Sympathy for a terrorist

Published: March 6, 2012

The families of missing persons are perceived as sympathisers of terrorists and militants. PHOTO: EXPRESS

The production of illegally detained, suspected terrorists in the Supreme Court should have been met with a sense of triumph. Instead, the families of missing persons, who have joined  the Amna Janjua led missing persons camp over the past month, as ‘sympathisers’ of terrorists and militants. On the other hand those who have hailed the Supreme Court’s actions have been accused of neglecting the memory of the victims of terrorism and their families. 

Things have changed quite swiftly over the past few months.

Then, everyone seemed content with denying that anyone was actually “missing” or that the military and intelligence agencies had anything to do with their disappearance. Today, many argue, quite openly that our intelligence agencies only “pick up” the guilty and if they do so, so what? After all it’s in the national interest!

A letter to the editor in The Express Tribune summarised the prevalent sentiment as follows:

And there are instances when those arrested have been found to be involved in attacks on members of the armed forces, military installations and on buildings owned by intelligence agencies. In such instances, cases were filed in the courts but those accused were acquitted.

It appears guilt is determined by the institutional affiliation of the accuser rather than the presumed actions of the accused.

A common criticism is that the courts and judges are incompetent or scared, or worse – both. They are unwilling or unable to prosecute cases involving those accused of terrorism and are in majority of cases acquitted. However, is the solution to limited  judicial capacity extra judicial murder and torture? Or is the provision of resources and improvements in the law, to convict criminals properly, a better long term solution?

Another line of criticism against those who question the policy of enforced disappearances includes the sentiment that:

Instead of trying to understand this issue, our media does the opposite and makes a hue and cry over this, and in the end the terrorists benefit. This also lowers the morale of our armed forces who feel that while they are risking their lives to fight the militants, society in general is placing greater value on the rights of the militants.

I find it quite insulting that people believe that extra judicial actions; which are illegal according to the law of the land and which military personnel have taken an oath to uphold, will somehow improve the morale of the armed forces.

I assume that members of the armed forces are serving to uphold the law of the land, which clearly protects the rights of even the worst amongst us. Those who say that we should recall the sacrifices of our soldiers who are fighting terrorism by looking the other way while illegal disappearances continue, do no service to the memory of the brave members of our armed forces.

Perhaps the worst interpretation of the judicial proceedings is the perception of the “rights of terrorists”, as if this is something that the Supreme Court has decided to bestow upon them. There are no rights “for” terrorists, these rights are universal and applicable upon all Pakistani citizens that cannot and should not be selectively applied.

Have we not criticised the United States for its confinement of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and their policy of extraordinary rendition for the very same reasons? Do we not highlight the arbitrary confinement of Palestinians by Israel and Indian forces in Kashmir, accusing them of the very same acts that we justify domestically?

No one is campaigning for the guilty to be released unpunished. The constitution which enshrines certain rights to even murderers, rapists and terrorists, also aims to ensure that these very people face the full force of the law. That people arrested are duly processed, with their families made aware of their whereabouts and granted access to legal representation, does not diminish the states ability to hold them to account.

We as a nation should consider whether the memories of those who are victims of terrorism are honoured by brutal, illegal violence or do we, as a nation, rise above the actions of cowards and apply the law in word and spirit?

Unfortunately, we appear seduced by the appeal of raw and bloody justice, delivered swiftly, rather than making the effort to implement the hard decisions required to build the capacity of law enforcement and the judiciary.

Read more by Nadir here. Follow him @needroos.


Syed Nadir El Edroos

Nadir teaches Economics at Bellerbys College, London and is interested in Pakistani politics and current affairs. He tweets @needroos (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • abdul basit

    All our talkshow anchors are portraying these terrorists as some sort of innocent victims.their families are being presented as the masoom,bicharay heroes.these parents are the same that raised these mass murderers who blow up and kill people,these parents teach their children religious hate from the childhood.this sick display by the news channels of passing off terrorists as innocent victims is extremely disturbing.the courts have freed too many terrorists,one after another.These are people who were involved in killing innocent civilians,they should not be glorified in any way. Recommend

  • sharjeel rauf

    by showing the crying children and weeping mothers the supporters of the militants in the media inustry are trying to gain sympathy from the public towards the terrorists.These people were cold blooded killers who supported the killing of innocent pakistani civilians.

