THE BLOG
12/29/2014 10:42 am ET Updated Feb 28, 2015

Pakistan Is Its Own Worst Enemy

My country Pakistan is still reeling from the shock and disbelief due to the December 16 tragedy in which more than 130 children died. Over the years, Pakistan has suffered a lot due to terrorism as countless people have lost their lives. But what happened on the December 16 was extremely dark and gory even by Pakistani standard.

And yet whatever happened on that fateful day is in many ways a result of our own faults. And in this journey towards mayhem, it is not just the Pakistani state but the general public also has played a prominent part.

What happened on December 16 or has been happening over the years is the direct consequence of using religion as a political tool to achieve some strategic objectives. For many years Pakistani state has used religious militant groups for achieving "strategic" objectives and in the process it has always taken it for granted that one cannot feed crocodiles and expect that they will only attack the "enemy".

Although Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is different from Afghan Taliban -- as the latter is often categorized as "good" Taliban -- but the fact is that even if different, both have mutated from the same template. TTP just like Afghan Taliban is a militant organization which seeks motivation from religion and aims to implement a very strict form of religious code.

But state's practice of supporting such groups is just one part of the story. The fact that public opinion has never been really against such groups is something which is even more troublesome. Over the years, Pakistani public has been in strange form of denial and has always considered militants such as the TTP as merely reacting to U.S. presence in Afghanistan and its policy of carrying drone attacks.

Much more than anything else, it is this mindset which is deeply problematic. Even when it became obvious that TTP was killing and even accepting responsibility, Pakistan's response was of denial. Some kept on calling it propaganda against Taliban to defame them while others kept on giving apologetic defense to them by calling their inhuman atrocities as "reaction".

In fact, those who have been projecting the above kind of narrative are perhaps the most responsible for all what has happened. And this does not merely include our establishment or religious outfits but all those politicians, media personnel and opinion makers who for years have been either absolving those who have mercilessly killed by attributing it to foreign powers or providing apologetic defense to Taliban.

More than anything else, it is the collective mindset which is responsible for the mess we are in today. Over the years, I have always witnessed much more hatred for drone attacks and even Malala Yousaf Zai than TTP. Even when TTP openly started to acknowledge their suicide blasts the reaction from any of us was extremely muted and reeked of apologetic behavior.

I remember when in 2009, a flogging video came out ( showing Taliban flogging a woman in Swat which is mountainous region near the capital Islamabad ), the reaction from some of us was labeling it as fake with the purpose of defaming Taliban. In 2009, most of our news media was firmly behind TTP's demand for imposing Sharia law in Swat. Their opinion only changed when after imposition, their leader Sufi Mohammad demanded the same for entire Pakistan.

After Swat operation, although the support for TTP went down but it was replaced by a shameless habit of coming up with apologetic defense aimed at providing justification to worst kind of inhuman and barbaric activities. Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician, has been at the forefront of this kind of narrative. When hundreds were being killed by suicide blasts, our focus was more on a few dozen killed by drone attacks. In this strange delusional world, the predator drones-not the TTP -- which became the biggest culprits.

It never mattered that drones always had the implicit approval of the state and were actually aimed at killing those who were killing us and yet in our screwed up mindset, they were the real culprits rather than the TTP and their like-minded groups.

And yet, political parties like PTI (headed by cricketer turned politician Imran Khan) never protested against TTP and focused all their energies towards drone attacks. It is precisely because of this kind of political narratives that until now TTP has never faced acute hatred. It is this kind of narrative which has resulted in Malala Yousaf Zai being hated for supposedly "maligning" Pakistan in the international arena.

Today, Pakistan has literally become a delusional country suffering from strange misplaced hatreds and sympathies and this kind of narrative has played a definite role in it. But why this narrative resonates so well?

It resonates so well because it appeals to our deep down belief of Muslim moral superiority. We firmly believe that we are more "enlightened" and therefore a Muslim can not indulge in such atrocities unless really "forced". It is no wonder that even after this drastic and horrifying episode and despite the fact that TTP has accepted responsibility, many TV anchors are still trying to shift the blame to India. And their nonsense is finding audience.

Nothing will change until this narrative changes and our mindset which accommodates it changes. Pakistan has to realize that it is its own worst enemy.