By Gulmina Bilal Ahmad
July 20, 2012
Our self-appointed defenders council has a 10-point agenda, from pressurising the government to withdraw India’s MFN status to pressurising the government to stop NATO supplies again
I cannot decide what infuriates me more this week, the fact that ‘Duffer’-e-Pakistan has its own Facebook page, which has 2,461 likes, or that it has 300 followers on twitter. Actually, the latter pleases me, as 300 is not a significant number in today’s era of ‘followers’. This reminds me of a joke whereby a young man asked another if he was a follower of God and his prophets. The reply came, “Are they on twitter?” I digress with apologies, dear readers, but one has to speak about Duffer-e-Pakistan in short spurts to maintain one’s sanity.
The ‘Duffers’ recently took their case against the NATO supply to Chaman. I had the pleasure of going to Chaman last year when the NATO containers were whizzing through. I intentionally use the word ‘whizzing’ because those huge containers were driven by drivers who would nonchalantly lean out of the window at every check post, with money in their hand, briefly caress the guard’s hand, disguising it as a brief handshake, and without stopping would just whiz past. I was told that the going rate was Rs 50 per person, which I thought was quite low, but then was reminded that there were a number of check posts. Anyways, the money at check posts was general baksheesh since the real money had already been delivered to the agencies in charge with a separate head for the local tribal Malik. If nothing else, the distribution of ‘safety money’ seemed to be quite fair.
The container markets of Chaman are also quite well stocked because of the NATO supplies just as Peshawar’s Hayatabad market is. Gone are the days when containers would be stolen. Ever since the Americans started sealing the containers, our people, ingenious as ever, kept the seal intact but simply removed the whole door, took out the goods that were most in demand and re-fixed the door. Chaman is, of course, also the place where the Taliban cross to Afghanistan in the morning, and before four in the afternoon; when the border gate legally closes, they walk back. They mostly hail from the Pishin district of Balochistan with temporary abodes in Chaman, and this is one of the legal ways that is used to cross the border.
So, from Islamabad the Duffers took the party right to Chaman where, actually, the indirect beneficiaries (direct being the legal transporters, etc) of the NATO supply opening live. In a place like Chaman where there is a heavy presence of the Frontier Corps as well as the local government, not to mention the intelligence agencies, may one ask how was it that members of banned organisations that make up the DPC made it to Chaman? I went to meet government officials and had to answer so many questions from the agencies. How and why was the DPC experience so different? Am I incorrect in then assuming that the DPC carried out their work with the approval of the Frontier Corps? Or, at least, not with their active disapproval? Has it been forgotten that the DPC comprises banned organisations?
Let us also look at the agenda of the DPC. Our self-appointed defenders council has a 10-point agenda, from pressurising the government to withdraw India’s MFN status to pressurising the government to stop NATO supplies again. Who has given the council this mandate, especially given the fact that parliament collectively represents the will of the people, and who has entrusted the DPC with the responsibility of defending the country? That too a council that has banned militant organisations, former military personnel who have been labelled as the ‘Godfathers of terrorism’, not to mention political actors who once ran militant training camps for young boys to be used as cannon fodder in Kashmir. Apart from all this, I have a branding issue. For 65 years, the military has espoused that they are there to ‘defend us’ against foreign enemies, but most practically against political leaders. Now there is another council defending us, using the tagline of the army. Should the image managers of the army not be concerned at this ‘competition’ as any organisation would? Or perhaps, ‘Apne hi bachai hain’
(They are our own boys)? Speaking of branding and marketing, in addition to the Facebook and Twitter presence, the Duffers have a very professionally managed website. If God forbid one has not heard their venom in a rally, all the speeches from their rallies are available on their website, and latest news related to their concerns and issues are updated continuously. Obscenity, granted, has many definitions and means different things to different people. While the Supreme Court is most concerned with pornography, is the DPC not obscene too in its venom? Granted, this submission of mine can be dismissed as the irrational ranting of a confused liberal, but can we easily dismiss the fact that banned organisations are openly carrying out their work? While the Supreme Court is obsessed with letter writing, pray where and what should I write for anyone to take notice of the DPC?
Sympathising with my frustration that I just expressed, a friend suggested that we join the DPC and volunteer to plan a DPC rally ourselves in front of the American Embassy at Islamabad. Hordes of the DPC followers would definitely come. However, we will be rid of them, as instead of attending the rally, all will be queuing up to get an American visa.
Not a bad idea, after all.
Gulmina Bilal Ahmad is a development consultant