    Why the media never shows the families of the victims of bomb blasts? why no sympathy for the victims?Recommend

  • sars

    I have sympathy for anyone who is missing and feel for their families. Having said that i wonder why these particular people are missing and not the other (equally poor and disadvantaged) 17 crore. The obvious reason is that they are suspected of terrorism themselves , or of aiding and abetting it or at the least some knowledge of the plans.

    Everyone has families, who would swear their loved one is innocent. Even serial killers families like to paint them as regular people.

    If by doing this then further incidents are prevented , maybe its for the better. We all know what happens when cases like this go to the courts. The case of Malik ishaq is before us. He is now free to kill, incite violence and send his followers , who are all brainwashed fools to go kill others.Recommend

  • Haroon abbasi

    Very well written. i totally agree with writers point of view they are terrorist and now their families are on MEDIA to insult our armed forces. they have killed our Pakistani brothers and sisters. we should be thankful to armed forces that terrorist are under arrest keep them where ever they are and buried them somewhere. look at mother & sisters of are martyred armed forces personnel, they also carry for their loved once. Please tell me who gives this right to media to mislead the nation. Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    Army without any proof has become punching bag for the writers. Shame on all of these who support terrorist and terrorism. Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    @admin: kindly delete the second line from my last commentRecommend

  • kaalchakra

    Pakistan is a Muslim country. In Islam, justice is above all. No justice, no peace. Recommend

  • Mehmood khan

    1st they miss them then they slaughter them. The Law of jungle.Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    @Haroon abbasi:
    lolzz…I think you might want to re-read the blog. It seems like your conclusion is diametrically opposite to that of the author. Recommend


    Whenever a state tries to follow a policy which is fundamentally opposite to the psyche and values of its masses, some kind of resistance starts building up against the state. For example Hosni Mubarak initiated and pursued pro-Israel policies throughout his long tenure. However, Egypt being an overwhelmingly Muslim country, majority of its people was basically against Israel due to its decades long and still ongoing aggression against Palestinians. So, Hosni used his military and agencies to snuff out all such dissidents who raised their voices against his policies. In this regard members of Muslim Brotherhood, a religio-political party, were targeted on a priority basis. Thousands of Egyptians languished in jails for years without any legal proceedings whatsoever. Some even perished.
    Similarly, after 9/11, Musharraf followed a pro-US policy which was in direct contrast to the centuries old traditions of the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In this case resistance was sure to come and come it did. While we certainly do not like the horrendously violent form this resistance has taken, we must admit that in, whatever form, this resistance was bound to appear. I believe that is why while talking about terrorists we sometimes betray a certain pity which amounts to sympathy. The result of this tragic episode is that Pakistan is sacrificing its sons and daughters (terrorists, law enforcement personnel, civilians) to score some points with US on its lackluster war on terror. Recommend

  • Ich Dien

    @abdul basit:
    my dear no one including the author has any sympathy with the terrorists. But simple question being, are the terrorists so smart or Pak security agencies so dumb that they are unable to find evidence of their guilt? If there is no evidence than on what basis are we calling them terrorists? Army has also arrested Brig Ali Khan, he has been properly charged and is facing a court martial according to the law (being army man he is being tried under the army act), than why cant you acknowledge the ppl who have been detained and charge them. How about dumping of bodies of 4 out of the 11 ppl taken away from adiyala jail, why didn`t they properly handover the bodies to the families? And please don’t use the type of things you said above about parents, even if each one of these men is guilty of what they have done why do you blame their parents for raising them. Are you and I sure that our kids will follow the right path?

