All calculus, no answers
By Mosharraf Zaidi, AfPak Channel, Foreign Policy, November 5, 2010
Today at Friday prayers, a bomb detonated in a mosque in Darra Adam Khel, killing more than 66 worshippers. It was the work of, by most accounts, a suicide bomber. In the Pakistani press and on the two dozen news channels that feed us a constant and unrelenting stream of what is happening in the country, the total number of people in the mosque at the time of the attack was anywhere between 100 and 500. The roof either collapsed, or did not collapse. There were anywhere between 50 and 200 injured. Pakistani officials use the figure of 30,000 Pakistani victims of terrorism routinely. Three years since the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) launched this war into a different, much bloodier dimension, the official response to this mayhem seems only to show Pakistan still has no counter-terrorism strategy. As always, the only certainties in the aftermath of terror in Pakistan were two things. First, Pakistani leaders would fall over themselves to repeat platitudes about terrorism in Pakistan and how very strongly they condemn this kind of thing. Second, this will all happen again, very soon.
How strongly did the terrorist attack in Darra Adam Khel register within the Pakistani discourse? The customary thing in Pakistan after a terrorist attack is a casual, "oh-no-not-again." It's casual because you simply cannot expend all your energy lamenting one terrorist attack, when you know there is another just around the corner. We have to conserve our outrage and our routine condemnations for these events, because, let's face it, there will never be a Pakistani 9/11. We've never built anything quite so magnificent and meaningful as the World Trade Center, or the Pentagon. So we stutter and stumble. From one kind of 9/11 to the next.
Within six hours, the next one came. Not very far from Darra Adam Khel, in Sulaiman Khel, four grenades were thrown into another mosque, killing at least five worshippers. The Darra Adam Khel attack was no longer the top news item, having been replaced with this latest incident of violence, another in the fertile orgy of terrorist indulgence that Pakistan offers to anyone with the money and guts to pursue a seemingly bottomless appetite for human life.
The mosque wasn't a Shia mosque, or an Ahmedi mosque. It wasn't a room full of Americans, or Indians. It was Pakistanis. Pashtuns. Mainstream, run-of-the-mill Sunni Muslims. The desperate attempts to frame the conflict in Pakistan as an ideological war keep running into piles of dead bodies from demographics that aren't supposed to get in the way of convenient cleavages between Pakistanis -- extremist and moderate, Sufi and Wahhabi, Deobandi and Barelvi, Muhajir and Pashtun. In between these cleavages, innocent human beings keep getting blown up, riddled with shrapnel, shot and maimed. And this doesn't include the unseen, unreported and unverifiable numbers of Pakistani soldiers that die in this war every day. Nor does it include innocent victims of drone attacks, the numbers for which are equally unknown, although much more vociferously contested.
There is a lot that the Untied States and other countries, like India, expect Pakistan to be able to do, to protect their citizens from the incurable madness and cancerous lawlessness of terrorists that make their home in Pakistan. Yet Pakistan has proven that it is a country that cannot protect its own citizens -- in mosques, shrines, universities, shopping centers and police stations. How can it possibly protect the citizens of other countries?
It makes one wonder, what kinds of machines are being used in Washington to assess the "Pakistani calculus." For a country that can't even conduct the basic arithmetic of addition and subtraction, the idea of calculus seems a stretch. Nearly seventy more grieving families, almost three years since the terrorist coalition in Pakistan, the TTP first came together -- and still all calculus, and no answers.
Mosharraf Zaidi has served as an advisor on international aid to Pakistan for the United Nations and European Union and writes a weekly column for Pakistan's the News. You can find more of his writing at http://www.mosharrafzaidi.com/