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Terrorism Pakistan Style | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Terrorism Pakistan Style

Terrorism Pakistan Style

Terrorism Pakistan Style

Pakistani filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, the first non American journalist to be awarded the prestigious Livingston Award gives Asharq Al-Awsat an inside look at her while filming her Documentary “Pakistan’s Double Game” which examined Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism for Britain’s Channel 4.

As I walked into the bullet ridden mosque in Karachi last year, I realized that the local imam was making an exception for me. Women seldom see the inside of mosques in Pakistan but because I am Muslim and a journalist, the mosque in this case made an exception.

Shattered glass lay everywhere, bullet holes pierced the four walls and local policemen guarded the entrance with automatic klashinikov guns. I was inside a mosque, the sight of a foiled suicide bomb attack. I felt uneasy. I was supposed to be an impartial observer, a journalist covering the attack for a documentary film for Channel 4’s Unreported World. But I didn’t feel impartial, I felt angry to see that a mosque had to guard its entrance, had to frisk the worshippers that came in daily to pray five times a day, because a certain group of fundamentalists deemed it “ok” to bomb a mosque.

The local caretaker of the mosque told me that a young man had saved the lives of hundreds of worshippers by tripping the bomber with his leg.

Every year hundreds of sectarian attacks take place in Pakistan, Sunni vs Shia, Shia vs Sunni, but no one has ever attempted to stop a bomber before. So I decided to pursue the story of the young man who was responsible for saving the lives of so many people.

Ghufran Haider, an eighteen year old student, lives in a modest middle class building near the mosque. I followed his father into a tiny bedroom where Ghufran lay bandaged from head to foot. Sixteen pieces of shrapnel from the bomb had hit him, he had to under go four operations, he lay there fighting for his life. Ghufran told me that if he had the chance to, he would do it again.

Here was an average Pakistani, he had done his duty as a citizen, he had put his life down on the line, his family was being threatened by the Sunni extremist group, yet the Pakistan government did not deem it fit to congratulate the young man or make an example out of him.

My journey across Pakistan continued.

I was exploring the impact of the war on terrorism on the country. In Lahore I wanted to speak to members of Lashkar-eJhangvi, a banned Kashmiri militant group. Its members were fighting Indian troops and attempting to drive them out of the valley of Kashmir.

It was extremely difficult to make connections with the top leadership of the group. President Musharraf had tried to crack down on their activities and now these groups were operating from clandestine locations. I spoke with some of my contacts on the ground but the Kashmiri militant group was unwilling to give an on camera interview.

It’s at times like these that being a television journalist is frustrating. A lot of times people are willing to speak but not on camera. It takes a lot of convincing and patience to gain access. I waited a few days and made contact with the group again. This time they agreed to speak to me in downtown Lahore. I was told by my local contact that they were hesitant because I was a female. They had never given an interview to a female journalist before. I wore the local Shalwar Kameez and covered my head properly before making my way to their underground office. Its always awkward for me to walk into a room full of men who I know are not comfortable in the presence of a woman but I’ve learnt over the years that the best thing to do is to speak about neutral topics. The grilling questions can follow later.

As I spoke about the recent cricket series between India and Pakistan the tension in the room eased slowly and I moved on to other topics including the guerilla fight in Kashmir and the prospects of peace between India and Pakistan. I left the meeting worried. Despite agreements of peace between the two countries, groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were continuing their fight. They will settle for nothing less than the whole Kashmir region.

The end of my trip was drawing near, I had spent time speaking with ordinary people on the streets of Pakistan , I had spoken to politicians, extremist groups and the Pakistan army. Everyone was committed to his or her own agenda, sometimes conflicting. But the ordinary voices so often dimmed by the chaos in Pakistan were desperate for peace, for a future where their children could go to mosques without the fear of dying, a future where they would have economic empowerment, and a united stance against violence. Enough was enough, the senseless violence had to end, they all told me.