Are we a nation of Taliban apologists?

Published: May 22, 2015
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He is on an extensive tour of the United States to spread awareness about his #NeverForgetPk and #PakistanForAll movements. PHOTO: JIBRAN NASIR

During his talk about terror and extremism in Pakistan, Mohammad Jibran Nasir declared,

“I am not a cultural ambassador. I am not here to talk about bhangra.”

The point was well taken since he was in the middle of a hard-hitting presentation about the terror threat in Pakistan and was not holding back his punches. Clad in a white shalwar kurta with a Pakistani flag pinned to his lapel, Nasir clearly does not equate patriotism with denial.

Photo: Jibran Nasir

He emphasised that while we are not all Taliban apologists, our society has become a breeding ground for terrorists.

He is on an extensive tour of the United States to spread awareness about his #NeverForgetPk and #PakistanForAll movements, and on this particular day, he was speaking to an audience comprising mostly of expat Pakistanis at Stanford’s Bechtel International Centre.

The session started with a short documentary about the origins of his movement. Among the narrators who came on screen was slain political activist Sabeen Mahmud. She looked at the camera and remarked enthusiastically that Nasir makes ordinary people feel hopeful by saying,

“Hum bhi kuch kar saktay hain.”

(Even we can do something.)

Photo: Jibran Nasir

 

In a morbid twist of fate, Mahmud was murdered mere months after she uttered these words and has become another name in our frighteningly fast growing list of fallen heroes.

Do we deserve their sacrifice? Or are we a nation of Taliban apologists?

Nasir’s whole US tour is touted as a counter narrative to this allegation.

However, his talk does not let us off the hook so easily. There was a continuous thread of accountability for what we have allowed our society to become. His focus was not even on the defiant Taliban who reject the state and constituent, but on those elements which operate with impunity from within the system.

For example, he pointed out that the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba , as it was originally called, has reached deep into the institutions of our country. It has ties with all major political parties as well as the military. Under the guise of ever changing names and with patronage from elements within the state, they resurface, thrive, tout firepower and street power, and influence our social structure and mind set.

He talked about the escalating hate, apathy, and religious divide that has seeped into our everyday lives. They are manifested as hate speech in our third grade text books, in our cavalier attitude towards disrespecting other faiths, in our selective mourning. So many die in Pakistan, said Nasir, that people’s first questions is not what, but who? Who died? And then that particular community mourns their own.

He did not need to spell it out. It was clear that our collective humanity is dying, suffocating slowly under the rubble of conspiracy theories, fear, apathy, and sheer number of dead bodies.

It is a tragedy for a country whose founding father had Shia family history, the first law minister was a Hindu, and the first foreign mister was an Ahmadi. A country which at birth was home to so many sects, that by their sheer volume we were compelled to be a tolerant society.

Nasir pointed out that over time that pluralistic quality has eroded so completely that the generation born into the new millennium doesn’t even recall a tolerant Pakistan. He then showed two images of smiling young men against a backdrop of mayhem and murder, and asked two of the audience members who had no ties to Pakistan,

“If you saw these images, what religion would you associate with these people?”

Both replied, with an endearing amount of hesitation,

“Islam!”

But all those smiling young men were not all Muslims. They were, however, all Pakistani.

The point Nasir stressed on is not to pit one faith against another, but to show that these very young men are so desensitised to bloodshed that they smile for the camera in the midst of it. For the majority Sunni Muslims, in one picture there is no fear of the state, and for the Christian minority there is no faith in the state. The state, he pointed out, allowed 55 charged terrorists to contest the elections in 2013, out of which 40 belonged to Sipah-e-Sahaba.

So what can ordinary citizens do to fight this threat?

Nasir and his team will be launching multiple applications in the near future that will tackle this problem through information sharing and dissemination. For example, #AajKeDin (today) will archive every act of sectarian and religious violence in the country, #HamariZameen (our land) will map out the affected areas, while #HamareHeroes (our heroes) and #HamareDusman (our enemies) will shine a much needed spotlight on the terrorists and their victims and so on.

He needs journalists, professionals, everyday committed Pakistanis to join in and populate these resources, use them, learn from them, and cause change because of them. Nasir believes we can yet reclaim our land; we can face and defeat terror if we are mobilised.

As the small crowd nodded in agreement, I looked around at the clearly motivated people but wondered whether this was enough? We need strength in numbers. We need a critical mass. We need constant relentless protest. We cannot rely on a few good people to keep fighting for us. We cannot expect them to pay the price of our silence with their blood. Otherwise, one by one, all those who risk their lives and limbs to raise a voice of dissent will be silenced and in that silence our indifference will ring out like the ominous wind that punctures the still before the storm.

Photo: Jibran Nasir

It will sing a morbid tune about the demise of a nation that abandoned its brave and honourable.

Rabia.Mughal

Rabia Mughal

A contributing editor for an online resource for healthcare professionals based in San Francisco, and a graduate of NYU School of Journalism.

