Published in The Nation, December 02, 2012
My jet streaks across the cold blue sky towards Muslim dwellings. Perched up so high above the ground, I cannot see much from here; everything seems so small, so insignificant. I am glad I will not see those who I am going to kill - children with soft brown eyes. A lump rises in my throat. What am I doing here? But I am not responsible. Blink. It is not my judgement; I’m only doing a job; those who have given the orders bear the responsibility. And these children, they are merely collateral damage. Yes, this is acceptable terminology. But the hollowness in the pit of my stomach doesn't go away.
We are now closing up with the target. I need to focus. I’m only a soldier - a killing machine doing its job. “Phantom formation, check switches air-to-ground,” I call out to my Wingman and turn my master armament switches ‘On’. I am glad I will not see their torn bodies, or hear their screams. I tip my nose down for the attack, “Phantom lead is in. Visual target.” My palms are sweaty. The houses keep growing bigger as I lose height; my soul keeps shriveling as I descend. Steady now. I take a deep breath and press the red button. A shiver runs down my spine along with a slight lurch, as the bombs are released. “Lead is off, pumping, turning right.” In a high-g turn, over my shoulder I can see the fire and smoke rising from demolished homes. No shrieks, only silent smoke. Collateral damage. And I head back home, to my children. I will not tell them about the medal I wear. I will read to them a fairy-tale.
Hissing through the air bombs hit their target. Collapsing walls, falling roof, debris, dust, smoke, calling voices searching loved ones, moans and silenced agony, all mingle to make one eerie spinning world of pain and anguish. A young man rises from dust and disentangles his sister from twisted steel and masonry; bloodied but still breathing, clasping her motionless child to her chest and murmuring something inaudible - perhaps, a prayer. The doctors say she will live, but has lost her sight and hearing. And that is a blessing; for she doesn’t want to see anything if not her baby, and she doesn’t want to hear anything if not the sound of his gurgling laughter. And what is there to see anyway, but more homes burning? And what is there to hear, but shameless Muslim rulers babbling? Is there sanity to be found here? For this young man, his madness is sanity enough. He will now cross over to the other side. He will die, but he will take along with him all those pretenders of sanity who have sold their souls to the devil. He now knows no fear and has no bounds. He now recognises the real perpetrators of terror.
Pictures coming out of Palestine have been heartrending: smouldering rubble once called home, crushed bodies being dragged out from the debris, dead infants lined up on the sidewalk, a withered grandmother crying helplessly. At each of these, I wondered if they were not from somewhere in Pakistan; if this pilot with suppressed conscience was, perhaps, not one of our own.
How strange that returning home from Palestine, we switch mode from emotional to self-serving expediency and suddenly switch sides! Can we separate emotions from prudence if it is our loved ones at stake? Souls that are not moved by the agony of others are dead. Twenty killed in Karachi, 40 massacred in Dalbandin, 80 in Dabori; only numbers to be added up. Not worth much more. And frigid hearts pursue life as usual.
The cold discussions one hears on TV channels bear witness to the callousness threshold that we, as a society, have reached. The unending exhortations to continue on the same ‘sensible’ path are deafening. We have put everything on sale - our honour, dignity, sovereignty, security and our thoughts; even God! And what have we gained in return?
For 12 years, we have been brainwashing our people into believing that this is our war. For 12 years, we have been killing each other, and rejoicing in our wisdom; while the marionette master plays with our souls. And is there an end in sight, or even a glimmer of hope? Yes, this is our war, but unfortunately we are arrayed on the wrong side.
And the worst is yet to come. They are now readying us for implosion. The era of non-violent political subjugation is coming to an end; now the time is nearing for their final move - creating sufficient infighting and chaos resulting in fragmentation of the country, as a prelude to its denuclearisation. And in this devastation, the government collaborates. Their plunder is itself part of the US game, but beyond that they play in the hands of our enemies maligning everything that is held sacred, creating fissures in the society, pitching discontent and hopelessness to its peak, burning Karachi, allowing Balochistan to be destabilised and creating terrorism on both sides of the divide. This game is not being played without subservient insidious collaboration. The perpetrators will escape; they have no stakes here. We must recognise the true worth of conspiracy theories; for what is observable is conspiracy, and what is being concealed is the truth.
It is time we got our bearings right, time to look for newer horizons. For each one of us, it is time to speak. If we remain silent, then tomorrow a new people shall rise from our ashes; people with courage of conviction, who see truth and stand by it; who do not switch sides to suit their convenience. Those who will not be afraid to say: “To Allah alone do I bow.” And they shall live!