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A las nueve de la tarde: 1 way terrorism changed me

by Mahim Maher

February 7, 2014 | 2:35 am

In the parking lot a bored young man is painfully scraping off the paint from a TV DSNG van – the kind we use to broadcast live from a location. Each day I drive in to work to see the letter-box red logo of my news organization slowly disappear, inch by inch. The van’s easily identifiable look is being deleted. Today I sat in my car for a long time and looked at it.

At 9:20pm, on January 17 this year, three of my news organization’s staffers were shot dead in that van. They were young men, DSNG technician Waqas , driver Khalid, and guard Ashraf. This was the third attack on our news organization in a few months. Some things feel as if they are shrinking, some spaces are disappearing. Names may remain but the people who populated them are gone. The red is rubbed from the van.

My sister called the other day and asked if I knew a man named GH, who was running a university. Oh God, I thought. Another educationist has been killed.
“No,” she said. “He’s single. I wanted to set you up.”

The big news coming out of here today is talks between the government and a group that has been opposing it for a long time. I think of Ireland and Sri Lanka. I’d like to go to Belfast some day. I’ve asked my travel agent how cheap it is to travel to Kandy or even Gaulle. What a beautiful name for a city. Those two places are great stories to tell.

I commissioned our reporter Adil Jawad to write about his visit to Belfast and I had the pleasure of editing Zahid Ghishkori’s interview with Sri Lankan general Srilal Weerasooriya. Here is what I learnt from those two stories:

1. Sri Lanka became the first country in the world to defeat terrorism in 2009. On the surface, it was a victory for the government after a four-decade fight with the Tamil Tiger rebels. Nearly 100,000 people were killed in the ethnic guerrilla war between the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Hindu Tamils. And just like in Pakistan today, Sri Lanka too bore the brunt of the Tiger suicide bombers. But that is where the similarity ends.

2. Democracy works. Refrain from imposing emergency controls that curtail democratic representation; ensure that legitimate local elections occur regularly in insurgent territory.

3. Empower the military to adapt to guerrilla warfare. Create smaller fighting units. Devolve authority to independent battlefield commanders.

4. Engage internationally and cut off funding. Focus political, military, and diplomatic contacts at the highest level with key neighbouring countries to build confidence.

5. Co-opt at the top. Initiate defection of key operational or regional commanders rather than foot soldiers.

6. In Ireland, it would take over 10 years, several prime ministers and many failed rounds before both sides could claim success.

7. In the end, power-sharing and the political process trumped violence in the Ireland case. 8. Most of all, when the Catholics grew fed up of the bloodletting, they put pressure on the IRA to stop. Unless the people at large reject violence and withdraw support for those who perpetrate it, there cannot be peace.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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I am a 33-year-old journalist in Karachi, Pakistan where I work as the city or metropolitan editor for The Express Tribune, a daily national newspaper in English affiliated...

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