By Dr. S. Amjad Hussain
THE images of dead and dying people keep flashing in my mind as I think of the devastating car bomb that destroyed part of my hometown of Peshawar last week. It left more than 100 dead and twice as many injured. There was no room in the hospitals to deal with the injured and the dying. Carpenters could not keep up with the demand for coffins.
This latest atrocity - an onslaught against civility and decency - hit home for me, figuratively and literally, because it was in that neighborhood within the walled city that I was born and raised.
Peshawar is an ancient city that has stood on the crossroads of Asia for over two millennia. Its reputation as a frontier town on the wild and turbulent western frontier of the Indian subcontinent aside, it has been called the city of flowers and also the city of colors because it took its hues from the rainbow of languages spoken in the bazaars and caravan serais.
There the great Indian plains and the Central Asian steppes converged and gave rise to a unique and fascinating culture that carried the echoes of far away lands. It was in this milieu that I was born, raised, and steeped in the culture and languages of the city. When I left Peshawar in 1963 for America, I shed a few tears as most young men and women do when they leave home. I took with me nothing but a few snapshots and a rich album of memories.
Those vivid and vibrant memories of the people and places and a yearning for the city sustained me during my wanderings, and these are the memories I mourn today.
I am at a loss to understand why a bunch of functionally illiterate religious bigots are destroying the intricate fabric of a society and killing innocent people.
The Taliban, I guess, are driven by a weird and short-sighted philosophy that reinforces their belief that the end justifies the means. The end in this case is to control the country so they can enforce an imported version of Islam that is alien to the people of Pakistan.
These chimeras, the beasts born out of an unholy mingling of religion and evil, are not what we, on the frontier, believe to be religiously inclined and pious. Even the most orthodox of the orthodox would not cross the limits prescribed by Islam.
Those limits restrict the faithful to waging war only in defense. There are injunctions against destroying property and vegetation, killing livestock, or tampering with water supplies. It further lays out that women, children, and old people must not be harmed. The majority of victims in Peshawar were women and children.
The terrorists melt into the community and neighborhoods. They talk the language of religion, which resonates with gullible, ordinary people. They portray American support of the Pakistani government as the cause of all the turmoil. Nowhere in this line of macabre reasoning is any mention of what religion teaches.
Most people do not subscribe to this brand of Islam, but they are afraid to say so in public. Open and public dissent is the quickest way to get into the crosshairs of the Taliban.
On my frequent visits to Peshawar, I found most people to be trapped in that warped and distorted logic. Many deny that a Muslim could ever commit such an atrocity. And others, a growing number of urban youth among them, think the Taliban would cure Pakistani society of all its ills. They seem to have forgotten what the Taliban did in neighboring Afghanistan when they ruled the country from 1996 to 2002.
Eight months ago, the Taliban bombed the tomb of Rahman Baba, a 17th century Sufi Pashtun poet, that is in Peshawar. His devotional and romantic poetry has inspired and given spiritual sustenance to generations of Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns alike.
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban believe only in the austere and harsh Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, and they are committed to destroying anything that gets in their way, including the tomb of an ancient poet-saint, which stood as a symbol of religious tolerance and brotherhood of mankind. I wept when I saw the desecrated tomb.
So as I think of my devastated neighborhood, I can't help but think of people I knew and their children and their children's children, some of who still live along the narrow alleys in nondescript houses. It was a place whose everyday rhythm was accented and punctuated by the five daily calls for prayers from the corner mosque. The mosque, like the people and the houses, was also destroyed in the blast.
I have often profiled the neighborhood of Muslim Meena Bazaar, as the area is called, and the people who lived there, in my articles and books about Peshawar. In my writings, I have celebrated the ordinary lives of my extraordinary neighbors: artisans, traders, shopkeepers, teachers, and the like. I have always considered myself a sum total of all those people.
Last week, a part of me died with them.
Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a retired Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade.
If we go by the recent statement of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, the two most dangerous countries on this planet are Pakistan and Afghanistan. This statement of Moon is neither prejudiced, nor does he belong to any enemy country of Pakistan or Afghanistan rather this statement is the harsh reality of the world today. The question is that who is responsible for notoriety of these two neighbouring countries? This is clear that the decisions of the political bosses of these countries and the misleading statements of Pakistani leadership are behind the current scenario.
The relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan based Taliban is not new. Pakistan was the first country to recognize the Taliban government of Afghanistan, who captured power by ousting the democratic Najeeb government. Since then the Taliban has deepened its roots in Pakistan. The same Taliban is now eyeing power in Pakistan and therefore Pakistan Army has started operation ‘Rah-e-Nijaat’ against them. But the intentions of Tehrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan are not new.
A decade ago, these Talibans had pasted posters in all major cities of Pakistan in which their plans were clearly mentioned. Through these posters, they made it clear that they want to enforce Sharia’h law in Pakistan. Pakistan’s courts would give verdicts based on the holy Quran. Gold coins would be used as currency during the Taliban regime etc.
The question is that when a decade ago, the Taliban sympathizers were launching such campaigns, was the Pakistani administration asleep then? Was India directing this terrorist organization named Tehrik-e-Taliban a decade ago? Or the Pakistani administrators, according to their habit, were doing nothing while these enemies of humanity were prospering in Pakistan?
The entire world knows all these facts that how the former President of Pakistan, Gen. Zia-Ul-Haq encouraged the extremist and Jehadi ideology during his ten year regime. Since then the tradition of patronizing extremist Islamists by the Pakistani rulers has continued. This has today become an incurable disease that the Pakistan Army itself is finding a way out of this trap or in other words ‘Rah-e-Nijaat’ with them .
Ignoring all these facts, the Interior Minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik recently shocked the entire world by saying that India is helping Taliban for creating disturbance in Pakistan. How much truth is there in his statement, he himself and the Pakistani people better know. What is conveyed by such misleading statement of Malik? Pakistan has previously too accused India for deteriorating situation in Baluchistan. And now a new misinformation campaign is launched by accusing India of supporting the Taliban. The world knows that Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban or any organization sympathizing with Taliban ideology see India as their enemy, and not friend. These organization uses to threaten India from time to time. In these circumstances, how can India ‘help’ these organizations? What the Pakistani Interior Minister wants to tell through such statement, while Pakistan has no such proof through which it can prove India’s involvement in destabilizing Pakistan by helping the Taliban.
On the contrary, there are thousands of evidences which can prove that the terrorists and extremists operated along with the Pakistan administration and the proofs which army and these inhuman organizations are created to created disturbance in India. Ajmal Aamir Kasaab, the only terrorist caught alive in 26/11 is the living example. Kasaab has repeatedly told in his confession how he was sent to Mumbai with the help of Pakistani administration. To clean itself from the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan is now adopting such cheap tactics of misleading statements. The fact is that, the Talibans, so called protectors of Islam, don’t even deserve to be called human beings. It doesn’t seem that there is any other administration than Pakistan, which had ever expressed sympathy with the cruel Talibans. The world still remembers that during the NATO attack on Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11, the Taliban spokesman used to address the world media from Pakistan and even he was arrested from Pakistan. Therefore it is not going to help Pakistan by accusing India. Other countries too can’t digest this. In fact, there is danger of Pakistan losing its own credibility by such absurd statements.