December 16 massacre and the role of apologists
It was not the ‘enemy’ who killed more than 120 students in Peshawar on Dec. 16, last year. It was our weak resolve against the ‘enemy’ which led to this horrific incident. Sympathizers and apologists of extremists played a major role in weakening society’s role and resolve against terrorism.
Sympathizers are those who are in complete accordance with Taliban and secretly but fully endorse their agenda of violence, undermining the state and implementing their version of Sharia in this region. Apologists, on the other hand, are the ones who have a soft corner for Taliban and other extremist elements like Al-Qaida and try to justify their heinous acts as reaction to US-Zionist actions and policies in the world. Several mainstream religious political parties can be categorized as sympathizers and few journalists/columnists and politicians fit in the section of Apologists.
In order to understand it better, let’s have a glimpse of history.
Friction between religious extremists and Pakistani state started soon after the United States attacked Afghanistan on 7 October 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. The United States demanded extradition of Osama Bin Laden and expulsion of AL-Qaida elements from Afghanistan. Taliban declined this demand and the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom on Afghan soil. In order to escape those attacks, foreign fighters of Al-Qaida such as, Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens, crossed the border in droves and took sanctuary in Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Here, not only the geographical but the ideological conditions were also in their favor. Pakistani tribal youth, educated from religious seminaries and equally extreme in their views, welcomed those foreign fighters and gave them complete shelter.
Pakistan, which by then had joined the International coalition against terrorism, took several crucial steps against extremists, including pressurizing local militants to stop supporting foreign militants. Due to their ideological training in seminaries, young tribal extremists wanted to implement their version of Sharia in the region and had sympathies for the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaida militants. So they refused to obey the writ of the State and gradually started attacking military and civilian targets. Now our very own ‘assets’ were killing our own people. It is pertinent to mention that till this point, neither drone strikes nor the Lal Masjid incident had taken place; the two main reasons the extremists and their sympathizers use in justifying terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
The state of Pakistan tried hard to avoid bloodshed and at different times, did several peace agreements with the terrorists. The Shakai peace agreement in April 2004, The Sararogha peace agreement in Feb 2005 and The Swat agreement in May 2008 are the most prominent ones. This policy of peace deals never worked as militants used every agreement as an opportunity to regroup, reorganize and come up with bigger demands. They never stopped killing innocent civilians during talks with the government.
Brief history of the Taliban based militancy in Pakistan clearly shows that they are ideologically motivated extremists, who, in order to achieve power in the region through the implementation of Sharia, challenged the writ of the state and never hesitated to kill civilians across the country.
But what were their apologists saying?
Few of them wrote tirelessly to prove that Taliban were victims and their every step was reactionary. You could see such statements on social media and such articles in various newspapers. These apologists knew the reality of the Taliban from the beginning. They knew that Pakistani Taliban were using the name of Islam to advance their territorial ambitions. They knew that Taliban’s understanding of Islam could never be endorsed by learned religious scholars. They knew about the governments’ efforts to reach agreements with Taliban would fail because of their unreasonable demands and actions.
They knew everything……..but still either because of their utter dishonesty or due to strong anti western sentiments, they misguided their readers. These apologist columnists/journalists not only weakened the opinion against the Taliban in society but also tried to protect them by opposing military action in tribal areas, every time when it came under consideration.
Pakistani Taliban and other militant organizations have killed up to 50 thousand Pakistanis, most of them civilians and these apologists made the militants’ task easy by trying to give their actions legitimacy and spreading confusion.
These apologists have now run out of justifications and excuses to defend the Taliban yet their support for Taliban still remains. They are very stubborn and will most probably never admit their misconceptions about the religion and contemporary world.
It is therefore the responsibility of us and impressionable young readers to get our facts straight, know what’s right and wrong and never get influenced by such elements again.