"Anti-American Trends in NWFP": Statesman
Ashraf Ali: Statesman, July 21, 2007
The seventy-five years old Peshawar Khan was yet not ready to die. He wanted to live long. However, he felt no justification to continue living after he saw the dead bodies of nine members of his family who perished in a US-led coalition forces raid on Datakhel area in North Waziristan on June 24 last. This was the third consecutive attack by the coalition forces on the civilian population during five days which took the lives of sixty six people and left scores injured. “After the death of all my family members, my life is now meaningless,” were the last words of Peshawar Khan before he said goodbye to this world. Thanks to Peshawar Khan that he killed only himself and no one else in his suicide attack, but who can say a word about what his grandson, the only survivor of the family, will feel towards the Americans when he grows up.
Peshawar Khan’s grandson is not the only example. He represents thousands of those who have lost their near and dear ones in such kind of attacks on civilian population along the Pak-Afghan border.
Said Wali is one of the three survivors of a seminary attack in Bajaur that left eighty people dead and three injured. With the dream of becoming a religious scholar still not materialised, he might have regretted his decision of joining the madrassa two days ago at the time when his leg and six fingers were blown in an aerial attack in Bajaur on October 30. “I joined the madrassa just two days ago and then it was attacked,” said the 15-year old Said Wali, still fighting against his wounds. After having gone through a four-year course at another madrassa in Swabi district to become a Hafiz-e-Quran, he had migrated to get his education at a madrassa in his village to be in easy access to his family. “I knew nothing whom the madrassa was affiliated to and why was it attacked. I was concerned only with my studies,” said Said Wali.
Abu Bakr, 20, who got his ear drum damaged along with getting his right hand fractured and face burnt, is another survivor of the incident. With a dejected heart, he said, “What wrong have we done to the Americans? Are we so bad? Do we deserve to be killed?”
I remember the cries of a grieved mother with the blood-stained clothes of her son killed in the Bajaur madrassa attack. “May God destroy America as it has destroyed our sons,” she wailed. The attack was widely reported to have been carried out by American unmanned drones. Immediately after the incident took place, Maulana Faqir Muhammad, a firebrand speaker wanted to the Pakistani government for supporting al-Qaeda and hosting Osama bin Ladin’s top aide, Aiman al-Zawahiri, had asked the gathering of more than ten thousand people to shoot all those suspected of working for the US on the spot. He had added that “the death of 80 Taliban has given birth to 80,000 more of them.” The reaction was quick. Hardly a week after, on November 9, 2007, a suicide bomber attacked a Pakistan Army base and killed 42 young recruits in the most devastating strike by militants against the pro-US government of President Musharraf.
The rising hatred against America has gone to the extent that today drawing a line between a Talib and an al-Qaeda member, a common man and an extremist is really hard as extremism and violence as attitude have well-penetrated into the social values of this part of the world. A turbaned and bearded man taught in a madrassa should not necessarily be an extremist; rather an enlightened and well-educated, clean-shaven and well-dressed man can be a suicide bomber if he is convinced this way he can cause damage to the enemies of Islam.
Psychiatrist Dr. Mian Iftikhar Hussain says, “Violence, extremism and anti-Americanism have now become part of our social life.” In parts of the FATA, the clerics have banned the polio teams to enter the area and have asked the people not to get their kids vaccinated as the polio drives are an American conspiracy aimed at reducing the fertility of the next generation. A local cleric in the north of the country, Maulana Fazlullah, has through his FM radio channel been telling the audiences that the vaccination drives are a conspiracy of the Jews and Christians to stunt the population growth of the Muslims. Agency Surgeon Dr. Abdul Ghani was killed along with his four companions in Bajaur area a couple of months ago after inaugurating a polio drive.
On June 21, in an attack on the civilian population of Greshik district in Afghanistan, 25 persons, including three children and nine women, got killed. During the last couple of weeks more than 90 people have been killed in the coalition forces bombing on the civilian population in Afghanistan. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, during a press conference in Kabul strongly condemned this kind of 'careless' acts of the coalition forces and warned that this might turn the majority of the Afghan population against those countries whose forces were contributing to the war against terror.
Political observers are of the view that the killing of the civilians by the coalition forces has brought down the morale of its partners - General Musharraf and Hamid Karzai - in the war on terror. Their credibility within their respective countries is in question. Taking a solo fight on the terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan by the US-led coalition forces will further weaken the authority of Karzai and Musharraf within their respective countries which may result in losing their grip on terrorists on both sides of the border.