘military operation’ of 1971. Was it not done by the Pakistan army? How can we ignore the consequences of successive military operations in Balochistan carried out in the name of national security? Did the military operation of 1992 against the MQM achieve its stated purpose or rather it made the fascist party stage a comeback with even more force?
When there is a war going on, you don’t ask for solutions to long-standing problems, you don’t talk of social reforms, you don’t speak of human rights violations — all you seek is an immediate end to war. The army is fighting an invisible enemy. Civilians are becoming its eventual victims. The current cadre of the Taliban belong to those two generations who lived in refugee camps and were uprooted by the Cold War. By bombing the whole of Pakhtun populations, we are only sowing the seeds of militancy among them. By displacing millions of Pakhtuns from their native lands into refugee camps and depriving them of their livelihood, we are ruining not only their lives but also those of their next two generations.
Instead of buying pro-war propaganda, we should ask ourselves if this aerial bombing is really going to end militancy and crush the Taliban once and for all. I am afraid that’s not going to happen. The Taliban will return, and this time round their might will be even greater. How can you expect the Pakhtuns to fight for ‘your-way-of-life’ after you have killed indiscriminately their women and children, reduced their homes to debris and ruined millions of lives of what little semblance of normalcy they earlier had in their native towns?
Military option can never be a solution. Like the Taliban of Malakand, the Taliban of Afghanistan were also retrogressive – has a military strike by the world’s most powerful army been able to contain insurgency and bring law and order there in the last eight years?