Once again, Pakistan has gotten tangled in a yet another very sensitive, very precarious issue of global concern. This may well be the first occasion that Americans have experienced a national tragedy of such horrific proportions, but it certainly isn’t a ‘first’ for Pakistan, or Afghanistan, or Kashmir, or Palestine. And just because we cannot observe three minutes of silence for the thousands dead, killed and massacred every year, does not mean we do not feel the pain for each and every one of them.
But why is Pakistan involved now? Because Pakistan has always been involved – who aided the United States against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979? Who provided military facilities to the United States in the face of volatile opposition from the Russians in the 80s? Pakistan. Who gave sanctuary to the 5 million Afghan refugees pouring in from across the Durand Line during the war? Pakistan. Who helped the United States capture countless so-called Pakistani ‘terrorists’, like Kansi, like Basra? And who is helping them now, in the most critical moment of their history, to “hunt down” Osama bin Laden and “rid the world” of all “evil”, the Taliban, as George W. Bush imagines – or wants – them to be?
What we have done for the superpower is endless. We have instigated enemies on all sides of our borders – Russia to the north, India on one hand, and now Afghanistan on the other. By promising “unflinching support” to President Bush, General Musharraf has bought us temporary ‘security’ from Uncle Sam, but how long will it last? For as long as Pakistan is able to serve the purpose? So, at the end of the day, who is the loser? Pakistan. A weak, impoverished country steeped in debt and sanctions, the United States is not our neighbor. Afghanistan is. We may supply the US with our troops, our airspace, our military bases, and appease the American demands for the time being, but it is us who shall have to face the repercussions, not the US. Do we have a choice? To put it bluntly, we can either “support Taliban and get branded terrorist / terrorist-harboring / potential-threat-to-world-peace pariah-state by the US”, or “support the US and get your already crisis-ridden country swamped with guns and refugees, not to mention a probable invasion of Taliban”, just the ingredients needed to create yet another Afghanistan.
We have indeed done a lot for the United States – more than they realize. To be sure, it was Pakistani alliance that helped tilt the balance in favor of the United States during the Cold War period, by fuelling Afghan rebels and ultimately exhausting Soviet resources – but have they recipocrated?
What has the United States done for us? Introduced our people and the Afghan people to weaponry – to bombs, to Stinger missiles, to U-2 fighter airplanes. Trained our people in war, in battle, in destruction, in ‘terrorism’. Turned our simple peoples in to fighting machines, using them, and then abandoning them to the mercy of arms. Using Kansi, using Saddam Hussain, using Osama bin Laden, using the warriors of Afghanistan for as long as they were exploitable – and expecting them to remain mute puppets at their beck and call? Expecting them not to react?
The United States government, without being mindful of it, has created enemies for itself in every corner of the world – in Kashmir, in Palestine, in Kosovo, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Japan, in China – through its twisted foreign policies and double standards. And if the US expects its past faults and misdeeds to be forgotten, it is in grave error. Human life is equal – priceless – whether it is of innocent American civilians in Manhattan or unarmed Palestinian teenagers in Jerusalem. So eloquent words like ‘peace’, ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ may temper minds, but the wounds of the heart need time to heal. Time – and retribution.
Nobody can understand what we are feeling like here in Pakistan – nobody but those who have witnessed war themselves. Every night, I go to bed feeling vaguely apprehensive – Will the war start tonight? Will America attack Afghanistan tonight? Will Afghanistan attack Pakistan tonight? Will the war-siren sound tonight? Will I be alive tomorrow?
It is not a fear that is manifest – it is a fear infused in the very atmosphere. We live our lives as we always have, and on the surface, everything appears normal – I go to school, I do my homework, I go out with my friends – but even then, we can sense the tension – the disquiet – it surrounds us. We cannot escape from that feeling of dread – when you know something is about to happen, something that will affect you immensely, and change your life, change you – we are uneasy.
But it is not a new feeling. We’re just not in the habit of propagandizing it.