The above message, tweeted by columnist Mosharraf Zaidi (@mosharrafzaidi), does not account for today’s string of devastating bombings, targeting three of Pakistan’s provincial capitals. On Monday, 36 people were killed and 130 were injured when twin bombings struck Lahore‘s Moon Market, 10 were killed and 49 were injured when a suicide bomber on a rickshaw blew himself up near a courthouse in Peshawar, and eight people were injured in an attack in Quetta. Today’s death toll means that in the last 62 days, 490 Pakistanis were victims of militant attacks – that’s about eight victims a day (thanks @mirza9).
For those who follow the Pakistan situation closely, these statistics offer a shocking reality check, a stark reminder of the human cost of this conflict. If these numbers are depressing, then the reaction from our ministers and politicians following these attacks were even more so. After the Lahore bombings Monday, Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters the attacks were the work of “foreign help…anti-Pakistan forces are attacking us.” While the government had reportedly “received reports of possible terror attacks in Lahore,” Sanaullah said foreign intelligence agencies, “including India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Israel’s Mossad, were responsible for the current terrorist attacks in the country.”
His statements further strengthen an argument put forth by this weekend’s NY Times piece, The Demons that Haunt the Pakistanis. In the article, Sabrina Tavernise quotes Dr. Malik H. Mubbashar, vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences in Lahore, who asserted, “The real terrorists are not the men in turbans we see on Al Jazeera…It’s coming from Americans, Jews and Indians. It’s an axis of evil that’s being supervised by you people [U.S.].” Mubbashar even contended that Blackwater employees, who had rented the house next to his, tried to lure his servants with sweets, alcohol and “McDonald’s food every Sunday.”
According to Ishma Alvi, a psychologist from Karachi, conspiracy theories are “a defense mechanism that protects one’s psyche from something too difficult to accept.” She added, “It’s a denial of personal responsibility, which goes a long way to cripple our growth.”
Regardless of how founded or unfounded these theories are, it seems our politicians will do whatever it takes to absolve themselves of blame. Sure, the government received reports of possible terror attacks, as Sanaullah indicated. But who could possibly halt the actions of evil outside forces working against Pakistan? Not the lil ole government!
This constant scapegoating, in my opinion, is indefensible because it fosters a culture of fear-mongering without offering any real solutions. If RAW/Blackwater/Mossad/Evil-baby-geniuses-by-the-name-of-Stewie are really out to get us, then what do these politicians propose to do aside from spouting rhetoric and dealing out hollow condemnations? What real retribution can they offer the families of 490 victims of terror, aside from vapid excuses?
At the end of the day, this threat lies within our own borders. While the military is fighting the Tehreek-e-Taliban network in South Waziristan, militant groups once fostered by the state have pervasive influence in southern Punjab. These same militants are said to be behind the attacks in Pakistan’s main cities. So, government of Pakistan, here’s my advice: 1. Put a lid on the fear-mongering. 2. Develop a broader strategy to tackle militant groups in strongholds like Punjab, using provincial government forces if necessary. 3. Provide relief to the families of these victims – don’t just visit hospitals and say how sorry you are, show it, whether it’s in monetary form to the families or shelter/food/clothing to those displaced by the conflict. 4. With the buzzword NRO in the air, make examples of yourselves. Because as a Pakistani, I am increasingly ashamed to call you my leaders.