Understanding the Assassination Bid on Malala and Underlying Perspectives – Adfar Shah

After Ahmad Wali Karzai and Burhanuddin Rabbani’s assassination in the high profile diplomatic green zone of Kabul, the little Swat girl, Malala was targeted for her social activism. While Karzai’s or Rabbani’s murder was a clever tactic of the suspected groups like Taliban; perhaps to negate or turn down the peace keeping measures or any interlocution with the current Afghan government, the brutal attack on the fifteen year old Malala by the infamous TIP (Taliban in Pakistan) was outrageous and shocking. Its aim was to drive fear in the hearts of Pakistan’s liberal component of the society.

Taliban’s reasons for such an act and their perspective or ideology of looking at activists like Malala aside, the appalling rather terrifying saga of the failures of the security system in both the vulnerable South Asian States (Pakistan and Afghanistan) ia a telling blow to reconciliation efforts.The state of security apparatus of these nations is such that anyone can shoot at will and run away and there is a growing uncertainty which seems to have no end.

While understanding Malala Tragedy, we must not narrow down the assault on Malala merely as the narrative of violence against women or paint it simply as gendered, Speaking from the prism of political sociology, such an assault reflects the impunity with which  a nation is held to ransom by small numbers (the gun wielders). In such a context of unaccounted violence where the State’s regulatory and security apparatus has virtually breathed its last a long time ago, the gap between the value of humanity and the institution of power and informal social control has widened manifold. The assault on Malala must also not be merely mistook as the installation of militant Islam what is so nonsensically believed generally and also not the tussle between the secular and the religious (Ummah vs Secular nationalism). This needs to be looked at purely for the repercussions and ramifications of the Pakistan’s criminal ignorance of the frontiers in all the developmental, security, institutional and management aspects. The secessionist, terrorist and social disharmony tendencies have mainly grown out of the unequal development resulting in acute poverty, unemployment, lack of resources, poor health care and no access to modern education. There is also a lack of vision in the general labeling of every one as terrorist in frontiers thereby subjecting the poor tribals to American drone attacks rather than inviting all the vulnerable and affected groups on the negotiating table and reaching a consensus centered at peace building. As a result, situation has gone out of control, shaping up a full grown regime of orthodoxy and pan Jihadi mindset. Not only Taliban but a plethora of tribal rebellion has steadily gained momentum whereby the common people, irrespective of gender or age, are targeted day in and day out, as the tactics of creating a fear psychosis to gain more ground and ensure zero public resistance to sustain for long. Also as a token of hatred for the west, killing anybody or curbing any such act that seems related to the west, modernism and pro-state even activism or education may be deemed appropriate by Taliban or others.

The most regrettable is not the prevailing violence but the established ideology and strategy of the status quo wrapped with insecurity for which the state is directly and wholly responsible. Moreover, their dismal and absurd ways of handling the security institution and over all the measures for people’s security and management by the men in uniform are also not satisfactory and hence responsible for many of the violence related incidents. Till date there has been merely use of misinterpreted religious rhetoric and the self counseling terminology adopted by the state after any such dreadful events and simply delivering of speeches still continues like, ‘he/she is the martyr of peace followed by some hollow chants, cries and displaying black awnings, black outs, condemnation by political and military leaders, etc’, and that is how the State tackles the dreadful incidents and tragedies in both the peace deficit regions.

The anchoring question is does branding anybody a martyr after his/her murder or announcing a day on any victim’s name like now ‘The Malala Day’ being announced by United Nations (November 10), and eulogized by Pakistan with much hype to escape from the government’s responsibility of providing the basic security system round the state or justify the assault on anybody like Malala.

It is not just Pakistani Taliban or Tehreek-e-Taliban or TIP for that matter but the state that is jeopardizing innocent lives every day by paying deadly silence or ignorance to such incidents and failing so far in devising the apt policies to tackle such criminal tendencies on the ground. The states Like Pakistan often befool international community by classifying even security lapses, heinous crimes like murders, child abuse and insecurity, shooting of even media men and activists like Malala as Talabanic always, and keeping its head clear by labeling it Islamic fundamentalism, Jihadi violence in the Taliban led and Shariah governed Swat province or in other frontiers as well, which is a blatant myth. Adopting such a scandalous tactic, the state (Pakistan & Afghanistan) always clears the air so easily as world readily attests the argument like this, due to already grown Islamophobia. Thus the underachieving, undelivering and corrupt state apparatus survives both in Afghanistan and Pakistan simply by maligning religion just for their political interests and sustainability.

