"Everyone is worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there really is an easy way – Stop participating in it" – Noam Chomsky
It has been more than a week since Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani school girl was shot in the head by gunmen while coming back from school and is now under treatment in UK. While mincing no words, this really is a dastardly act and any sane person with reasoning capabilities would agree. It is no surprise then that this cowardly act has seen condemnations pouring in from all around the world – from the US administration and from other countries and even from unexpected quarters like the ageing singer Madonna! While as the attackers have, reportedly, rejected her going to school as the reason behind the assassination attempt insisting, rather, that she was attacked for being an America sympathizer and an Obama patroniser, I guess this act cannot be justified in anyway. However, the fact that needs to be analyzed in this context is the skewed approach and the continual selectivity in the way world powers condemn acts of such magnitude or even more, depending upon who is the perpetrator and who is the victim.
I consider Malala lucky on two counts – one that she survived the assassination attempt and second that she has the whole country (or the world) behind her, thanks to the widespread media coverage this attack received. This is not to say that media should not have given such coverage but there are still many civilians (including girls, including children) around the world who die a silent death at the hands of the 'unofficial' terrorists.
While Malala has been offered medical care by many countries, no one even tried to speak about the glaring acts of human rights violations perpetrated in the past, by the same people who are now offering medical aid to Malala. There was no media coverage, no lectures of democracy and freedom from the pulpits of the White House because the perpetrators on those occasions were on the other side of the line – the line demarcating separate nomenclatures for same acts performed by different people.
A few months earlier this year, in March, 17 unarmed civilians (including 7 girls and a 9-year-old) were murdered by an American soldier in the Panjwai district of Kandahar in Afghanistan. Even the dead bodies were not spared and were burnt. This time around the US President did admit that the incident was "absolutely tragic" but was quick to add "but generally we are proud of what the troops have accomplished in Afghanistan". One wonders what is this accomplishment the US president was referring to – a war ravaged country, a lost war or a whirlpool of human rights abuses? In the Iraqi town of Haditha, in November 2005, 24 unarmed civilians were gunned down by the US marines, which included seven children and a toddler. The perpetrators of this act were initially booked but are yet to be convicted, after the passage of 7 years! These acts form just the tip of the iceberg of the sponsored terrorism meted out in the name of war against terror.
What about Abeer al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, who was killed along with her family members by five US marines after being sexually assaulted? The dead bodies of those killed were then burnt in order to put the blame on sectarian violence. In this case as well, the guilty are yet to face justice and the people pretending to be the harbingers of democracy, freedom and equal rights seem to be busy in condemning acts by others while patronizing much more widespread and heinous acts of terrorism and injustice done by their own men. On a similar count, what about the thousands of children in various cities of Iraq who are born with defects caused due to excessive exposure to radiations as a result of the US sponsored invasion? What about the staggering number of civilian deaths arising due to the continuing drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia?
According to independent sources the number of civilian killings in the drone attacks in Pakistan alone is nearly 3000, which includes nearly 200 children. How many teenaged school kids were lost here without a trace, without even the smallest mention by the big media houses which these days have dedicated prime time programs for Malala? Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old school boy was killed along with his cousin, 12-year-old Waheed Khan when an American drone hit the vehicle they were travelling in, in 2009. Tariq Aziz had only the previous Friday attended the anti-Drone conference in Islamabad. He was planning to use photography to document the drone attacks in his area. He had volunteered to help upload the pictures and was killed within 72 hours after returning home.
Similarly, in Yemen and Somalia, the number of civilian deaths as a result of drone attacks far exceeds the number of 'terrorists' killed, although the definition of 'terrorist' in itself is an ambiguous issue. Reports suggest that the 'success' rate of the drone attacks in eliminating 'terrorists' stands at a dismal 10-15 %. As a friend aptly put it on twitter, "The attack on Malala is a national tragedy, but drone attacks are a national strategy"!
One can only wonder how the perpetrators of worst kind of institutionalized terrorism claim the moral ground to condemn acts like the attack on Malala? The TTP, deemed responsible for the attack on Malala, became a dreaded force only after the US drones began to strike at will in Pakistan, killing innocent civilians in the garb of the 'War against terror'. And then they have the audacity to blame the growth of TTP on the so called 'radical Islam' when, in reality, the roots of almost every terrorist act lie in their own hegemonic policies.
(The writer is an alumnus of National Institute of Technology Srinagar. Feedback at twitter.com/TavseefMairaj)