Sometimes, I follow the war in Waziristan; sometimes I pay attention to drones. Truth be told - bombs come and go, and campaign in FATA rages on, yet curiously, the war has faded from our hearts and minds. The narrative that we have to accept, the liberal one, necessitates no more than a cursory concern for the victims of war. And that narrative is -- that all fascist right winged agents are collaborating against the forces of peace and tolerance and their safe haven is FATA. I quote from Cyril Almeida's article:
“It’s a loose conglomerate of anti-US, anti-army, anti-Shia, and anti-Barelvi/Sufi Muslims, as the main leadership of the TTP believes all these elements service each other’s needs.”
And with the recent attack in Karachi, we are yet again reminded that these elements are dangerously close to us. Whether its TTP or LJ. And ironically, instead of making us more inquisitive about the reality of this war, holistically, we cocoon ourselves further from any new information that may challenge the liberal narrative.
Let us live. Let us celebrate Eid in peace. We are not busybodies or sleuths.
And in the the interest of a moderate, minority loving society we should condone drones and wars and disregard civil liberties so militant elements may be extricated. Never mind that the state fighting the terrorists commits acts reminiscent of the atrocities of their renegade brothers in the mountains. In a lawful court proceeding, a woman is condemned to death for blasphemy. With impunity, political parties routinely show muscle, execute people in broad daylight, shut down the city for days, and block prosecutions.
Then this email from an unknown author. Casually, it states all wars have victims. Who knew?
The anonymous author writes about an anonymous friend who runs a hospital in Karachi where he treats people injured in this war, whom he casually calls the Taliban, because he offers them a low package. So here we have a glimpse of yet another macabre industry thriving on account of war. And while the Taliban have a health plan, the civilians, specially the women civilians, are left to die in the street?
A man of 20 or 25. Emaciated, toxic and dehydrated with a big gaping open abdominal wound with exposed bowels and faeces and pus pouring out.There was also another hole on the left side discharging pus. I put my gloved finger inside and could feel the iliac bone,but the hole went deeper and communicated with the abdominal cavity...bad news.
He also had a fractured ankle and full thickness skin burns to his thigh...more bad news I looked at his papers.There was one single sheet which stated that Mr Hakeemullah had a laparotomy and ileostomy two and a half weeks ago at an American hospital in Afghanistan. Another note from a hospital in Quetta revealed that the patient was brought there after having a road traffic accident. Well....If you happen to be on a road when the drone strikes you then certainly it could be called a road traffic accident. What exactly happened in Afghanistan and Quetta I will never know,but now this poor soul was lying before me looking at me expectantly. I avoided looking back at him. I did not want him to read my thoughts.He said something in Pushtu. I did not reply. I gave some instructions to the attending male nurse and came out. I don't talk with these patients anyway,because almost all of them do not know any Urdu. Usually there is a "minder" who is a local Taliban who looks after them and acts as their interpreter.These patients are never brought here by their relatives or friends. No woman ever accompanies them.They come here alone,thousands of miles away from home and await their ultimate fate.Some of them die and some of them survive to go back and fight again.
On the whole ,Taliban fighters are a tough lot. I have never seen them crying, shouting or cursing.They moan and suffer silently .It is no joke to travel all the way from Quetta to Karachi, with horrendous injuries in the back of a pick up truck. My latest patient, Hakeemulla ,just managed it with half of his guts out of his belly. I myself in a similar situation probably would not even last 25 miles.
These are the stories we do not hear. The author's friend ends with a dubious announcement - he helps the Taliban because they are the only ones fighting America. It was probably said for dramatic effect. His dominant motive is probably money. Also, no person who opposes the war and drones on principle righteously believes that the TTP are their protection from imperialism. Its a ludicrous presumption.
But what I think this story highlights is -- if we knew enough about the blood and gore, if we knew all there was to know about how lucrative war is, the trades it supports, the markets it invigorates, from the treacherous to the innocuous -- from rentals of airfields in Quetta to the doctors applying balms -- we'd be protesting the war and the drones much more. Even if just for business ethics.
For something to get to the level where it irks our conscience - when every victim of drone and army action becomes someone to rally for- we need a change in narrative, an alert people, a super active media probing the facts.
Instead, these are the sound bytes we get. "On November 16, 2010, four drone-fired missiles hit a house and vehicle in Bangi Dar village of North Waziristan, killing 15 to 20 people, possibly including civilians."
The UN has condemned the US for not assessing the impact of drones on civilians and yet we have such superficial information on something an energized population could seize the day -- plant a protest at every plaza..
We/I are past the fiction that Farhat Taj offers that people in FATA are very happy with the drones. We are past the fiction of liberals that militants bombing schools are the single worst threat facing our civil liberties. We are past the accusation that we are uninformed, incidentally a favorite of the righteous, heaving liberals.
Now can we have some real research and reporting?