    @sharjeel rauf
    If this is the way things are going to happen than what is the use of a Justice system? why do we claim that Islam is a religion of peace and justice. Security forces should be allowed to do what they please as long as they do it in name of national interest. If you cant prove their guilt, it only shows the incompetence on the part of our security ppl and also fear on the part of our ppl who are afraid of testify against them in courts.Recommend

  • Muhammad Hanif Awan

    Well thought n presented article by the authorRecommend

  • Gestapo ;)

    What our very enthusiastic media and our well informed politician fails to realize is that if a person i caught after firing at the military in lets say south waziristan , hailing from Punjab what do u expect the military to do start collecting evidence in a live combat situation ?? or hand him over to civil courts so he can be honorably left of the hook for the killing of fellow comrades, what we must realize as a nation is that militancy is deep rooted in our society and instead of wasting there energizes on protesting the loss of there loved one they should have paid more attention to what those people where involved in and for our very emotional politician specially the PML N to table legislation to cover these kind of cases if the American the so called beacon of human rights n civil liberties can have the patriot act enforced cant we in these precarious times come up with some resolution , what the government should ask the protestors is to provide proof of what the missing people actually did n earned there lively hood.And the example of Uzbekistan should also be kept in mind where the menace of extremism was over come by prosecuting the families of all those involved for not keeping tabs on the family members!Recommend

  • Hassan S Hakeem

    My question simple; our whole intelligence setup can’t be stupid. Where there is smoke there is fire. There can be an instance of abuse of authority in intelligence agencies but can’t be all of these.
    Same is the case in Baluchistan; Who is killing all those FC men and settlers from other provinces. No one is talking about them & who is killing them. Recommend

  • http://Karachi Noran danish

    Yes sir a terror has a licence to kill every one including his parent. They are rite to use the caught on video the not innocent boy who goes incest.. Then too hell for funny molvi mnwar and desil who patron and supports them should be beaten by the masses. Where as molvi has a clear papaterror role. And best for ugly molvi to run away before then that masses to follow them and to throw them into fire. Molvi is fabricator of terrorsRecommend

  • Sana

    I have an uncle who was picked up right in front of his home by intelligence people. When we tried to pursue his disappearance they said “if you make noise, he will never come back, so just wait till we finish our interrogation” … well 7 years have passed and we are still waiting … not sure if he is alive or dead…having experienced this first-hand, i do not support the army… Recommend

  • Abdur Rahman

    Firstly it is wrong to take up people illegally but there is urgent need for making anti-terrorism laws. So that the terrorists can be charged on minimal evidence or be allowed to be interrogated by the intelligence agencies.

    I know there is risk of mis-usage of this law–but we don’t have another option.

    We are a careless and lazy nation. Such laws should have been made right when the 1st suicide bombing struck Pakistan…don’t vote for Nawaz or PPP the next time they are not going to be making any such laws…all these politicians just come to fulfill their own interests.Recommend

  • Haroon abbasi

    so would you bother to tell us that were your uncle involved in any terrorist activities or slaughtering armed personals? or he was innocent and army or intelligence agencies went insane. there must be something on your uncle part. there must be a reason to get your uncle behind bars? or they are jealous of your uncle?Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Good questions, Haroon bhai.

    Sana, sometimes these things take a little time. Agencies are busy. You can’t be making noise and expecting everything to be done yesterday. If he is innocent, he will return. You must have faith as a good citizen.Recommend

  • Haroon abbasi


  • http://Karachi Noran danish

    @haroon abbasi
    detainees would come back as rulers as they are terror or not? By the least they are detained as strategic assets In this game, god knows who is who. As yesterday our c j was detainee and
    today he is honorable.
    Mushi was yesterday was his majesty
    today he is accused. May be tomorrow he is to be ruling or his fellow gen.
    in our society doctor shakil is being punished for the deed that he arranged to nip the evil in hideout a notorious grand grand father of terrors
    where as instead of awarding him highest civil medal of success he is being victimised. The 18 million pakistani will feel very easy if he is proposed for international peace prize…
    Doctor’s importance is as a protector of atomic devices just at 90 km by road and at 30 nautical miles from his safe house.
    Just a few years back he was greatest in world amongst majority of sunni wahadi muslims and even for shias.
    Doctor had arranged to catch most wanted mouse.

