My friend was once asked by a Baloch friend of his, “We know why we are killed, but why Pushtoons are being killed?” Can the state provide answer to this question?
Franz Kafka was a brilliant author. His novel, The Trial, traces the life of a person who has been caught in a huge, opaque, tightly sealed bureaucratic machinery of justice system. There are things about the justice system that are absurd and the law that guides the behavior and workings of the justice system is completely inaccessible to people outside of the court, even to the accused and to their lawyers. One day, officers from the court arrive at the home of Mr. K., the main character, and confine him to his home in the name of investigation. He is not told on what charges. The absurdity continues and the widespread presence and unchallengeable power and authority of the court are revealed upon the accused. No charge sheet is shown to the accused, no trial is held in his presence as trials are inaccessible to people outside, and he doesn’t have any shot at defending himself. Despite all this, he is found guilty.
The book is not as much about human attraction to conformity as it is a critique of bureaucratic decision making. Why do I look around myself and find a materialization of the story in my country? The difference here is that instead of the accused being one person, it is a whole nation or nations, of Pashtuns and Balochs. Pushtuns are blamed, but they are not told about the charge sheet against them. Trials are held behind closed doors in corridors of powers and open fields of the Taliban, but Pashtuns are not provided with an opportunity for their defense. And yet they are found guilty; guilty to the extent to be either declared collateral damage or touted as Sharia-complaint targets of suicide attacks and brutal massacres.
Every time we are hit by the Taliban, the Pakistani state externalizes the blame. The responsibility is delegated to someone else and the war of attrition begins between the federal government and the provincial government. The media all of sudden finds some compelling evidence that totally obfuscates the matter and outsource the blame to foreign hands. DG ISPR always finds some mobile SIMs at the place which are traced back to Afghanistan; and DG ISPR is so efficient as to know their complete itinerary from Afghanistan to the place of massacre within hours of the attack (someone should really ask whether they left some travel itinerary at the place of attack or has the DG ISPR suddenly become Sherlock Holmes?). Prime Minister appears and renews his unwavering commitment to root out terrorism and make lives of people safe, till the next massacre whenever and wherever that happens to be.
What blows all away is the instant glorification of utter helplessness. The massacre of sitting ducks is lionized, the pain of the bereaved families is presented in a melodramatic way, and the horrors are recounted in such an insensitive way that further adds to the trauma. What is unsettling is the fact that instead of our heads being lowered in shame and mourning, the massacre of hapless children is declared as a cause for pride and their mourning is converted into a nation-wide celebration. Their slaughter is peddled as a sacrifice for the future of Pakistan, which makes one really thinking what the future of Pakistan is if not those kids? The fact is, they didn’t sacrificed themselves, but were slaughtered like chickens in a poultry farm.
The temper of people of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa can be gauged from the reaction of students at Bacha Khan University after the attack. They have not left the university, despite the situation and are there to turn away any visiting leader. People are realizing that when it comes to CPEC and development they are told that their demands do not make economic sense. But they are now asking in return what sense it makes to allow their massacre and continue business as usual. Resounding voices can be heard amidst the shrill clamor of glorifying the dead and haranguing about the resilience of the nation, which seek answers and demands peace and security. My friend was once asked by a Baloch friend of his, “We know why we are killed, but why Pashtuns are being killed?” Can the state provide answer to this question or will it take more than protests and peaceful walks to make the state listen to Pashtuns of Pakistan?