The current bleak Pakistan scenario be that its societal instability, social rupture and  poverty and dependence on foreign aid, emerged sectarian clashes, access of people to deadly weapons, opportunistic politics and growing ethnic hatred, alarmingly grown secessionist tendencies in most of the frontiers, mature Bloch and Sindhi nationalism, sky high tribal anger, strongly grown anti-Americanism for their (America’s) moral travesties in the Af-Pak region and its fallouts on state government of Pakistan, etc,  has actually laid a fertile ground for such a socio-political insecurity and uncertainty. Also joblessness in frontiers has left an army of vulnerable poor youths to go astray and embrace any criminal affiliation.

On the other hand, the brutal failure and crisis mishandling of NATO forces in Afghanistan and America’s so called war on terror actualized by bombarding even poor Tribal’s in the frontiers and other belts for a single man’s hunt with Pakistan’s support added fuel to the fire of belligerence and lead to the emergence of a full-fledged turmoil, thereby distorting the law and order in totality. Thus giving rise to such monstrous acts of terror and criminality. Given such a hell bent geography of anger, lawlessness and institutional collapse, not just the teen aged Malala but any such growing voice, any activist, any pro-state actor may face harm due to the routinization of violence, culture of conflict and bloodshed, defective policing, hopelessness among masses, prolonged anger and age old frustration of unmet demands, underdevelopment, State’s disrespect for local culture and no regard for socio-ethnic and religious sentiments and sensitivities, etc,. Therefore, every such act (Malala Tragedy) reflects the revenge against all those west’s unjust violence with indigenous support and their undesirable and forcible interference in the sensitive conflict ridden zones. Also, it speaks of contemporary Pakistan’s security institution, where even body guards kill the VVIP’s and thus the situation has gone from bad to worse shaping up an ‘insecure atmosphere’ everywhere.

The question is, why the resistant groups are killing everyone not necessarily coming in their path, whether a social activist like Malala or a leader like Benazir Bhutto or Salaman Taseer or Shahbaz Bhatti or people from media and many others. What they exactly want to convey to the state apparatus, still remains to be explored and analyzed in a right perspective. It also speaks of the government’s basic misunderstanding and myopic vision about the general prevailing chaos, bloody resistance and especially that of the Taliban psyche, besides unraveling the myth of the highly claimed peace processes so far.

Those who assaulted Malala, might know what they did was not the solution but it can be the attention gaining stunt that should be taken seriously by the civil society as well to prompt the Pakistani government to have talks with all such groups including a relook at the Swat scenario. Seeing the circumstances, there is a need for an active role of all security agencies round the country and starting an unconditional dialogue with the resistance groups like Taliban. More importantly a political will to reach to a basic consensus with the extremist ideologies on the whole and finding a middle path to be followed for the future peace. This can work on the ground level otherwise open murders and continuous terror fury will sustain thereby impoverishing the already impoverished Pakistan and Afghan society of their basic identity, socio-economic aspects, etc,. There is dire need of a serious and practical political will to solve the basic issues confronting all frontiers and to start a willful negotiation with Pakistani Taliban in Pakistan and the main Taliban in Afghanistan by UN intervention, OIC support including the friendly role of neighbor states like India, China and the local governments and more importantly all vulnerable tribes to permanently curb such a horrible state of affairs in future.

On Malala’s assassination bid, one of my mentors also believes that Malala has become a metaphor for the eventual defeat of the Taliban on the basis of only sectarian thought. She has also become an idiom for how women can no longer be undermined since they are invaluable to society. Malala, more than Obama, can help transform this mindless violence that haunts the Af-Pak region.

The question worth pondering is that, what will be the educational emancipation, socialization and future of such terrified children in Pakistani Frontiers and how will it shape up the Socio-political tomorrow of the Pakistan amidst such fear and continuous targeting of political personalities, media and little champions like Malala.

(Adfar Rashid Shah is a Doctoral Candidate of Sociology at faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia-Central University, New Delhi. Mail at adfer.syed@gmail.com).

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Adfar Shah is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Sociology from Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University, New Delhi. He maintains a keen writing interest about socio-political and religious and security developments in India and Pakistan. He has been writing as a guest Columnist and free lancer in certain newspapers of the Kashmir Valley and New Delhi. His interests include sociology of religion, south Asian politics, Kashmir Sociology.

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