Down the memory lane!

Friendly Fire

Khalid Saleem

THE French have a way with words. “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” remains as true today as it was when formulated. It may be a good idea, therefore, to take look down the memory lane every once in a while, if only to gauge the march of civilisation. And, what would be a better place to make a start than one’s own backyard? Not all that long ago, the ‘Jammu and Kashmir dispute’ was what our policy makers were pleased to call the ‘core issue’. No conversation in the capital was complete without a longish reference to the merits of the case. It was normal practice to arrange for foreign visitors to call on all the high ups in the capital. And as he, or she, went through the usual VVIP round of visits, one could visibly discern them getting a bit green around the gills at each call when they received the full treatment. Our own VVIPs, it appears, had very little else to talk about and so they instinctively launched into the ‘core issue’ routine.
All that now appears to be behind us. Nine/eleven and its aftermath changed it all. The advent of the ‘War on Terror’ engineered a sea change. ‘Terrorism’ became the new buzzword! Through no fault of ours we were sucked into the vortex. We found ourselves on the receiving end, as a consequence of something that was not our doing. Most of the travails of this region can be traced back to the advent of the war on terror. The two American military assaults– first on Afghanistan and then on Iraq – resulted in unleashing forces that the world is now finding it difficult to come to terms with. The whole Muslim World is in a state of sixes and sevens. No prizes for guessing who continues to be on the receiving end!
One wonders if the perspicacious reader has had the occasion to notice that every once in a while the US and Western security agencies make it a habit to announce that they have unearthed another ‘terrorist plot’. One would have no objection to this except that when making announcements the spokespersons, more often than not, jump the gun. The inevitable result is that the finger of suspicion invariably points to ‘Islamic extremists’ and those too of ‘Asian origin’. One can look back at what happened in Germany some days ago when in a patent knee-jerk reaction the police promptly arrested a Pakistani immigrant as the ‘suspect’ in the terrorist act in Berlin the day before Christmas. What is more, this was promptly communicated to the waiting press. The fact that ‘the suspect’ was released a day later – when the damage had been done – is neither here nor there.
To take an earlier example, one can recall the incident of a few years back of the hapless Brazilian young man (remember?) who was so cruelly cut down by the plain-clothed police gunmen in London. His tragic death brought home the utter futility of first jumping to conclusions and then shutting one’s mind off to other sources. The hastily drawn “conclusion” in this case – as in many other cases – was that the culprit was ‘Asian’ and that was that. The principal fault of the Brazilian young man was that he looked like an Asian and was, therefore, considered fair game.
Having enacted the tragedy aforementioned, the authorities then thought it fit to jump to another hasty conclusion. When they discovered that the person they had so cruelly cut down was not Asian at all but actually a Brazilian (and a Christian to boot), Scotland Yard rushed to ‘admit’ that it was a case of “mistaken identity”, triggering a chain of apologies at all levels. But the matter did not end there. Within a matter of hours, the British police and the Press – after an unbelievably quick investigation – started pointing the finger of blame at ‘Pakistanis’, thereby, shutting out all other avenues of inquiry. The inevitable result was a blinkered and linear police response. With the police hunting all over for Asian suspects, the real perpetrators got the opportunity to have a second go! It is a matter of record that the suspects – not the ‘usual suspects’ – rounded up in due course happened to be of African origin.
Another corollary that caused understandable heartburn was that of our own armchair critics jumped on the “liberal” band-wagon and started an animated campaign of self-flagellation at what they were overly quick to admit was a “Pakistan connection to the bombing”. Most – if not all – of them, who incidentally spend their summer holidays in the hospitable climes of the United Kingdom, tried to outdo one other in firing their salvos at Pakistani “Islamists” and their “terrorist-nurturing madrassahs”. The unholy efforts of our own pen-pushers result not only in inviting unnecessary flak from around the world but also in bringing a bad name to the country as a whole.
Violence in any part of the world can under no circumstances be condoned. It becomes all the more reprehensible when the victims are innocent civilians. This said, one must add the caveat that it is not at all fair to jump to the unwarranted conclusion that ‘the epicenter of all that is evil lies in Pakistan’. If anything, recent episodes have proved – if proof was at all needed – that terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon and has no fixed abode. The rational thing to do would be to analyse and effectively tackle the root causes of such terrorism rather than look for ready scapegoats to chastise. It may also be of some import to also look closely at the root causes of the War on Terror and its instigators, as well as what it has spawned.
Given the quagmire in which we find ourselves today, we are fighting a battle for our survival. What we can do without is the constant barrage of pinpricks from the very quarters that possibly engineered the whole thing. Meanwhile, it would be in the fitness of things for us as a nation to ensure unity in our ranks and, if at all possible, develop a backbone. It is hardly necessary to take lying down all the accusations and insults hurled in our direction by people who are certainly no well- wishers.
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.

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