Pakhtunkhwa Times

Emptied Of Its Poetry BY: Shaheen Sardar Ali

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 2, 2009

Sun, 01-Feb-2009

River Swat–Kalam

‘Da Malakand da sar tootee wai, pa ohr sati wai Kho Tohmati na wai Mayana’ (Were that I could become a carefree parrot perched on the peak of the Malakand mountains … that angry flames would burn me…not this stigmatised betrayer of my people).

THIS impassioned cry of remorse exhorting release from the burden of having betrayed one’s people expressed in the tapa above, is one of the most haunting expressions of regret and guilt in Pushto poetry.

Part of a rich oral narrative, the poem records the battle of Malakand where local tribes fought to protect the homeland against the British colonisers. Sadly, as we all know, it is never in our power to turn back the clock of history. Confessions of betrayal, guilt, treachery, negligence and remorse often come too late and more often, never. The heart-wrenching plea of the betrayer, echoing in the wild olive groves of the Malakand mountains, may perhaps be a solitary one. Tales of betrayal spurred by greed for money, power and social status changing into deep regret, are few and far between.

Self-reflection, soul-searching and learning from our mistakes is not a common trait, least of all among those who have tasted the sumptuous and disgustingly lavish interiors of the corridors of power. Had that been an instinct, our history books would contain chapters on lessons learnt from the secession of East Pakistan, repetitive insurgency in Balochistan, successive military interventions to rule the country and causes leading thereto.

In these times of economic, political and ideological turmoil, our elected representatives would not have voted to enhance their emoluments when internally displaced people from Swat and Fata were dying of hunger, cold, and ill health, and shivering for their lives in tattered tents.

Had we learnt our lessons in honesty and sincerity, I would not be asking the question: when was the last time, if ever, that the president, PM, CM, governor et al visited this strife-torn valley to send a signal of solidarity to the people and the much-trumpeted ‘writ of government’? (One wonders why all the suicide bombings and rocket attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan failed to keep Messrs Blair and Bush from visiting their troops. Yet, our leaders, firm believers that life is in the hands of Allah and only He can give and take it away, shy away from visiting Swat and Fata, a part of their own country.)

I am particularly reminded of this tapa as I sit here trying to make sense of the tragedy, destruction and misery that has become Swat resulting from direct and indirect betrayal by those in positions of power and authority. Failing one’s people comes in a myriad shades and denominations. It includes what we ought to have done, could have done and would have done to address the situation but did not do. Sitting on the fence while people and country fall apart is just as culpable as actively contributing to the chaos and turmoil wrought on innocent people. Using Swat and Fata as examples for our foreign masters that if the dollars fail to come thick and fast a religious militant regime will gobble the country, is just as criminal, if not worse.

Why else do we waste precious time in endless meetings to discuss strategies while homes are destroyed, women, men and children killed, maimed and disabled for life. If our own homes were under fire, our own children killed, God forbid, or in danger of being taken away from us, would we sit in sarkari safe houses and engage in sagely analysis and hair-splitting about hidden foreign hands, monthly salaries of militants and the likely budget of their terrorist operations etc, but not do anything about it?

I am afraid I am not entirely convinced that our enemy is solely the so-called religious militant operating in the name of Islam. Multiple actors, state and non-state, are at play, taking advantage of a fearful, harassed, and insecure population that looks around and finds no presence of the state of Pakistan or any of its institutions of governance.

But now, our bleeding wounds and weeping eyes have washed the wool off our trusting gaze. We Swatis realise that we were chosen for destruction, not by any other but our very own, a laboratory for testing a bomb called ‘strategic depth à la religious bigotry’. The blatant lies fed by half-hearted minions declaring that ‘the government will not allow anyone to challenge its writ’; or the ridiculous statement ‘all girls’ schools in Swat will soon open’ add insult to injury. The deep anguish of betrayal by one’s own; abandonment by those towards whom thousands of tearful eyes looked for protection, is written large on the broken hearts and traumatised souls of the forsaken Swati, young and old, rich and poor, dead, dying or alive.

We ask: why would anyone want to blow up schools in Swat or anywhere else and who would be heartless and soulless enough to plunder the place and sell, brick by brick, the remains of those destroyed buildings? Who could be so brutal and savage as to chop off human heads and display them at crossroads, hanging from poles and in the streets?

Who would terrorise men, women and children forcing them to flee their homes and hearths, leaving them exposed and vulnerable to the biting cold winter? Who would be so callous as to ignore these travesties and pretend they are either not happening or present it simply as a grand and gory conspiracy against the democratically elected government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its elitist rulers? Who would ruthlessly brush aside the genocide of the Pakhtun nation by arguing that there were other more important calls on their time and attention … such as ‘buying’ and ‘selling’ people’s representatives, transferring civil servants to display control over governmental institutions not to mention juvenile acts of attempted government toppling?

In a coalition government of the ANP/PPP, who is it that chooses to spare leaders of one coalition partner while mercilessly killing leaders of the other. Why is it that those who decide to remain in Swat and brave the wrath of the destroyers, do not receive wholehearted army and government support to defend themselves and their homeland?

Perhaps we Swatis have to acquire the skill of raising our voices above the screaming sirens of ambulances carrying dead and dying people towards Saidu Hospital as well as the deafening sound of strafing, shelling and low-flying helicopters, in order to be heard in the corridors of power. Peshawar and Islamabad are simply too far away and our voices too feeble with fear, hunger and hurt pride and dignity. I wonder if many years later, will anyone ever muster the courage, dignity and honesty to recall their roles of commission and omission, wrench their trembling hands in agony and repeat, Da Malakand da sar tootee wai……

The writer is a professor of law, University of Warwick, UK.

s.s.ali@warwick.ac.uk

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3 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on February 11, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    US agenda to re-map Pakistan
    Pakistan Observer

    Col Ghulam Sarwar (R)
    12/02/09

    Dear Col Ghulam Sarwar (R),

    I refer to your above article and comment on:

    “In case of Pakistan, the plan will not be easy to accomplish. While no prevention role is expected of Pakistan’s political leadership, Pakistan military – as guarantor of national security and supported by pro-population will fight off such moves. Hopefully, the military will stand a much better chance in successfully maintaining national integrity.”

