03/03/2009 will be remembered as the darkest day in Pakistan cricket’s history. As the world watches in disbelief, some cowards sitting somewhere will be celebrating because they have achieved their objectives, at least for the short term. No international team will visit Pakistan in the forseeable future and only a miracle can save Pakistan from this mess. The irony, of course, always is that the terrorists wanted this to happen, and life is so sacred that no foreign team will be willing to risk their lives for the sake of defeating the terrorists’ nefarious objectives. Does this make it an unwinnable war against terror, because no one will (perhaps rightfully) ever want to visit Pakistan following this barbaric act?
Terrorism has no religion and no borders. After the events of today as some Indians passionately rejected any possibility of an Indian hand in this atrocity, they asked what India would achieve by doing this? Someone can easily ask, what would Pakistanis or Muslims achieve by doing this? After the endless list of all terror attacks that have happened across the globe following 9/11, could patriotic Pakistanis, or Muslims risk tainting the name of their country and/or religion by engaging in these activities? At the moment most Pakistanis are simply thinking about where they will get their next meal from, and under these circumstances what possible terrorist motives could they have?
Yet Pakistan has been a breeding ground for terror. The current and previous governments disclosed venues that were being used for nurturing extremism. Somehow, people on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan are planning attacks against Pakistanis. The world has to realise that Pakistan is more a victim of terror, rather than a perpetrator of terror. Pakistan has 100,000 troops fighting the Taliban on the border; that is probably the largest army any country has spared to fight extremism. Yet, why is the global media so keen on linking Pakistanis and Muslims with terror? Terrorist attacks occur in Pakistan almost everyday, so much so that now it is considered as a part of daily life. The world asks why Pakistanis are sympathetic to terrorists. That is a completely erroneous perception. Pakistan has faced so much destruction and loss because of terror, that Pakistanis simply have discounted the possibility of Pakistanis themselves being the architects of this annhilation and destabilisation of their country. Further, whatever form terrorism takes, the causes of terrorism, like most crimes, are poverty, destitution and manipulation. The War on Terror has left thousands of people homeless in the region, and Pakistani politicians have often hinted that it is these people who take on terrorism as a lifestyle, to effect vengeance against the people who have allowed this to happen; namely, the Pakistani government and the West. So, nothwithstanding how condemnable, evil and unacceptable terrorism is, the sad truth is that the military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been a cause for terror to foster in the region.
The elimination of terror remains the topmost priority nevertheless, and rightly so, as terrorism by its nature is committed against the innocent. One has to be insane to consider taking another’s life, as all life is equal and sacred. Pakistan, as a society, is dividing into religious Muslims and completely liberal Muslims. There seems to be no middle ground for the practice of religion. This can be fatal for the country. It should be the utmost duty of every Pakistani citizen to do all he can to ensure religion is not being preached in extreme terms in any school, madrassah, mosque or institution. There has to be some kind of social and religious revolution. Despite the apparent futility of doing so, Pakistanis must protest against all kinds of extremism, just like how they protest against the actions of Israel, India and the USA. Pakistanis have to focus on the fact that, only the abandonment of all forces that claim to stand for Islam within Pakistan, can ensure Pakistan’s survival.
Pakistanis will have to evaluate whether incidents such as the Lal Masjid fiasco should be encouraged in the country? For me, it is that incident which is the litmus test for finding out whose side a person is on- the liberals or the extremists. (Perhaps I am using the word “liberals” in the wrong sense there, as I consider myself to be a moderate Muslim and not exactly a “liberal” Muslim; I refrain from alcohol, pork, womanising, yet I don’t pray regularly and I don’t keep a beard or regularly attend religious gatherings etc.) I considered the actions of the Lal Masjid clerics as quite disgraceful and extreme, and although I did not support the brutal siege conducted by the Army (as I believe no one should be allowed to take anyone’s life, as both soldiers and students were killed), I severely condemned the actions of the radicals. Yet, there seems to be little similarity between what the Lal Masjid clerics wanted to achieve and their methods of operation, and what the Lahore and Mumbai gunmen did- which was just plain shooting and creating chaos.
This morning I saw a news bulletin, which somehow made me feel hopeful ironically. People from across the country- Quetta, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi were interviewed about their thoughts on this atrocity. They looked very helpless, hopeless and confused. I genuinely felt for them, as their lives are being wrecked by a nameless, faceless and cowardly enemy and they can only sit and watch their country being ravaged by these wild, heartless beasts. What I felt more sorrowful about though, was that people like those interviewees, the common people of Pakistan, are the people the whole world likes to point fingers at and declare as terrorists. Now what made me slightly hopeful, was that I saw an uncanny burning emotion on their faces. I saw people of different facial features, different accents, different body language, but they were all unanimous in declaring this as an unacceptable act. I saw that being at the brink of social destruction has brought the commonalities out in these people who belong to different religions, ethnicities and social backgrounds. For once, Pakistanis seemed united and seemed to consider national issues as more significant than petty internal political and ethnic strifes. What Pakistan needs more than everything else is a torch bearer, someone who can motivate and encourage the general population that their survival, life, pursuit of all things cherishable to Man, are not perished yet and that they are more than capable of turning around their (mis)fortunes. Pakistan needs hope, and all it takes is one man who does not care about political parties, dirty politics, corruption, ethnic supremacy, to start the bandwagon and motivate the people. Sometimes you take a fall, but you only have to look up to see how high you can really get.
That has to the silver lining in Pakistan’s dark cloud. Younis Khan is not an intellectual or philosopher, but today he said something that was very simple, and yet very true and meaningful. He said that Pakistan will be able to brave the storm if all Pakistanis unite and fight against these people who are hellbent on destabilising the country. Unity, faith and discipline was the motto of the Quaid, and it is time these words are put into effect. Something’s gotta give, because now Pakistan is in a desperate situation. It may be the death of international cricket in Pakistan for the forseeable future, but now Pakistanis have to make things right and become prominent in the world as ambassadors of global peace and harmony.