War for freedom
Gulmina Bilal Ahmad
The allies and the Pakistan government have termed the military initiative as the war on terror. It is not. To my understanding, it is the war for freedom. Freedom of choice, of thought and movement.
Self-concept is a strange phenomenon. It encompasses not only our religious, social and political beliefs but is also based on a lethal cocktail of fact and fiction. An individual might be self-delusional to the extent that s/he starts living the delusion. Paranoia, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness are based on a self-concept that is not rooted in reality. If this is diagnosed as mental illness at an individual level, then what is it called at a collective, societal level?
An individual who does not take responsibility for his/her actions is not considered reliable. Individuals who, in fact, actively try to disassociate themselves from the problem at hand when they themselves are the problem can be labelled delusional and schizophrenic at best. When a community or a nation tries to do it, what can it be called?
I am afraid we are that: delusional as a nation but also as part of the sub-groups and sub-cultures that we identify ourselves with. I have been working with the police for the past four years and I am surprised when they innocently ask till today, Â“Why does the public have a negative image of us? Why does the media hate us so much?” Engaging in dialogue with parliamentarians has led them to ask the same question. Individuals associated with non-profit organisations are no different than the religious leaders or army personnel who strongly believe that their brand of medicine is the only life-saving one.
We are at war. However, very few of us would like to admit it. The more philosophical amongst us would concur and say, yes war against poverty, or members of the restored and rejuvenated judiciary would declare war against injustice. Correct on both counts but, in my opinion, even before this we are at war against extremism and radicalisation that is not being recognised. We call it everything under the sun but war.
These thoughts were jostling in my mind during a talk shop when an old leftist declared that the “revolution has arrived”. According to the learned intellectual, the present predicament that we find ourselves in, i.e. the extremist mindset that is prevalent amongst us, compelling unfortunately a sizeable percentage of the population to either take up arms or support violent means, is the revolution. The revolt of the have-nots against the haves. Thus, the crises of terrorism are solely rooted in economic inequalities and injustices. This is one perspective.
There are others amongst us who declare that the root cause is actually a political one. They seek the roots in alleged global injustices. Denial is the classic symptom of a sick person. After losing 156 children and 522 men and women in the 80 suicide blasts and 497 bomb blasts in only 2009-10, we still question whose war is it? According to some reports, foreign investments have declined to $ 910.20 million from $ 1.4 billion in FY2008-09. Due to decline in investment, poverty and unemployment rates have gone up considerably. Poverty has reached 41.4 percent from 37.5 percent in 2008-09. Due to relentless terrorism acts in Pakistan, the World Bank has blocked two key loans worth $ 820 million till the conditions ameliorate.
Similarly, terrorism has increased the expenditure of the forces to meet their needs in the fight against terrorism. Pakistan has received a total disbursement of $ 11,998 million from the US under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). Out of this amount, $ 3,129 million was economy-related aid, and security-related aid amounted to $ 8,869 million.
After such a gigantic human, social, political and economic toll, we still are not sure whose war it is?
Perhaps it is a matter of articulating the challenge before engaging in a discussion of alternatives. The allies and the Pakistan government have termed the military initiative as the war on terror. It is not. To my understanding, it is the war for freedom. Freedom of choice, of thought and movement. Thus, the three fundamental ‘Fs’ of free living. To paint extremism in economic, political or even religious terms is to be in denial. The Taliban, be they from any province or sectarian group, challenge our freedom to choose our lifestyles and compel us to develop myopic world visions. Terming the war as one for freedom is a first step.
This is not just a matter of semantics. After the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration toyed with the legal definition of terrorism. Terrorism was declared to be an act of war rather than a crime. Therefore, measures taken during times of war were, then, legally permissible. Terming it as war, not crime, also underlines the importance and need for a surgical, quick and effective response to terrorism, which has to be multi-faceted. Military and political action, effective coordination between various agencies, effective local intelligence gathering – all are ways that need t o be exhausted in our war. However, perhaps the first step is to frame it in the context that compels us to understand the gravity of the challenge.
It is important that we realise that we can never win a war unless first we recognise that we are in a state of war, identify the enemy and take corrective measures to fight him. Until we get treatment for this denial syndrome, we will keep mourning our lost loved ones and continue to seek refuge in absurd conspiracy theories.
Source: Daily Times