The (Pak) Military Identifies Militants as the New Enemy

Illustration by AbroIllustration by Abro
Martyrs’ monument, GHQ, Rawalpindi: Bearded men in turbans are the new enemy. And the message came loud and clear from the country’s military high command.
The enemy’s bearded face dominated two large screens, placed on both sides of the parade ground at GHQ. It was April 30, the day when the nation remembers those killed in the fight against terror.

The guests were escorted to the ground by smartly dressed military officers, both men and women. The guests could see that the military had changed.

As the guests were seated, the two screens lit up, showing men in uniform, including policemen, fighting bearded militants. The militants were shown ambushing military convoys and killing innocent civilians. There’s no room for ambiguity. The military had made up its mind: the Taliban was the new enemy.

The military high command wanted the whole nation to learn this and to notice its commitment to fighting the militants. So the country’s civilian leaders, both in and out of the government, were also invited to join the army in pledging to fight the new enemy. The media and diplomats from friendly nations were also there to watch this and share it with the rest of the world.

Some watched silently, some with tears rolling down their cheeks as the stories of terrorism’s victims were reenacted for the screen.

A child was shown playing with his father, hugging his mother, preparing for his examination, training at the military academy and then taking up his duties as a soldier.

The story then moved to his marriage, his children and finally to the ambush as tall bearded men, their faces hidden behind turbans, attacked a military convoy. The soldier died fighting the enemy in a barren valley.

Then the parents, children and siblings of slain soldiers were brought on the stage. They completed the story, telling the audience who killed those soldiers and why.

A Baloch woman, whose son died while fighting militants in Balochistan, broke down on the stage. Her wailing wet most eyes. Even foreign military attaches could be seen wiping their tears.

Every body joined her when she chanted, “Pakistan Zindabad.”

The martyrs whose stories were reenacted on the Martyrs’ Day included a police officer, a politician and a journalist.

Police superintendent Syed Kalam was tasked with “uniting the people” against the Taliban and was killed when he refused to give up his campaign.

Journalist Nasrullah Khan Afridi was silenced because he refused to stop criticizing the Taliban.

Politician Bashir Ahmad Bilour was killed because he was trying to unite the country’s political forces against the Taliban.

Their stories were also reenacted and their children too were brought on the stage to tell the audience how they sacrificed their lives in the fight against the terrorists.

The wife of a Western military attaché sobbed as Afridi’s daughter, who cannot speak, used the sign language to share her grief.

The message was loud and clear, the Taliban were the enemy.

And the army chief, Gen. Ashraf Pervez Kayani, warned those who still say this is not Pakistan’s war, not to do so.

“If a small faction wants to enforce its distorted ideology over the entire nation by taking up arms … and considers all forms of bloodshed justified, then does the fight against this enemy of state constitute someone else’s war?” he asked.

Urging people to stop questioning the need to fight the militants, he said: “We cannot afford to confuse our soldiers and weaken their resolve with such misgivings.”

But his deeds were stronger than his words.

The Pakistani governments, both civilian and military, have often been hostile to Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his family. Those of us, who have witnessed this hostility, could never imagine that an ANP leader (Bilour) will one day be eulogised at the GHQ.

Similarly, including a journalist and a police officer on the military’s list of fallen heroes also reflected a major change in the country’s military culture.

It seems that the army has not only recognised the Taliban as its enemy but also realizes that it needs the support of the entire nation to win this war.

80x80-Anwar-IqbalThe author is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.