The Domino Effect of Terrorism
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