    the missing persons would be ministers of the gov of aafia in 55 muslims countries as they are best shooters and few of them be master of blasts.

    it would worth saying that they are missing or hidden and busy to fight against nato. Or may be they are blown themselves. What ever the are precious more then their heirs think. As assets for raw mosad cia etc etc.Recommend

  • Haroon abbasi

    @Noran danish:
    there is a difference in being terrorist case and corruption charges. i am not saying that army is always write they have done blunders but missing person case is quite different. Recommend

  • sara

    So our agencies could not decide in 7 years whether her uncle was innocent or not? Shame on such agencies.Recommend

  • Haroon abbasi

    may be they have decided but not letting u know. or…..Recommend

  • Haroon abbasi

    when someone is behind bars from last 7 years, it means he is guilty. otherwise there is point to keep a person in jail for so long. and calm downRecommend

  • Saad Raees

    Nobody is a criminal, unless proved so!
    Similairly, nobody could be a terrorist unless proved so!
    Yes they might be terrorists or have links to them, but that does not mean they should be abducted from their homes (if these claims are true), and they should be given fair trial!
    They should not be held secretly, which makes many people wonder the main purpose of their arrest! Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    The dignity of a human is not violable, is the basic message of Islam! We are in 21st century and not in the wild west land where lynching mentality still rules.

    Though shall not kill is God’s commandmen, a revenge is human weakness and not permitted in Islam. Pakistan military does not have brave Jawans, but weakloings who are being used against the civilians. They must protect the borders and not suppress civilian citizens. Let the Judiciary function and introduce a jury system to support the hand of the judges but abolish DEATH the land. It is not too late before the NOHA story repeats in Pakistan and the land gets washed away! Pakistan needs peace and reconciliation in the society, justice not revenge..

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Danyal

    Sana Mar 7, 2012 – 3:34PM
    I have an uncle who was picked up right in front of his home by intelligence people. When we tried to pursue his disappearance they said “if you make noise, he will never come back, so just wait till we finish our interrogation” … well 7 years have passed and we are still waiting … not sure if he is alive or dead…having experienced this first-hand, i do not support the army…)

    so do u know what your uncle was doing behnind ur familys back? i gues ur gona say no hes a saint. do u think intelligence agencies just go around for fun pickup people and then dissapear them for no apparent reason? anyone can kidnap anyone and say we are from inteligence stop blaming our intelligence and army this is all a conspiracy to bash our beloved army Recommend

  • Haroon

    I second every word of DAYAL. No army personnel kidnap people with any reason.Recommend

  • huzaifa

    dear Nadir !
    You said and i quote” I find it quite insulting that people believe that extra judicial actions; which are illegal according to the law of the land and which military personnel have taken an oath to uphold, will somehow improve the morale of the armed forces”.
    I try to make you understand and Take you into a home of Shaheed of THAT ISI BUS in which 13 persons were burnt alive.They are siiting front of TV and listening to a HYPOCRATE showing the families of mass murders( these ruthless mothers and sisters did not stop them when they were going to wage JEHAD, instead sent them with prayers to kill maximum) crying and wailing. Can you understand what will be the morale of that 13 year old son of shaheed, if he was inspiring to become a soldier like his father, now he will curse this hypocrate on TV and Nation of you. The next generation of soldiers will not be so anxious to defend you. I wish that you and your near ones never find yourselves near a suicide jacket wearing taliban about to blast THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT I AM TRYING TO EXPLAIN< Recommend

  • Vikram

    I remember watching video where an innocent boy was shot to death by rangers right in front of the TV camera. Boy begged rangers to be taken to the hospital. No one helped him and he bled to death. Behavior of these rangers SHOWED that were used to killing people like dogs. No one should have a right to kill a human being like that. If som one has committed a crime he should be arrested and punished by the courts. If people with guns can get away with mureders, they will kill any one for money also. Three million innocent people were killed in East Pakistan by Pakistani army. Courts should decide the punishment and not the army. Recommend