A Call for Complexity

Nov 2012

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Finally, there are questions about the media’s ethics. Why did the BBC seek an extremely readable Anne Frank-like agent to write for them?  Shouldn’t it have relied on reporters who understand the dangers implicit in such documentation and can make informed decisions about it instead of a teenage girl?

More broadly, there are structural issues that we must address which do not make much of an appearance in framings like that of the NYT. The legal status of FATA is an example. It effectively means that people from FATA lack constitutional cover and, therefore, suffer. We must ask how the Pakistani state has reneged on its social obligations to the people of this region.

It is reductionist to say that if we remove the Taliban, the state will automatically uphold its responsibilities to the people. The state has abdicated its responsibility and has in fact worked in the interest of selected groups that provide support to the Taliban movement.

We must address how the business of war has become a way of survival from the narcotics smuggling routes that crisscross our region to the American dollars that bloat our military. It is common knowledge that the U.S. supported the mujahideen in the 1980s, but it’s almost as if it should not matter. It does. Groups like the Taliban sustain themselves long term due to institutional backing. That’s why history matters.

One cannot wipe the slate with extreme warfare and hope that the menace of the Taliban will disappear.  Becoming fixated on the Taliban and simplistic dichotomies will get us nowhere. We have to get into the mess with all the knowledge of the past and present and a positive agenda for structural social reform.  We must ask complex questions and be willing to handle equally complicated answers even if such things elude the NYT.

Abira Ashfaq is a lawyer based in Karachi.  She teaches law and writes about social issues.

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2 Responses to A Call for Complexity

  1. […] progressive struggles more generally have been sacrificed to propaganda. Ashfaq urges us not to shy away from asking complex questions and understanding the structural causes of our […]

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