Monday, 5 October 2009

Who is the Infidel?

Real price for the war on terrorism is being paid by the ordinary citizens of the North West Pakistan.

Reportedly, while hunting for Taliban terrorists Pakistan army had a village in Swat under siege. There were doubts that there might be Taliban sympathisers in the village. To determine their loyalty the Army commander asked the village elder what he thought about the Pakistan Army.

We respect the Pakistan army and consider you as our defenders, replied the elder.

Don't you consider us invading infidels? asked the commander.

God forbid, Sir! we don't, replied the elder.

So what do you think about the Taliban, then! asked the commander.

The elder hesitated and said that Taliban want imposition of Sharia (that we support) and they oppose the Americans, and they say that they are God's army.

Don't you think Taliban are infidels! asked the commander

My lord! we do not think that they are infidels, just as we don't think that you are, replied the elder.

If Taliban are Muslims and we are Muslims as well, then who are the infidels in this conflict! asked the flustered commander

Sir! infidels are we, the common people of Swat who are getting their asses kicked by both the Taliban and yourselves, replied the elder humbly.

Hamid Mir of Daily Jang Pakistan attributed this story to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, religious leader from North West Pakistan while highlighting alleged mis-treatment of suspected Taliban by the Pakistan Army.

Recently released videos showing torture of suspected Taliban sympathisers at the hand of Pakistan army soldiers have brought home the issue of respect for human rights in a civil war. Just as the videos of public flogging of a young girl at the hands of Taliban enforcers tickled the moral core of Pakistani nation and resulted in mass support for the military operation in Swat, recent videos of torture of bearded elders at the hands of Pakistani soldiers posted on social media sites can sway public opinion in the other direction.

Media is rife with reports of extra judicial killings of alleged (innocent until proven guilty, remember!) Taliban, hanging of their dead bodies from the same poles where they used to hang their opponents, and torture of those arrested. Conflicts like the one in North West Pakistan quite often blur the boundaries of what is legal in the eyes of those who are fighting on the ground.

Just wars should not be fought at the cost human and civil rights. Pakistan has paid a heavy price for not doing that in 1971 resulting in dismemberment of half of the country. We cannot afford another East Pakistan. Over the last one year Pakistan army has worked hard on rehabilitation of its image that was damaged by ten years of General Musharraf's tyranny. It cannot afford losing the public support in this crucial war in which any long lasting victory hinges on public support.

Invading US army in Iraq set the standards by investigating and prosecuting those who were responsible for prisoner abuse in now legendary Abu Gharaib jail. Pakistan army needs to set its own standards that soldiers in the war zone do not forget the values that an Islamic army is supposed to adhere to when dealing with the enemy remembering that the fight is with enemy within.

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