(Originally posted at brownpundits.com)
Many ideologies are dreadful but this one takes the cake (at least in this day and age). Malala's school van was stopped by 2 gunmen. They asked the driver to show them who Malala is. He said he couldnt show his girls to strangers (exact dialog uncertain, but something like that..brave man..btw, will codepink protest this use of patriarchal honor codes to try and protect a girl from terrorists? one wonders). One gunman asked the girls in the van. They looked towards Malala, he shot her in the head (and shot two other girls for good measure). Details here.
The Taliban have taken the time to explain why they shot her and how shooting a 14 year old girl as she comes home from school is the Islamic thing to do (argument from Quran and Hadith, with references): https://www.facebook.com/boltapakistan1/posts/408721602528919
OK. I know about riots in India. I know child soldiers and suicide bombers were used by the Tamil Tigers. Thousands of Bengalis and Biharis and Punjabis and Balochis have died for Islam, Pakistan, Hindustan, whatever. MANY thousands more die of poverty, disease, malnutrition etc. Police beat up more people every day than the Taliban do. But in which case has a supposedly modern state failed for more than 10 years to even identify its enemies? Pakistan is a special case. That doesnt mean any of Zachary's posts about the great capitalist/IT/education/whatever success stories of Pakistan are wrong. Its still people. 200 million of them. Its a big economy. Its home to ancient cultures that developed many sound survival mechanisms, including our much maligned nepotism and pragmatic determination to help our kith and kin even when they have sinned. But the state ideology was confused and dangerous from day one and the elite's inability to change course has put more pressure on our ancient strengths than those ancient strengths can bear. The elite will have to wake up before its too late.
I think they will. But they will do it as late as possible. I want them to hurry up a little. Take a few short cuts instead of waiting for every bad idea to blow up in our face before we decide to dump it. Dont take my advice. Take Zachary's. But please, dont take Ahmed Qureshi's and Imran Khan's. Actually, even take Imran Khan's advice if thats the only way left. A number of Western commentators (especially journalists from cricketing nations; Bob Crilly, I am looking at you) seem to have decided that the poor retarded brown people cannot do any better and its Imran Khan or bust. Maybe they are right. White people sometimes are. Maybe he is exactly the kind of confused moron we need to put up as a distraction while the army changes course more thoroughly. Allah works in mysterious ways. But please, lets not have codepink visit us again for a few years. And if their need for street cred in NYC overwhelms them again, can we please send them to guard girls schools in FATA instead of making the poor souls suffer without toilets in SUVs on the bumpy road to Tank? I was going to say nasty things about our upperclass university pomo poco bullshitters as well, but better sense prevailed. It is our fault for paying attention to them. Let them discuss Humera Iqtedar's thesis (summarized with some creative license by history buff Shahid Saeed as: "TTP attacked b/c Malala promoting secularism. She is promoting secularism b/c of Taliban attacks. TTP secularizing public space" ) and let them congratulate each other and thrill to the applause of other equally Western educated members of the elite. More urgent problems deserve attention.
btw, here is the great white hope himself: Imran Khan on live with Talat. Watch near the end (36 minute mark onwards):
Talat: who attacked her? IK: someone must have.
Talat: why dont you say their name. Who?
IK: Could be Taliban (Talian hon gey)...but we have a constraint (hamari majboori hai). We are present all across KP and FATA. IF i say big things against the taliban, WHO WILL SAVE THOSE PEOPLE? WILL THE POLICE SAVE THEM?
Indeed. It is a dilemma for Khan sahib. If he says anything against the Taliban, who will save his people? The ANP says things everyday and look what has happened. Hundreds of their workers have been targeted. Mian Iftikhar Hussain has lost his only son. Khan sahib will not make that mistake (even though his sons are in UK and his daughter, who he wont acknowledge, is in America). He thinks about the safety of his people. If Malala and her dad had thought about their OWN safety, she would not be in ICU today. Silence is golden.
His vice chairman, the odious Shah Mahmood Qureshi has also been on TV, lying through both sides of his mouth. The future looks really bright for PTI. Everyone is to blame. The clueless, corrupt and incompetent Zardari regime. The two-faced army, oscillating between shit-scared of Taliban and shit-scared of America and still working on their hundred onion and hundred slaps strategy. All the other political parties. Even the ANP, a party with many heroes, but also a "leader" like Asfandyar Wali. But I still think the elite will not commit suicide. After exhausting all other possibilities they will find some way to protect the golden goose that actually works (my serious prediction: one day GHQ will ask the Indo-Tibetan Border Police to please come and help defend Islamabad).
