Saturday, June 6, 2015

150,000 dead and counting: When will Af-Pak’s killing spree end?

Wars are a nasty killing business, the culmination of a failure of diplomacy or resolution of conflicts in a peaceful manner. Like religious fanaticism, where reason and logic stop and aggression gives way to hostility, mankind and nations often take refuge in manoeuvring and manipulating to go one up and control situations by non-peaceful methods. For the lack of a better expression, wars are the awakening of the animal instinct in human beings.

The effects and repercussions that armed confrontations leave behind are far reaching. Scars of sorrowfulness and grief that wars bring to the teeming millions are virtually an irremovable reality, a memory that can’t be erased from the human mind’s footprint.

The world has had its fair share of wars in modern times. The past 100 years have seen regional and international conflicts galore with rapid growth and development in the art and tools of warfare. The aspect of death and destruction has, therefore, been elevated to a whole new level of undesirable hatred and animosity.

The two great wars of the 20th century ended up in millions of military and civilian casualties. Seventeen million died during World War I and 50 to 80 million faced the ultimate fate during World War II. What is often ignored is the fact that the story doesn’t end with the end of the conflict. While famine and disease inevitably make inroads into erstwhile warzones, state infrastructures are invariably destroyed thereby impacting future generations who pay a heavy price in the shape of poverty and lack of developed setups. Emotional and societal degradation, depression and distress that nations face is a stark evidence of the decaying effect that wars leave behind.

My ordeals with war, torture and brushes with death aside, the years that I spent as an active journalist only strengthened my will to fight against war, believe in diplomacy and negotiation, work out matters amongst adversaries, dig deep into the possibilities of peaceful conflict resolution, and avoid confrontation.

No matter which part of the world wars are fought, they impact everyone, all of us as humanity. Wars are terrible news for mankind and a recent study, titled the ‘Costs of War Project, only consolidate and reiterate the views that I’ve come to hold about this organised butchery. Published by the Watson Institute for International Studies and authored by a distinguished scholar, Neta Crawford, it reminds us of the incredible costs of war in terms of human loss, money and organisation that the citizens of Afghanistan-Pakistan (Af-Pak) have had to bear beyond the 9/11 period due to unrest and struggles in their countries.

Crawford points out that the direct and indirect causes and consequences of the most arduous wars of the 21st century have recklessly devastated the very fabric of societies in the two extraordinarily conflicted neighbouring countries.

Although one has no hard and fast way of authenticating data of damage provided in the study, it is realistic enough to make one believe that the facts given are true and uncontaminated. Granted that the war against terror was a much needed necessity, the campaigns have not done much justice to the people of Af-Pak.

While almost every other hotshot or small fry associated with terrorism eventually ended up being in either Afghanistan or Pakistan, the negative change that the societies have undergone transformed these states into nothing but killing fields, pits of fire or to put it more aptly, they’ve become hell holes of darkness.

‘Costs of War Project is a timely reminder, a rejoinder to the civilised world, the powers that feel that whatever their motives, a strategic regroup and reconfiguration are what the world is yearning for. These politically motivated catastrophes that are so diligently carried out are simply terminating layers of local populations.

For instance, look at Pakistan, a country that has essentially been marooned beyond recognition, turned topsy turvy by its corrupt politicians and ambitious army. Today, it presents a sad spectacle of a people divided amongst themselves; too many enemies within. There was a time when Pakistan was reasonably placed in the comity of nations. Now, the world has stereotyped Pakistan as a rogue state, a country spell bound by the scourge of extremism with its citizens faced with the fear of suicide, drone strikes, ISIS and Taliban attacks every day of their lives.

I understand that people of Pakistan only hear what they want to hear, yet, other than their politicians, the mullahs or their military, a huge part of the blame goes to them for allowing things to come to such a pass. I may sound like a conniving rascal but wouldn’t you think that a nation has got to be really messed up to come to a point where Pakistan finds itself at right now?

My hunch is that God, despaired by the plight, gave up on the land of the pure eons ago hoping against hope that the people might steer the nation in the right direction. It appears that the placement of His trust was an overestimation of the nation’s capabilities.

There are no straight answers to the war quandary. It seems that decisions to wage wars are now taken by some lunatics who are passionate about wreaking havoc on villages, towns, cities and countries and there is not respite from their incessant desire to keep up with the process of destruction. Let’s not forget that wars are a profitable business and the leeches that don’t ever want conflict to stop are the ones benefitting the most.

Nations targeted by conflict must take control of their destinies. Major powers, militaries, politicians, and so on, all have their ulterior motives. They are all in cahoots with each other. Pakistan and, to a certain extent, Afghanistan have enough will and brain power to think out the enemy within, drive out the forces of mass scale obliteration and control the nefarious tendencies of their respective leaderships.

This is a critical time in the histories of these nations to rise as one and ensure that their future generations are not mortgaged to the parochial interests that, for now, have taken over the role of the masters of their destinies.

Peace comes with high price tag and can only be achieved through lots of hard work, patience and perseverance. It’s time for the Af-Pak nations to pull their socks up, think outside the box, adopt unconventional ways and work toward civilising their societies. Most of all, stop getting blackmailed by ignorant religious ideals, open up your minds, embrace modern times, get connected with the present, live in the now and have a vision for the future.

from The Express Tribune Blog

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