Dangerous games

When you keep snakes in your backyard, they are bound to bite. The snakes may be meant for the various pests in the neighbourhood, you may feed them well, even give them a nice pat or two when they gobble up the annoying rabbit next door, but a creature whose fundamental nature is to eat its own kind, offer them a whole buffalo and they will forget who raised and nurtured them. We’ve seen how experiments frequently go wrong, horribly wrong. In the classic movie ‘Jaws’, super sharks are created, only to go out of control. Dinosaurs are brought to life, only to destroy entire cities. Machines develop a will of their own and turn on their creators. Experiments can go horribly wrong, even in real life.

I do not want delve into the past, and there are endless debates about Pakistan’s policies since the 1980s. Let the history books to decide. It may have been the need of the hour many years ago; maybe it was a choice between an American speaking python or Russian alligator. And a hard decision was made. But should that remain valid decades later, is, a question we must ask.

Big powers and their intelligence outfits such as CIA plan decades in advance. For every important decision they make, they consider it’s implications for the future. They understand the game of chess well. It’s not about hanging a few pawns and declaring victory, but eventually capturing, controlling or annihilating the king.

There are no good or bad violent proxies. Who controls which mercenary group does not matter after a certain point. There may be American proxies in Syria, Afghan sponsored in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Indian agents in Balochistan. The fact of the matter is that most of these violent extremists fundamentally believe in one ideology: kill all infidels.

Many powers in the world are engaged in proxy wars, as the nature of warfare is changing. Pakistan is no exception, and its state has every right and justification to defend itself and ensure its own survival. The only problem has been to give too much space to dangerous proxies in our own backyard. Why should they be given a seat at our own dinner table? My simple appeal to authorities is: Don’t make killers celebrities on prime time television and don’t present them as some kind of heroes. For Heaven’s sake don’t let television actors spew venom on national television, don’t support dubious doctors to declare someone an infidel, don’t pick up Facebook activists, or hack pages and put up questionable content in someone else’s name. Don’t start dangerous campaigns against the Prime Minister if he embraces a minority, don’t declare a person under house arrest as a national asset.

How many more sacrifices are needed from Pakistan army, and the civilians? What will we say to the daughter of a shaheed, if she realises that the bullet that pierced him was actually ‘made in Pakistan’? Will she be able to understand that it is just a strategic game? Will she be able to comprehend that it was for the ultimate benefit of the nation? Will her tears stop flowing when you tell her that while her father’s killer has been hanged, his bosses roam freely, smiling away on national television as if they have done an ehsan on the nation. Is it really worth it?

The Taliban can never be wiped out through bullets alone. We can conduct countless successful operations, the Talibs will always remain. For every news bulletin claiming the death of 10 terrorists, 20 more could be created the next day. It is the ideology that needs to be defeated. An ideology that has permeated into state institutions, national politics, education, bureaucracy; and the national narratives. If we continue to promote this ideology, in our very own country itself, if we continue to allow retired military officials to justify violent groups on national television, if we continue to allow huge gatherings of extremists carrying weapons, and suspend police officers if they interfere, if we continue to hang pawns but support their masters, we should keep in mind the fate of Rome.


The writer is a director/actor; and a core member of Ajoka Theatre Pakistan. He has been involved in spreading awareness on socio-political issues through theatre