But I happened to speak with a friend in NYC who keeps a close eye on such things and he is not hopeful. His view: The elite is stuck deep in paknationalism and Islamism. Neither can be abandoned. Both are fatal in the Pakistani context, where the army managed to arm and train 50,000 holy warriors when it was dreaming of empire in the 1990s and has created a constituency for both in the public. Now those warriors cannot be disarmed without appearing to betray Islamism and Pakistan. And yet they must be disarmed, so Islamism and Pakistan must be betrayed. Immovable object meets irresistible force. I am optimistic. I think both Islamism and Pakistan can be modified and betrayed and they willl still surviive and will in fact thrive. My friend thinks I am too optimistic. Betrayal and change is too hard. Even for a corrupt elite that happily betrays everything else and believes in absolutely no principle whatsoever...its not that they are so loyal to Islamism or Paknationalism. Its that they are too dumb to figure out whats needed. Lack of imagination is at the heart of their problem. That makes it hard. But not impossible.
The moment will produce the man..
Time will tell. I guess.
A friend from Lahore asked for more abuse directed at poco pomo bullshitters and I made some rude comments about the upcoming Madison South Asia conference (see comments below). I now want to make amends by stating on record:
1. I dont think they are all bullshitters. In fact, almost all the people at that conference are serious academics. They do real research. They write papers. They teach classes. They know stuff. Frequently, a lot of stuff about their particular narrowly focused "area of interest". Sometimes a lot of stuff, period. SOME are surely good old-fashioned bullshitters, but thats par for the course in academia (or almost any other field...less so in science, but it does happen there too).
2. There are a lot of things we would never know if one of these people had not put in months or years of work to dig it up out of archives and letters and other obscure sources. Thank you sirs. (and madams)
3. The overall worldview and political views are heavily biased; colored by upperclass western liberal groupthink and fashion; irrelevant or frankly wrong when it comes to proximate political struggles and actual decisions taken by various actors in real time. That too is par for the course. These people are not especially dumb. They are smart people. They are, for the most part, good people. But they are all goldfish and all the goldfish in that pond speak goldfish language..you cannot really communicate unless you talk the same way too. And fo course, none of the goldfish are catfish or bass or crabs or octopusses or other lifeforms that actually DO politics and fight battles (though there is a touching and romantic subculture of academics joining some obscure leftist party's study circles or "street theater" to acquire street cred...but then, we are all human). Their language makes perfect sense to them. Their views are normal for their subculture.
4. Professional historians/students/teachers of "South Asian studies" are bound to think they know more than anyone else about what is REALLY happening in South Asia. That cannot be helped. It is our job to ignore them when they are wrong, not their job to shut up. I hope that clarifies things.
This, btw, is the schedule of the conference: http://southasiaconference.wisc.edu/schedule/schedule.asp
Post postscript: the question of drone victims versus Malala is being discussed a lot. I wrote a short comment on Dhume's WSJ article and am reproducing it here: all war involves killing and many have involved killing bystanders as well. To aim towards an end to ALL wars and all means of violently ending another person's life is a worthy aim and much to be admired, but to bring up drone attacks in this context is to miss the point: Drones, F-16s, artillery shells, IEDs, all of these kill and maim in horrible ways (drones being the most discriminating and accurate of the lot, but still, its 25 pounds of high explosive...the results are much less dreadful than conventional war, but hardly pretty), but slowly, painfully, almost imperceptibly, humanity has reached a point where MOST communities and most individuals find the thought of walking up to a school van and shooting a 14 year old school girl in the head for something she said on TV, an unacceptable deviation from "normal" human behavior. These same communities and individuals (unfortunately) are still willing to countenance wars and all the horrors of wars (most being much worse than drones) as long as they feel their cause is just. This event is shocking because it is outside the hard-won limits our species has managed (loosely) to place around the use of violence for political ends.
That still matters.
Drone attacks are an at of war. Whether the war is justified or not, whether they are EFFECTIVE or not, whether the US president has the legal right to order warlike acts without specific authorization from congress to wage war on the Islamic emirate (it is important to realize that Pakistan has no control over the areas being targeted...this is between the Islamic emirate and NATO, with both parties clear that this is a war between them) are all important questions, but they are not relevant to Malala's shooting.