The kidnapping of a comedian
Another proof that Pakistan is embroiled in lateral issues like corruption and honour-in-foreign-policy, and ignoring the erosion of the state at the hands of terrorists was forthcoming when a comedian from Peshawar was kidnapped at gunpoint by terrorists on April 24. He was performing at a wedding and there was nothing anyone could do to save him despite the vaunted efficiency of the 1122 call system for emergency police help.
Comedian Nisar Khan made fun of the terrorists operating under warlord Mangal Bagh’s gang, who operate under the banner of the Lashkar-i-Islam and the version of religion that they were trying to impose in Khyber Agency through savage punishments. His funny line was: “Shave my head, paint my face black; mount me on a donkey and make fun of me”. It lampooned the way the Taliban punished people whom they accused of theft. He was picked up last year too but was released. Only time will tell his fate this time around.
Whether he has been picked up by the Lashkar-i-Islam or the Taliban is not known. Both are active in Peshawar and have nullified the writ of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government. Outside Peshawar, a string of cities along the Kohat Road are also under a diarchy with the Taliban calling the shots and commanding more obedience on the part of the citizens than the state. One fears that the Pakistani state, under the tutelage of the establishment, may try to make itself safe from the terrorists’ savagery by becoming pro-Taliban and anti-US. The war which many say is “not Pakistan’s war” is, therefore, not wholeheartedly supported by all and, people like Nisar Khan are made an example of by the terrorists.
Mangal Bagh is rich because he has been kidnapping wealthy people of Peshawar for ransom. He has not been able to absorb himself into the Taliban led by Hakeemullah Mehsud under the umbrella of al Qaeda. Unlike him, another warlord, Swat’s Maulana Fazlullah, was able to join the Taliban and al Qaeda in 2007, after laying waste to the economy of Swat and then fleeing into Afghanistan. Mangal Bagh, however, has been fighting both the Pakistan Army and the Taliban for the last seven years. Needless to say, that the savagery of the warlords allows them to amass wealth and organise themselves.
When the Taliban took hold of Kabul in 1996, their version of religion came to the fore. Initially, people liked the ‘quick justice’ the Taliban meted out, but, with time, they woke up to the tyranny of the regime. All the singers and musicians of Afghanistan fled the country, including the famous singer, Nashanas. In 1999, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf came to power in Pakistan and started ruling with the help of an electoral clerical alliance of the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), especially in then-NWFP. After the MMA promulgated new laws of conduct under the Hasba Bill, which the Supreme Court shot down, the same thing happened to Peshawar and other cities of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa: singers and entertainers either changed professions or left for Lahore — while cinemas were abolished.
The ‘quick justice’ syndrome still exists among the Afghan people, who must be getting ready for another migration into Pakistan as the Taliban look like they will be getting back to Kabul after the Americans leave Afghanistan. But this ‘quick justice’ did not sit well with the people of Swat who were grateful when the army rescued them from the clutches of Maulana Fazlullah. But another round of Talibanisation seems to be around the corner as the Difa-e-Pakistan Council — composed mostly of Pakistan’s infamous non-state actors — gets ready to fight the US and the 350,000-strong Afghan National Army that Washington will leave behind. Already the first big jailbreak in Bannu has pointed to the big muster of the mujahideen, who will wage the next war in Afghanistan, as well as maintain control of the areas they have supposedly ‘conquered’ in Pakistan. In Pakistan, the government, the Supreme Court, and the army are busy looking the other way.