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The Domino Effect of Terrorism

June 27, 2011

There is no unanimous legal definition of terrorism while the dictionary meaning of terrorism is the ‘use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims’. If it is up to me, I would define it as a continual dose of fear that creates uncertainty, distrust and melancholy. That melancholy triggers depression, which in turn gives birth to numerous psychological and mental ailments.

Recently, a noted psychiatrist from Peshawar, Dr. Khalid Mufti, released a survey report conducted under his supervision by an NGO called Horizon. According to the survey 80 per cent of the South and North Waziristan residents are suffering from mental illness while 60 per cent people of Peshawar are on the verge of becoming psychological patients. The survey also indicated that 7 to 9 per cent of children became victims of phobia because of their exposure to terrorism related violence on television.

The survey report corroborates a general feeling prevalent among the people of Khyber Pukhtunkhuwa – that is the people are scared and cautious when they leave their homes for work or running errands.  Incidents of terrorism and bomb blasts are routinely discussed among friends, acquaintances, seller and customers. When a person tries to bargain with a seller, he promptly complains about making minimal profits due to incidents of terrorism which generally keeps the consumer away from market. A drop in visiting market, however, is not constant, the business community bears the brunt when a wave of random bombings grip the city or a province as it did in the last quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010. However, this pattern points toward a prevailing uncertainty, which is linked with terrorism.

Similarly, a rise in kidnapping for ransom deteriorated the situation even more. Usually, affluent people are considered to be the prime target as the kidnappers can demand hefty sum in return. But in the past few years, kidnapping has been turned into an organized crime in Khyber Pukhtunkhuwa that kidnappers didn’t spare even people with low incomes including taxi drivers. In such cases, the person is released either on payment or if he manages to runaway. The role of police in recovering the victim is almost none and that increases a collective sense of insecurity in a society.

The other factors that result in frustration, anguish and psychological diseases are related to the standard of living. Some of those mentioned in the survey are, price hike in everyday commodities, joblessness, energy crisis and untidiness etc. Recreational activities contribute to one’s overall development and health but unfortunately there is a serious lack of such activities in Khyber Pukhtunkhuwa. Before the government of Mutahida Majlish-i-Amal in KP, Nishter Hall in Peshawar used to be a hub of cultural/entertainment activities and art exhibitions but the MMA government instead of regulating, clamped down on it in the name of morality. (Only recently, entertainment activities resumed in Nishter Hall on limited basis). The members of entertainment community also suffered and during the course of past years, several Pashto drama artists and singers quit their profession after receiving threats from the Taliban militants.

The dissemination of threatening letters to shopkeepers selling music/video CDs, to those running cyber cafes, to doctors for wearing western style trousers and shirts and to the female principle or staff of the educational institutions are common occurrences. Moreover, destroying cyber cafes, CD shops and school buildings and a random firing of rockets by militants on Peshawar form an unknown location is a routine.

The fear and psychological issues are bound to nourish in an environment where arts and culture is strangulated through a deliberate plan. The innocent civilians are killed in bomb blasts or become victims of an organized crime and are coerced to shun their centuries-old cultural traditions. The depression resulted by the domino effect of terrorism can be contained by taking some of the measures that Dr. Khalid Mufti suggested. Also there is a need to restore the confidence of people and that is possible when the people know that they or their dear ones will not be struck by a bomb blast, or be lifted by a gang of kidnappers while performing their everyday duties outside the four walls of their homes.

Also available on: The Express Tribune

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. saleem khan permalink
    June 28, 2011 7:46 am

    Dear Aysesha,

    It may be true that terrorism have very negative effects in the areas which are affected most but I am a bit curious to know that how Dr Khalid Mufti reached North and South Waziristan to do a survey through an NGO Horizon. Can the NGO or Dr Mufti share some characteristics of the Survey, I mean which villages, how many respondents, and about the methods of the survey especially in the troubled tribal regions. I don’t dispute the conclusion you have drawn on the basis of that survey but just want to know about the survey.

    • June 28, 2011 10:44 am

      Those question(s) crossed my mind too. Then I recalled that similar kind of report was published in a foreign publication about the growing psychological diseases in N/S Waziristan. I have lost the link, forgotten the name of the writer or magazine otherwise I would have quoted it in the blog.

      I think for most part Dr. Mufti relied on his patients for data and conclusion. Once my extended relative visited him, she told me there were patients from Afghanistan admitted in his hospital. This blog also shows his organization has been active in Afghanistan.

      Moreover, several patients from N/S Waziristan travel to Peshawar for healthcare/treatment. My mother told me that she met with women from Waziristan in the clinic of city’s noted urologist. Dr. Mufti’s data may not be accurate but gives you a larger picture about the growing psychological and mental issues linked with terrorism.

      This report about Kashmir also corroborates the fact that it is common for people in the conflict zone to develop long lasting psychological issues that could be controlled through counseling/medication etc.

  2. saleem khan permalink
    June 28, 2011 10:56 am

    Thanks Ayesha for the clarifications. I myself lost my cousin in the suicide blast which occurred in Peshawar in the Khyber Market (the last one in Peshawar). I know how his parents, brothers and sisters and we as extended family are affected by this shock. His mother is especially out of her senses these days, and hope she may recover soon. Hope and pray that everything got well soon otherwise people of Pakistan and especially that of Khyber Pukhtunkwa will be scared from their own shadows.

    • June 28, 2011 11:07 am

      I am sorry to hear about your loss. Death is painful but violent death is extremely painful for those survived by the deceased.

      I really hope things get normal in Peshawar, KP and generally in Pakistan.

  3. June 30, 2011 5:06 am

    Why can’t I read something other than TERRORISM, POLITICS, MEDIA, TALIBAN bla bla on Ayesha’s blog.
    What about your own creative stuff??? :/

  4. Yusaf Khan permalink
    July 1, 2011 7:31 am

    I grew up in Peshawar and still have lots of friends and relatives there. I can completely see that the continued stress of violence would over time make one mentally fragile. What I would like to see is that the citizens of Peshawar need to unite and organize themselves into defence committees and neighbourhood watch associations so that they can defend themselves against these terrorists. People should not rely on the Army or the Police – they can barely defend themselves. Let us not forget that the maximum number of terrorists cannot be more than 50,000. Just the population of Peshawar alone is around 3 million. The citizens of Peshawar should not take this beating lying down — they need to stand up and fight!

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