Imran Khan, Pakistan and Malala Yusufzai
Malala Yusufzai is just a little girl, barely 14 years old. At eleven, she became a poster-child for the movement for educate girls in Swat Valley, in Pakistan and simultaneously, she became a hated figure by the religious fanatics in the region who are associated with the Taliban-style of thinking.
Early this month, the schoolbus she was in, with other girls was stopped by some bearded people, one entered and demanded to know who Malala Yusufzai was. As she rose to identify herself, the man shot her in the head and neck and departed.
Left for dead, Malala lived. She was rushed to a local Hospital, later to a military hospital and then to Britain where she is showing signs of recovery.
The world erupted with sympathy for the poor and very brave girl, women, young and old started to sport signs saying, “I am Malala”. People condemned the action of the killers, demanding action against “The Taliban”.
Recently, people appear to have taken advantage of the anti-Taliban sentiments to attack Imran Khan, the man running for President of Pakistan in the up-coming elections. People blame Imran Khan for supporting the Taliban because he has rejected the blanket bombing and killings of thousands of local Pathan tribesmen by US Drones and by the Pakistan military; he has also condemned the US attack on Afghanistan and the continued killings of Afghans at the hands of the US military. Rather than continue attacking and killing “Taliban suspects” in Pakistan, he wants to negotiate with them and include them in any solution to the future of Pakistan, a move that is highly unpopular with the Pakistan military and with their paymasters, the US.
The so-called “Taliban” in Pakistan, are local Pathans (“Pukhtuns”). Indeed, many of them have been indoctrinated with intolerant religious beliefs, but they are as much “Taliban” as every White Christian is American. Calling them “Taliban” serves to isolate them and then, to target them, when the simple fact is that they are religious fanatics, driven to their beliefs because their lives are without education, without hopes of jobs, without any expectation of justice and certainly, without any hope for e better future.
Along come some religious fanatics who provide basic food, (intolerant) religious education for their children and swift justice…who could blame these people for thinking their only way to salvation in this world as well as in the Hereafter, is by following the false, intolerant edicts that they have been told, are in the Quran?
Unfortunately, Pakistan HAS become “Talibanized”, that is to say, gone down the path of religious intolerance, to a very great extent. Reversing this is going to require a mix of firm resolve, persuasion and policy and I am not sure if one round of leadership will be enough to even get a good start to such a reversal.
The problems Pakistan faces are not simply, “Talibanization”, there are a million pressing problems that must ALL be addressed or, everything can fail. I would suggest that corruption is the single biggest enemy Pakistan has…FAR above the “Talibanization” because the Taliban-types gain ground only because they can point to the ineffectiveness of the government to accomplish any improvements, to bring justice and then say they will deliver and they DO! In the meantime, Pakistan’s entire layers of leadership…political as well as military…is so busy shoveling money into their own pockets, that they don’t care about the anarchy Pakistan is sinking into.
Clearly, the new leader (and it has to be a new leader, past ones are competing only to the degree of their personal and cronies’ corruption) will have an overwhelming job to do and I do not believe even he can accomplish much. However, if he only manages to crack open to door to improvements and honesty, he will have saved Pakistan. Leaders coming after him, will have to pave the path to better and better things.
While everyone is pointing towards the Pukhtun “Taliban” as the main evil in Pakistan, religious, murderous fanaticism is not limited to the Pukhtuns. It would be helpful to remember that the persecutors of Asiya Bibi (a Christian woman), of the Ahmediya and the cheering crowds for the murderer of the Punjab Governor, were NOT from the Pukhtun FATA, they are not even from the poor, uneducated populace, they are actual lawyers and other civil leaders. The persecutors of “Blasphemers” in the Sindh are also NOT from the FATA.
Thus, while it is easy and clever to use the term “Talibanization”, the fact is that the degree of fanaticism in Pakistan is far above “Talibanization”, it has entered the very fabric of Pakistan and simply fighting the “Taliban”, may be popular, but it is not going to be effective, quite the contrary, it is going to continue to produce greater and greater numbers of people ready and willing to give their lives to destroy those involved in killing their friends and relatives.
“Taliban”-types are here, they are Pakistan as much as Nawaz Sharif, Zardari or the person on the street are Pakistan. Pakistan can try to help lower their aggression and can try to contain them by spreading education, healthcare and jobs, but Pakistan cannot and MUST NOT, try to “eliminate” them because that cannot happen without slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people (which the current civil and military governments are doing with US help/pressure). Clearly, some level of trust has to be built and clearly, Pakistan government has to negotiate with these people, there is no other choice.
If not Imran Khan, then who? Is there another viable, bold and honest person able and willing to come forward and win the votes to do anything good for the people and the country?
Is there another leader who will guarantee that Pakistan will not be dragged deeper into the cesspool of corruption and decay?
Religious and national slogans screamed by many, are all very well, but until the people come together and take a stand against all the is destroying Pakistan, nothing will be accomplished. Empty words cannot help turn Pakistan around, it has to be done with the help and leadership of someone who is able and willing to take all parties on board and move them somewhat (expect no miracles) towards the path of peace. The people and subsequent leaders will have to complete the job.
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