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Comparing Malala with drone attacks

November 16 2012




Right-wing political parties and some religious groups appear to be trying hard to somehow confuse the issue by interlinking the TTP attack on teenage Malala Yousufzai with drones attacking North Wazirstan. Drones may be blind and deadly, yet there is a profound difference between the two. But the feverish attempts by the religious right and the increasing resonance of their argument makes you wonder if their propaganda skills were succeeding again.

People in Pakistan may or may not have any great love for US or its hegemonic designs but there is recognition of that nation’s advances in fields of humanities, art and science. Drones spewing fire may be their latest development in military technology.

While the people of Pakistan vastly sympathise with the pain and agony prevalent in Afghanistan, we never contracted al Qaeda to attack foreign missions, people or cities. After wreaking destruction over Afghanistan, Osama, Al-Zahwari, Mullah Omer and their band of Jihadis trickled through Tora Bora into Fata. At their heels they brought Americans and their war machines shooting at people in our tribal agencies. Pakistanis do not support drone attacks nor do we support militants for cross-border attacks from our side of the Durand-line.

While one could abhor Musharraf for being a military dictator, could anyone of us had done otherwise facing frenzied threats by the US establishment bearing down with its full might over Afghanistan? Could Imran Khan have sided with Mullah Omer while B-2 bombers, cruise missiles and swarms of Nato paratroopers were raining over Kabul?

For that matter why did the valiant amongst the al Qaeda and Taliban decide to blend in, in an unarmed Afghan population making them fair game for Nato bombardment? Incidentally, some 10 out of the 50 nations that contributed their troops towards the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan (ISAF) were Muslim including Malaysia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Jordan, Albania, Bosnia and United Arab Emirates. And in such circumstances this country, tormented by severe socio-economic pressures, should have gone to war against the most sophisticated military machines just to satisfy the adventurism of a handful of rich Arabs?

Pakistan could not have rescued al Qaeda from the Western powers hell bent on avenging attacks over their people and assets, as well as committed to cripple its capacity for the future.  When Moulvi Fazalullah announced his intentions over his infamous FM radio to ransack the beautiful Swat valley, did he bother to ask the locals if it was okay for him to stop 11-year old Malala and her friends from going to school and if he could also destroy another 500 girls’ schools? Did it never occur to him or his advocates living in our metropolitan cities that there may be nothing wrong with Malala’s desire to go to school?

Atrocious, yet there is nothing in common between drone attacks and the attack over Malala; or for that matter between Malala and Salala so derogatorily put by Fazal-ur-Rehman. If the Taliban leadership had gone to a decent school, not like the ones run through incomes generated by smuggling diesel, rather, one run by someone respectable like Shah Waliullah, they would have known that writing a daily diary could be an important aspect for grooming school-going children.

But if atrocities forced young minds to speak out for their right to education, does that give Fazalulah’s band of militants a right to start condemning innocent children to their deaths?

If there wasn’t such a nationwide public outcry, they might have sent some young suicide-bomber to attack her and her physicians. Still, Malala had to be airlifted from behind closed doors and dugout machine guns to far away lands in an attempt to save her life.

But people understand – this is no Jihad, this is no just struggle for liberation, rather a bunch of arrogant, trigger-happy men. When Vietcong took on imperialist forces they were a people defending their country, not a bunch of terrorist hiding behind the defenceless population unable to resist heavily armed bands of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

God created this world and gave the human race an opportunity to prove that we were better then angels. If someone wants to avenge aggression or wrongs against Muslims – they must first demonstrate their sincerity by fighting illiteracy, disease and hunger amongst our people. They must also refrain from pushing unarmed people to their death and destruction by the worlds most advanced military forces.

The use of drones against one of the most impoverished regions of Pakistan cannot be justified under any section of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or UN Charter.  Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force by one state against another.

However, Americans invoke two legal exceptions to this ‘Article’ for showering hellfire missiles by these drones over tribal areas:

(1) When the use of force is carried out with the consent of the host state; and
(2) When the use of force is in self-defence in response to an armed attack or an imminent threat, and where the host state is unwilling or unable to take appropriate action.

Forty years ago, Americans used Agent Orange in Vietnam that killed over 400,000 people and resulted in half a million Vietnamese born with horrible defects. – they are yet to be compensated.

There may be a guerrilla war taking place in Afghanistan – we don’t know. In Pakistan, all that the militant organisations are doing is to terrorise an already troubled nation – unable to feed its people but continuing to face American wrath for activities of such extremist organisations.

If the Taliban and al Qaeda care about death and destruction raining over defenceless men, woman and children, they will have to bring to an end their operations from Fata. They need to allow the local and international media and NGOs to interview and experience these traumatised populations.

This nation remains weary of its establishment’s sincerity towards eliminating militancy. A half-hearted military operation may be looming over Waziristan. Yet, without genuine investment in our people they will continue to be easy targets for recruitment by forces like the al Qaeda, Quetta Shura, Haqqani Network, Tehrik-i-Taliban, Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi, Jundullah, Jamaat-ud-Dawa etc.

We have seen such mindset target innocent victims like Malala across our country – a violence that doesn’t stop, spills over into Afghanistan, Iran, India even China and beyond. Its time, people at the helm of affairs realise that when living in a glass house, we must fear people who throw stones at us.


The author is a social activist, a member of Citizens for Democracy and the former Administrator of Karachi.

Originally published by Dawn Pakistan 
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