Heads We Lose, Tails You Win

There is only one ironclad rule of gambling and that is that the gambler always loses. You can mark cards or play with loaded dice but eventually you will be found out. Ever since the war on terror was declared by the US we have been trying to deceive all the players in the game. But our time may now be up.
The civilian government and military have done their utmost to keep the three main players – the US government, the Taliban and the Pakistani public – on their side.
Our government’s reaction to the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud should be a wake-up call for those who are yet to realise how duplicitous we can be. Here is a man who is solely responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistanis and yet we valourise him as a man of peace, someone who could finally have brought an end to a conflict that lasted more than a decade.
Don’t believe the words of praise for this wanton terrorist; we’re just trying to cheat the rest of the world. This is yet another example of us tossing a double-headed coin but not expecting anyone to call tails.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent foreign visits should show us how he’s trying to play all sides. The people of Pakistan have become so accustomed to hearing that the US is to blame for everything that afflicts us that we are all too ready to have them scapegoated. So when our main representative blames everything on drone attacks and publicly echoes all the views we have been trained to accept about these strikes, we accept these denunciations at face value. Except, when Nawaz was in DC and castigating drone strikes, as every good Pakistani leader is expected to, someone forgot to tell the Americans that they were supposed to call tails.
Instead, the US was unhappy about being portrayed as the bad guys – as the John Wayne cowboys who do what they want without regard for the consequences – that someone leaked to the Washington Post, that organ of respectable US opinion, that those in authority in Pakistan had not only known of drone strikes in advance but had provided intelligence and even suggested strikes of their own.
This information may have been leaked before Hakeemullah was targeted but how can the government now justify sanctioning drone attacks and yet condemning the one which killed the man who has gone after more Pakistanis than any other person ever? Nawaz went to DC with the same, tired old double-headed coin but the US now knows better.
We, the public, need to be as cognizant as the US that those we voted into power are lying to us. When Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan tells us that the drone strike which took out Hakeemullah was a deliberate US effort to sabotage peace he needs to be called out for his dissembling. Just before Hakeemullah was killed, the government claimed that it had initiated peace talks with the TTP.
There was a quick rebuttal from the militants that no such thing was happening. Now that he is dead, everyone is claiming that the mass murderer Hakeemullah Mehsud was a harbinger of peace. There is no reason to believe this propaganda.
The posthumous elevation of Hakeemullah into a man who only wanted to reason with us is pernicious and wholly false. The only reason the government is indulging in this fiction is to keep up the pretence that it actually cares about drone attacks and their violation of our sovereignty. To win the support of a public that is predisposed towards anti-Americanicsm, we have been fed the lie that our representatives disapprove of what the US is doing.
Little did our leaders realise that we would soon begin to believe their rhetoric, forcing them to constantly up the ante. That is why when Hakeemullah’s predecessor Baitullah was killed in a drone attack there was little uproar from official circles. Now, thanks to a four-year long disingenuous campaign, the government has to pretend that the death of this Taliban leader is a deliberate attempt to sabotage that elusive peace. The public has been so trained to hear that it is being given a fair shake that it still refuses to believe that it is being cheated. It is time to realise we have been cheated.
If there is anyone who understands the game that is being played it is the TTP. They never change anything. No matter who their next leader is – be it the unfortunately-nicknamed Sajna or anyone else – the song will be the same. They will continue to find any excuse to attack civilians and then blame the government or the US. The TTP has never been fooled by our insincere denunciations; they know that the government is just trying to please all sides without caring about any.
Even Imran Khan, who is seen as badly misguided but consistent by his opponents, is trying to pull a fast one on us. His party announced that it would stop Nato supplies to Afghanistan from passing through Pakistan, a wrong but principled position. The highways are controlled by the centre, not the provincial government, so the PTI’s announcement had no teeth. All the party could do was physically block roads and challenge the writ of the federal government.
Now the PTI has announced that it will delay any action till Muharram is over, although it did not explain how the advent of the Islamic new year prevents such political action from being taken. Imran Khan and his party, too, are hoping we fall for the double-headed coin trick.
Maybe it’s time for those in power to mint new coins?