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Opinion

February 21, 2015

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Our national delusion

Let’s talk cricket for a while. One match in particular. Yes, that one. On one side there was India. Reigning world champions with arguably the strongest batting line-up the cricketing world has ever seen, solid fielders and a mediocre bowling attack.
On the other side there was us, with both our bowling and batting at perhaps their weakest in a decade. And lurking overhead was history. Pakistan’s World Cup record against India is perhaps as tragic as South Africa’s repeated choking in crunch matches.
Yet, we expected a win. With all the chips stacked against us, we expected our bowlers to make regular inroads into the opposition’s batting line up, that our fielders would take catches out of nowhere, construct run-outs, and stop certain boundaries. We expected our bowlers to bowl in the corridor of uncertainty, ask questions of the Indian batsmen, eventually forcing the inevitable batting collapse.
It never happened, and soon the chase was on.
Again, contrary to all the statistics and historical records available, we expected our batting line up to make easy work of a demanding total. Sneaky singles, twos converted into threes and the obligatory boundary per over was all we asked for. It was all we expected.
It never happened.
Thank God it’s just a game, eh?
But if you look closely, there’s a much greater disease at play. It’s called our national delusion, and unfortunately, there’s no real cure for the condition.
Let’s leave cricket for now. There are other matches to lose in the coming days anyway.
Remember Peshawar? It was over two months ago when supposedly everything changed. They called it a game changer, a watershed moment. The gallows started to swing and so did the promised reprisals. Since then, we’ve had Shikarpur, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Lahore.
The much publicised National Action Programme (NAP) is hiding somewhere in the corner. As a concept, the document is comprehensive. It covers, by and large,

most of the action the state must take in order to stem the advancing threat of terrorism and extremism.
Yet, it defies history.
Over the last few weeks, I have tried to utilise the space provided to me in this newspaper to highlight how history is not on our side when it comes to the implementation of the NAP. From regulating and registering madressahs, to choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organisations, from ensuring the re-emergence of banned organisations to zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab, all this has come under the pen, so to speak. And I’d rather not repeat myself.
The fact is that these are all non-starters.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are major shortcomings within our current system that will not allow any sort of tangible progress to take place even if there is political will, which is not the case.
What is actually required is multi-institutional overhaul, but to deflect our easily distracted minds the government has resorted to low impact, high visibility projects like the counterterrorism force (CTF). We must not fall for this ploy. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time.”
Somebody needs to call their bluff. And no better one to do it than us: civil society. We must press for action on the NAP and demand regular updates on all that has been achieved since the NAP came into existence.
Mobilising civil society comes with its own challenges, first and foremost being the formation and acceptance of a unified civil front. Without that, what you get is what we have right now – isolated groups of people putting together vigils and protests, not being able to gather the right amount of mouths needed for a collective voice to be heard. There is strength in numbers.
The key is to simplify the matter. If one gets into the nitty-gritty of why the government is failing against terrorism etc, that opens up a Pandora’s box of conflicting views and positions which takes us away from what we want done.
So, precisely what is it that we want to do? Do we want to end terrorism? Defeat extremism? Sure. But what needs to happen for ‘that’ to happen? Well, somebody needs to pull their socks up, don’t they? Therefore, ending terrorism and extremism is ‘the end’, and the means to that end, can possibly be, asking hard questions.
Change takes time. Permanent institutional change takes even longer. It will be naive of us to think that we, in our lifetime, will be able to bring about any substantial and concrete change. However, there are other generations on the way. And I, for one, shudder at the Pakistan they will have to deal with.
We can’t save Pakistan for ourselves, but we can try for them. Start small. Civil society must understand that by asking for too much they gain nothing. Right now, all we can do is ask questions. Uncomfortable questions. And demand answers. And like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption keep asking and writing. Day in and day out. Maybe one day we’ll get a response.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @aasimzkhan

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