Farooq Siddique: Terrorists are "gangs of thugs and brainwashed fools"
I SIT relaxing in my ancestral homeland; Pakistan. I can see the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. It is beautiful. Picture an old western film scene: horsemen riding across the high plains. Here, motorbikes have replaced the horses, the rest is pretty much the same. Welcome to the Wild Wild East.
The trade in illegal arms is thriving. You can pick up a pistol for less than the price of an Xbox game. Possession of a Kalashnikov rifle carries a mandatory life sentence; it's freely available. Take a picture of any gun to the local craftsmen of the arms bazaars, and they'll make it for you.
Carrying weapons in public is illegal, and considered bad etiquette. But those who do, wearing bullet belts across their chests and rifles on their shoulders, make it clear for all they are above the law and not bound by society's norms. The local Sheriff's deputies don't get paid enough to challenge these outlaws.
There's an honour code: a life for a life. Sometimes, the payment of blood money quenches the thirst for revenge. The poor though, dare not hope for revenge. They can only mourn their loss and move on. In this backdrop of relative lawlessness, and self-governance, a new business venture has blossomed: terrorism.
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The Government seems so hopelessly incompetent to deal with these challenges that many assume it is simply unwilling to. Rumours abound that parliamentarians use the terrorists for their own ends: getting rid of business or political opponents in exchange for free rein.
The terrorists themselves are utterly despised; gangs of thugs and brainwashed fools. They operate merciless networks like the Mafia: demanding money from local traders, drug trafficking, instilling fear. Empires require workers: they prise children away from their families, promising to feed, clothe and educate them for free. They even pay for the privilege. It's appealing to parents struggling in the face of the massive economic woes Pakistan now faces – itself a result of successive inept and corrupt governments.
I don't believe the terrorists are "jihadists" as they are so irresponsibly described. Most are crooked opportunists. They bombed countless mosques, markets, buses, schools and a church. They even bomb each other! They shot a 14-year-old girl in the face at point blank range. Religion doesn't fear children. New business ventures however, fear even a small disruption to money flow. This isn't about the Prophet. It's simply about profit. War is big business for those that promote and sustain it.
In the Wild West story being played out across the world, the massive Pakistan Army has become little more than hired guns for the influential ranch-owner, wanting to build a rail road (aka gas and oil pipelines) through poorer people's lands. It's created opportunities for the corrupt.
Those with guns can claim to represent whoever and whatever they want, the truth is always felt by the poor masses. The people of Pakistan are like the villagers of the Seven Samurai: exploited by the bandits, unprotected by the State. Waiting it seems forever for the Magnificent Seven to ride.
And it is the masses that, despite everything I've said, make Pakistan so incredibly appealing to me. They are laid back, but purposeful. Incredibly hospitable people. Friendly. Insanely resourceful. Eager to better themselves.
There's a genuine innocence, naivety, heart-on-your-sleeve emotion. 'Everything will be all right in the end' is their motto. A simplicity that is overwhelming; uplifting.
In a few weeks, for all the rugged appeal and beauty of the land of my forefathers, I'll fly back to the UK. When I see that sign for the M32 to Bristol, I'll take a deep breath and whisper one word; "Home".