    In my opinion and in this regard, the “army” is far more “BEMAN” than the “political leadership” because if the army cannot stop the deadly-attacks by US drones and troops inside Pushtun’s tribal territory inside of Pakistan, how can it prevent the US agenda to re-map Pakistan.
    Or is it, perhaps if these deadly-attacks by US drones and troops were taking place inside Punjab, killing Punjabis rather than Pakhtuns, than the army will do something about them.
    This would mean that, the Pakistan army is even more “BEMAN” but in Pakistan, Punjab is the “MOTHER” of “BEMANI”, the Pakistani army is the perpetrator of this “BEMANI” and the current misery of the Balochi, Pakhtun population of Pakistan is as a result of this “BEMANI”.
    Shouldn’t cowards like you keep your big mouths shut.
    Should you at this point shout out coward at me.
    I am a civilian, not paid to be brave and protect “all” the people of a country.

    Yours sincerely

  2. Anonymous said, on February 13, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    American Chronicle
    Now Pakistan Is Under Serious Threat
    Muhammad Khurshid February 13, 2009

    There was a time when no one except former president Pervez Musharraf was ready to accept the fact that terrorism is the problem of Pakistan, but now this menace is a threat to the very existence of this country. Now Pakistani media has also been saying that terrorism a threat to Pakistan. Now this fact has been accepted that terrorist training camps are present in Pakistan.

    Rulers of Pakistan have taken a long time in accepting the truth. They have accepted the truth after the killing and destruction on large scale. Now this question must be anwsered by those who matter in the Pakistani administration as who are terrorists. Who are providing support to terrorists in tribal areas?

    According to my observation during last eight years, rulers of Pakistan has created terrorists. They have brought and settled terrorists in tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border. But later the punishment was given to the poor people of tribal areas, who have committed no crime.

    Pakistani forces have killed thousands of people in Bajaur Agency during operation against terrorists. Most of the victims are the innocent women and children. Rulers of Pakistan have committed war crimes in tribal areas. Media is under the control of Pakistani government, therefore, it has been keeping mum over the death and destruction.

    Terrorists after feeling heat in tribal areas have now entered other parts of the country. Now they have reached to Islamabad. Now they are in a position to take over the country anytime.

    Now there is serious threat to the state of Pakistan. Invisible hands have been trying to dismantle the country. According to a Pakistani newspaper comment, the monster of terrorism is creeping from the fringe towards the centre. After Fata and Swat the militants are now making inroads into the settled areas of the NWFP and Punjab. Their latest attack in Peshawar that killed an ANP legislator on Wednesday could prove to be a watershed in the war on terror. Mr Alamzeb Khan is among the most high-profile victims of militancy — irrespective of which group claims responsibility — and his killing has shocked the government and the people of Pakistan. The fact that the attack took place so brazenly on the day the American special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, was visiting the NWFP capital speaks volumes for the message the terrorists wanted to send: no one is now safe in Pakistan. If a member of the ruling party can be targeted despite all the protection he had presumably been provided, how can the common man hope to escape the firepower of those determined to impose by violent means their own brand of Islamist extremism in the country? Pakistanis have never felt as insecure as they do today.

    A look at the ´victories´ chalked up by the militants should be enough to substantiate their claims that the government is not winning the war on terror. They have a clear-cut strategy: to isolate Pakistan in order to weaken it militarily, politically and diplomatically. Thereafter it would be a walk-over for them. In the last 10 days while the government has been issuing bulletins giving the count of the militants killed and claiming success, the terrorists have not been deterred. They beheaded a Polish engineer they had been holding hostage since September. They have attacked Nato supply routes in a bid to disrupt them — two bridges were blown up and trailers torched — forcing the authorities to shift the parking bays for Nato supplies to Punjab. Members of the paramilitary and police have been forced to defect to win their release. All this while people are being killed and threatened. It is to state the obvious that the people expect the government to get its act together and draw up a feasible strategy to counter the terrorists. That no strategy is still in place cannot be denied. The Polish foreign minister added another dimension to the picture when he spoke of rifts in the government which apparently does not command the loyalty of all officers. Can a war be won by a government lacking a strategy and discipline within its own ranks?

    The End

  3. Anonymous said, on February 14, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Daily Times – Lahore,Pakistan

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Elite Force along Punjab borders, Sanaullah tells PA

    Staff Report

    "LAHORE: The Elite Force will be deployed along the borders of Punjab as the province is under threat from terrorists crossing over from Balochistan and NWFP, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Rana Sanaullah told the Punjab Assembly (PA) on Friday.

    Sanaullah said the Punjab government had already withdrawn the Elite Force from VIP duty, and now elite personnel would be deployed in the bordering areas. He said the force would be provided the latest weapons so that the people could be protected. He said the Taliban had carried out the recent terrorist acts in the province. He appreciated police for maintaining law and order."

    Dear Sirs,

    I refer to your above report and comment:

    No such "Elite Force" for the poor people of Baluchistan & NWFP to be protected from the same "terrorism".

    How lucky are the people of Punjab.

    Punjab-the big fat pig province of Pakistan.

    Yours Faithfully


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