A challenge to Imran Khan on the drones-versus-Malala debate

In an open letter to Imran Khan, who many have come to regard as the leading light in Pakistani politics, Fahd Husain writes:

The moment you and your supporters say “we condemn the attack on Malala and also those who shot her, but…”, the moment this “but” enters the rationale, the duplicity of thought, the ambiguity of intent, the ambivalence of attitude and the confusion, yes confusion of vision bubbles to the surface like a toxic pollutant.

Why is that so bad? You ask. Are the lives of those killed by drones cheaper than Malala’s? Are they children of a lesser god?

No they are not, Mr Khan. All lives are equally precious. But that is not the point. The drones versus Malala debate – that unfortunately your party leadership and its followers have triggered – is no debate. It is not an ‘either or’ issue. Both are wrong.

So why this useless debate then? Here’s where, Mr Khan, I blame you. Why? Because you are the fountain from which your followers drink their political nectar. They parrot you (often nauseatingly on social media), they regurgitate your arguments and they peddle your logic. Your party leadership pushes your line on TV and defends your rationale on public forums.

In the last week or so, they have fallen flat on their faces. The reason: your ideas are not fully fleshed out. Some call it intellectual dishonesty. I prefer to call it intellectual laziness.

You cannot bring yourself to condemn the Pakistani Taliban like you condemn say, Asif Zardari or Nawaz Sharif. Fine. I do not have a problem as long as you have a certain credible logic for it, like you do for your attacks on Zardari and Sharif. But you don’t.

Is it so because, a) Pakistani Taliban are our people, who are misguided and can be reformed? b) They have killed forty thousand other Pakistanis because we are fighting America’s war and so they do, err… kind of, have a point? c) If the drones would stop, they would stop attacking Malalas and Kainats and Shazias, and stop dynamiting girls’ schools and stop demanding their version of the Sharia for the entire Pakistani society? Or Mr Khan, is it what you have said in your Economist interview, that if you condemn them who will protect your party workers from them?

The last one has left me at a loss of words. Are you saying, Mr Khan, that you will not condemn them, not out of conviction and power of logic, but because of – horror of horrors – fear?

I can be fearful. Your supporters can be fearful. Even your detractors can be fearful. But none of us, Mr Khan, are claiming the leadership of this country; a bold and courageous leadership, I may add.

I, Mr Khan, am the proud father of seven-year old twin daughters. When I look at Malala lying on that stretcher, and I visualise the faces of my daughters, my eyes well up. The pictures of little babies killed and injured by drone attacks bring a lump in my throat. They are all our children. Not one or the other, but all. [Continue reading…]

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