Violence in Quetta: Hanoz Dilli Dur Ast?

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By: Y.A. Turi
The entire Pakistani nation is deeply touched by the recent terrorist attacks in Balochistan, especially the desecration of Jinnah’s Residence in Ziarat. However, there is little or no consensus on what needs to be done at this critical juncture of our history.

Our nation, especially the military and political leadership, needs to understand at this moment of great national tragedy that there are no good or bad terrorists. A terrorist is a terrorist and he/she is an existential threat that needs to be eliminated. Just because a militant outfit is ‘looking after’ interests of Pakistan in India and/or Afghanistan doesn’t make it immune from not ‘looking after’ interests of a certain religious philosophy in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and other parts of Pakistan.

The military and security strategists of the country have always dealt with national security issues by employing myopic short-term measures, which have always backfired. They have always created one monster to fight another and at the end, both of the monsters have turned against them.

Instead of learning from mistakes of the past, during the last few years a similar shortsighted policy has been pursued in order to deal with secessionist movement in Balochistan. The provincial government and courts in connivance with security agencies have been appeasing those militant outfits, which have embarked upon the holy task of ‘diverting attention’ of the so-called nationalists from nationalism to sectarianism.

Leaders of the banned sectarian outfits were released from jails by courts and provided security as well as funding by government and security agencies. Prominent political leaders were seen flocking with these known terrorists. Upon release, these terrorists began their hate speech campaigns and terrorist activities throughout the country. Brainwashing nationalists in order to turn them to sectarianism in Balochistan became the corner stone of the strategy to deal with the growing secessionist overtures.

However, the policy of turning a nationalist movement into a sectarian one, in the name of national security, has proved to be a flawed one. It has been counter-productive. The Frankenstein of sectarianism has not thwarted secessionist movements, it has only strengthened it. The nationalists are even stronger today because they also enjoy the support of militant outfits, in addition to their traditional support from ‘foreign hand’. Representative of nationalists get to speak even at the UN, while no one in the country can even dare to take them to the task or ask our friends in Washington and London not to support NGOs that meddle in the internal affairs of Pakistan.

The recent attacks in Balochistan cannot be seen as isolated incidents. Regardless of what authorities have to say, the attacks seemed to be a result of an unholy alliance of sectarian outfits and secessionists. Such a short-sighted policy, to knot them into marriage of convenience, was bound to doom.

Indeed, whatever is morally incorrect cannot be necessarily politically correct. Ends do not always justify means. Spilling innocent blood cannot be justified by any means, for whatever reason. The duty of a state is to protect its citizens, not otherwise, and if by any chance, the state, for a ‘greater good’, decides to forgo this duty, it loses its raison d’être. A state can only sacrifice those who willingly join its armed forces to fight for the country. The blood of any ordinary citizen, regardless of his/her sect, ethnic identity, caste or creed, is as important as that of any other citizen of the country. Innocent blood, which is shed in the name of national security, is a curse that continues to haunt nations, unless avenged.

Pakistan is a nation of multiple ethnic and religious identities. If one ethnicity or sect is eliminated, doing which would be impossible, because an idea cannot be eliminated by genocide, would the country be peaceful? The terrorists will then turn towards another ethnicity or sect. The trouble with terrorists is that they always find new targets. In fact, the ethnic and sectarian identity which is in the line of fire in Balochistan has always been the most patriotic and peaceful one. Their cold-hearted genocide would only deteriorate peace and stability in the land of the pure.

It is time to call spade a spade. The policy of appeasement of sectarian outfits and good terrorists should completely be reversed. Terrorism should be outlawed in letter and spirit. ‘Banned’ sectarian outfits should actually be banned. Measures should be taken to ensure elimination of terrorism and sectarianism in all its forms.

The secessionist problems have their own remedy. All nationalists should be taken on board for a composite dialogue on all irritants and their legitimate concerns should be addressed in return for their absolute loyalty to the state of Pakistan. However, the new government should strike a balance between the federation’s concerns and the nationalists’ demands, which would not be easy to do.

The recent surge in violence in Quetta and the incident of desecration of Jinnah’s Residence are not ordinary events. They should serve as an eye-opener for those Pakistanis who have hitherto been thinking, “Hanoz Dilli Dur Ast”. It is an attack on the very foundations of Pakistan and against the principles that we believe in.  Pakistan is at crossroads. It is our only chance to save it.

The writer is cultural critic, social science researcher and free-lance columnist.