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

  • ShakesP

    A few good men and women.Recommend

  • Fareed Khan Afridi

    Excellent article. Godspeed. They say a journey of a thousand
    miles begins with the first step.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    pakistan is a nation of apologists of terrorism – of all hues and shades. Not just Taliban, but also LeT, JuD, etc. Only pakistan can call such outfits ‘NGOs’.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Surprised that Pakistanis are not saying that this article is sponsored by RAWRecommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht

    We let the hindus say it. As they find it irresistible, to taunt,
    like a secondary school kid.Recommend

  • JilaniC

    See Mr. Rabina Muggal, you are not understanding main point. Majority of Pakistanis are NOT like you write. Majority are peaceful because Islam is religion of PEACE. See Mr Rabida Mooghil, you are pakistani and should be ASHAMED for writing like this way. Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Not surprised that indians need to plead for attention here aswell. Recommend

  • DareDevil

    according to Pakistan there is no Taliban its only RAW and IndiaRecommend

  • norsay

    Question: Have these poster childs even achieved anything beyond funding and tours and applause and fame? Oh yes, i am jealous since I crave for a free US visa and perks. During his sermons, he forgets the fact that he is a lawyer but failed to move to courts for the ‘things’ he so profoundly believes in. Mere words and speeches yield nothing. Ironically, to US audience.
    Lets see if he grows a pair to object at howlers of US authorities which add fuel to controversies in Pakistan.Recommend

  • ab1990

    a country which hides people like bin laden is certainly a taliban apologistRecommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    Err ….. Mr. Rabina ? Despite her pic being published , you addressed her in masculine gender. Any hidden message ?Recommend

  • Cosmo

    There is more to the world than just “hindus” and “muslims”. Sad that you cant not be able to comprehend this though…Recommend

  • Feroz

    It is a long hard battle, but one that has to be fought. Such people hold hope for a better tomorrow and need encouragement.Recommend

  • Professor

    Yes. Pakistanis are Taliban apologists. Taliban have killed Pakistanis more than any other group of people because Pakistanis are Taliban apologists. The love of Pakistanis for Taliban is directly proportional to the number of Pakistanis killed by Taliban. Same applies to Sudan’s love for Clinton for Al-Shifa bombing. Gujrati Muslim people’s love for Modi. The love of Sikhs for Indra Gandhi. Iraq’s love for Bush for bombing their weapons of mass destruction.

    Pakistanis are also drone apologists. They also love Obama for carrying out drone strikes in Pakistan and violating UN resolution. In conclusion, Pakistanis are Taliban apologists and are responsible for everything that is wrong with the world today.Recommend

  • RFD

    A country that elects a mass murderer as Prime Minister
    is certainly ‘no country for peaceful men’
    [ Are there women in Bharat? Rape capitol of the world. Heard girls are
    killed at birth]Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    its a conspiracy, OBL doesnt exist.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    If WE are taliban apologists then darling YOU are CIA/RAW Apologists. Open your eyes to learn what has really caused this mess in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Er… continuing from an earlier discussion – do you mean ALL Indians?Recommend

  • Ismail Buzerjamher

    for My non-Pakistani friends , Yes! there are people supporting taliban’s ideology in Pakistan , some are sponsoring them, some are providing them grounds , But it’s not right to call Us the nation of terrorist, We do condemn terrorist attacks and mass murder all over the world.Recommend

  • Gullu from Lahore

    Obviously, you are from Lahore, the most bigoted racist cities that
    supports terrorism in all it’s various hues and reincarnations. Horrible!
    With all due respect, if you drive around Lahore, YOU will notice
    the huge banners supporting banned extremist/terrorist outfits. Now,
    those would be besides the extremist wall chalkings, demanding urgent,
    immediate extermination of Ahmadis. Well, Joseph Colony comes to mind, where 234 Christians were burnt to death. Recently, again, Christian couple beaten, hung and burnt to death by a mob of 400. Seems burning Christians
    is the favorite pastime there. Mullas chanting hatred is common/rampant.
    Then the world abhorred Model Town Massacre. 14 civilians shot dead
    Same city that freed Lakhvi, mastermind of Bombay Massacre. Where the
    Burqa Mulla is revered, whose mureeds killed 45 Ismaili Shias, in Karachi.
    This could go on and on but there is not enough space……..see?Recommend

  • Gul Zaman Ghorgasht

    Thanks ‘wb’ ….it did not work.
    So obvious. The broken English. The labored syntax and grammar.
    A hindu deliberately maligning a blog writerRecommend

  • نائلہ

    attention from Pakistanis…….on ET. Yet again, I need to put things into context for you.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Typical hypocrisyRecommend

  • Hello

    ‘cant not be able to comprehend…’ So that means he can comprehend it or that you can’t comprehend grammar?Recommend

  • Hannan Khan

    you lose all credibility when you start with “Obviously, you are from Lahore, the most bigoted racist cities thatsupports terrorism in all it’s various hues and reincarnations.”Recommend

  • seismann

    Expected response of a Pakistani.Recommend

  • seismann

    No he didn’t.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Before it was the CIA-RAW-MOSSAD combine that was responsible for terrorism in Pakistan. These days the flavor has changed to just RAW. Does the writer seriously think anything will change? Don’t think so. The first step to healing is identifying a problem and taking responsibility.Recommend