A decade old —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
This is a new war; on one side are arrayed the major powers and on the other people with ideologies warped enough to justify unprecedented barbarity to satiate their hate
Soon after the 9/11 incident in 2001, I had written this piece and wanted to share my perspective of it then with the readers. Though reduced in length, it is essentially the same.
September 11 will forever remain etched in the memory and psyche of mankind, for a variety of reasons depending on how it affected the individual's life and outlook on religions, nations, regions and ideologies.
The psychological, political, social and economic impact of the event was of a magnitude that may well decide the course of future world history. The world has polarised into two distinct camps: those who will terrorise others in the name of suppression of terrorism, and their victims. The September 11 events have changed the ground rules of how future wars will be waged, and triggered a new continuous war to be waged according to new rules. Traditional rules of conventional and unconventional warfare have been turned upside down.
I think the injustices, arrogance and ham-handedness of the US in dealing with the world led to this. Osama, Mullah Omar and others of their ilk who were first nurtured and patronised by the US for their own selfish ends became enemies when interests diverged. The latest crackdowns will lead to immense suffering for the innocents.
In the US, a new McCarthy era has been unleashed. Unfortunately, this will not be restricted to the US alone because it has enough clout to impose it on countries that, like Pakistan, depend on its largesse. Some European countries have joined the chorus. The tone and tenor are both threatening and disquieting for the rest of the world.
The US has proved vulnerable from many aspects. 9/11 proved that the US psyche, its security and its policies are fragile, or should I say fickle, because they have changed now and could change again. It tends to respond in knee-jerk fashion and its panic buttons are unnecessarily pressed.
Unfortunately, such events occur at a time when dictators are in the saddle here and a twist of fate provides them much required legitimacy, courtesy Washington. In 1979, Zia was patronised and now once again the US, brushing aside every democratic and moral norm for their goals, provided support to Musharraf.
The arms embargo and sanctions were lifted. Much-needed money was given for services promised, but to what avail? Almost immediately, Pakistani generals were seen strutting around the Ankara arms exhibition, shopping for new 'toys'. The precious little received will be misused in a futile arms race and not for the reconstruction and development of a country laid waste by years of misgovernance and corruption. But, as they say, fools are destined to repeat the same mistakes.
This country will see a surge in repression under the flimsy pretext of countering terrorism and the West will condone it. Any voice raised for the national rights of the Baloch and Sindhis will be crushed with the blessings of the west as part of the ongoing counter-terrorism effort. Sectarian strife and lawlessness will rise dramatically.
Although this is not a war between Islam and Christianity or East and West, but, sadly, this is the course it is doomed to take. Anybody who is coloured is a suspected terrorist and if he is self-respecting and does not take to western ways, he becomes a confirmed terrorist. There already have been hate crimes in the US and Europe. This will provide an excellent cover to the likes of Timothy McVeigh and will conveniently blame Muslims.
No sane person will even attempt to justify the events of September 11, let alone rejoice over them. Any loss of innocent lives is reprehensible. But neither can a sane person be asked to condone the everyday assault of Israeli tanks and F-16s on unarmed Palestinians, or the continued denial of rights to the Kurdish, Kashmiri and Baloch people to name a few, or the sufferings of Iraqis due to the embargo or the financial and fiscal overlordship over the developing world by the IMF and the World Bank for the sake of western interests.
This is a new war; on one side are arrayed the major powers and on the other people with ideologies warped enough to justify unprecedented barbarity to satiate their hate. There is clear and present danger of even more spectacular attacks using atomic, biological and chemical weapons.
It is imperative that a more just world order is evolved with a consensus of regions and states because such attacks are not against individual countries but against civilisation and life as we know it. All states sponsoring, aiding and abetting terrorism should be made to pay the price but this criterion should not be left to be determined by the exigencies of the US. Labelling Palestinians terrorists and exempting the Israelis will never solve the issue.
The people of Afghanistan deserve a much-needed break, to build their own country without religion or ideology being imposed on them from outside. They never deserved to be ruled by the Taliban but the Pakistani ISI thought otherwise and thrust them upon these unfortunate people. In the future history of Afghanistan, 23 years (1978-2001) will be written off as lost years.
The trauma of displacement, which Afghans will again face, is barely understood and hardly felt by the people on the sidelines. I have spent 13 years (1978-91) as a Baloch refugee in Afghanistan and have seen these traumas firsthand. Every time a family is displaced it loses everything and has to begin anew psychologically, economically and socially. The children and the elderly succumb to diseases and the elements — you never see many of them in refugee camps. The displacement is total and it leads to loss of self-esteem. No wonder terrorists, criminals and pimps find ready recruits in refugee camps. Only cohesive groups can avoid such pitfalls.
The net result of 9/11 will be curbs on our already scant freedom here and being eyed with suspicion abroad. People will be burdened with increasing external and internal debts as the precious little money that will come this way will be gobbled up by generals making use of their newfound freedom from embargo. The democratic process will be put into the freezer and forgotten because the West needs a stable Pakistan. They could not care less if it is ruled by Attila the Hun as long as it is stable for their needs.
An online friend in the US was worried about the situation in her country and Pakistan. I told her that the world had survived bigger fools than Osama, Mullah Omar and President Bush and would survive again. Brave words I suppose!