Foreign Policy Blogs

Pakistan’s Absurdities

As a Pakistani, I know that we are some of the most resilient people with the biggest hearts and the most gullible minds. Since time immemorial, Pakistani’s have been  has been held hostage to their long desire to have a country that is run by the equitable laws of God. Since its inception, politicians and militants, such as the Pakistani Taliban (the TTP — Tehreek-i- Taliban Pakistan), have aggrandize extremist views and pass them off as the word of God and the best moral practice.  Pakistani’s will willingly and blindly follow because, they are told, it is the word of God. And who has the audacity to disobey that?

In the past weeks, Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar, the capital of one of the most troubled provinces of Pakistan and the home of the TTP, has seen three major attacks. The first were twin bombs that hit a church, killing at least 80 people. Days later, another attack killed 17 in Orakzai and Kurram, and just last week, a car bomb killed an estimated 42 people. These attacks come weeks after the local government of the northwestern frontier agreed to hold talks with the TTP, which could only mean that the TTP is not willing to negotiate. Despite this brazen disregard to his peaceful call for negotiations, Imran Khan, the leader of the political party that holds sway in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (the said northwestern province), has insisted that the TTP be allowed to open a representative office out of which such talks will take place. Khan was revered this election year for jolting the otherwise politically indifferent youth into taking part in the elections. As the other two political parties running for elections have both served unsuccessful terms in power, the auspicious youth had pegged all their hopes on Khan and his promise for a “New Pakistan.” His soft stance towards the militants that have taken the entire country hostage, now has his supporters questioning his political agenda.

Pakistani’s are by no means stupid. They are not unaware of events and surroundings, but they have always had their heartstrings tugged at by political ploy in the name of religion. Every military dictator and elected official has pushed their interests in the name of religion. The TTP is no different. They say their war is against evil and against those who are clearly killing hundreds upon hundreds through unmanned drones and military intervention. Newsweek Pakistan recently reported how women are increasingly finding their true calling as suicide bombers, because they see their loved ones harmed by the same drones. In such an environment, the Taliban face no difficulty in swaying popular understanding in their favor. What is further disturbing is that these views are not only held by the poor and uneducated. The affluent who run the country have propagated unfounded far right views for years. In this same month that witnessed countless deaths in Peshawar and elsewhere, there are at least two news stories that highlight the absurdity that is now so characteristic of Pakistan.

The government of the province of Sindh has moved to ban voice and messaging services such as Skype, Viber and Whatsapp — “to prevent extremists from using these secure modes of communication.” As it is, cellular signal jamming devices are promptly installed on national holidays and religious festivals, supposedly to curb terrorist activities. The government of Sindh does not think that this is good enough. Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world where Youtube is already banned because of a video that was once posted, promoting a movie that was said to blaspheme the prophet of Islam.

It is said that the democratic process in Pakistan isn’t as transparent as it ought to be, and therefore, the representation of the citizens in the provincial assemblies, such as the Sindh assembly that is moving to ban messaging services, is not reflective of the desires of the citizens of the area. But how is it that a country that is pelted by militants on a daily basis, the representative government is concerned with so many trivial details of inane policy?  It has to be true that those in government do not represent the common man.

A public research university, the National University of Science and Technology, issued instructions to its students to wear “decent” dresses, which typically has translated into women not being allowed to wear jeans to school and required to wear a scarf with their traditional Pakistani outfits. The absurdity of this rule is blatant, but being imposed at a time where the country is practically at war within itself and losing people to a daily death toll, seems nothing short of offensive.

So, while I maintain that Pakistani’s are the some of the most welcoming and strong people you will ever meet, it can only be true that the information that they are fed is tainted with militant sympathy, which allows irrelevant things such as what women wear to school and  mobile applications to be making the news; these stories, not the lives that have been claimed, because such loss of life is commonplace. Banning Skype – well that’s new.