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Old demons,new fears…!!!

Many are the roads, but Truth is a single path and those who tried this way are few. They pass unrecognized, their goals unknown, while slowly and steadily they pass along. Men do not know for what they were created, and most of them fail to see the Path of Truth (Imam Ghazali R.A.)

 

“Sir, what is next to ecstasy, then?” Aurangzeb asked.

The teacher replied, “Pain”.

“And what is next to pain?” he shot back.

“Nothingness” came the answer.

“What is next to nothingness?” He was in no mood to surrender.

The teacher replied, “Hell”.

“And what is next to hell?”

 

There was pin drop silence in the classroom. The teacher stared at him a little longer than usual but he sat there smiling nonchalantly.

 

It was not the first time he’d done this. Blithe and reckless as he was, his colleagues knew this was one of the things Aurangzeb loved the most: bewildering his teachers by asking them daring questions.

 

Suddenly, the bell rang. The teacher left, saying he would continue the discussion in the next class.

 

The next day, The Adventure Society of Pakistan were on the campus in search of volunteers for their next expedition. On an impulse, Aurangzeb enrolled for it. He was always looking for adventure; to travel towards the unknown. Three days later, he embarked upon the journey that would forever change the way he looked at things.

 

The trip was going well but, one day, while trekking, he lost his way back and found himself in a deserted village with medieval houses. He stopped in front of one house and, mustering all his courage, knocked at the gate.

 

He knocked again but there was no answer.

 

A third time and still nothing happened.

 

Suddenly, the gate opened and a woman almost jumped through it.

 

Aurangzeb noticed that she was dressed strangely and had a veil covering her head.

 

“You must be one of the wanderers who often get lost while searching for the drowned temple,” she said, without preamble.

 

Temple? What temple? he thought.

 

No matter how tired he was, the very thought of a temple with treasure hidden underneath it sent his adrenalin pumping.

 

The woman offered him a glass of water, which he gulped down in one go. After regaining his senses, he asked her the location of the temple.

 

“Just off the river, to the west of the village, lies an island. On it is a vast temple with many bells,” said the woman, “But, before you go there, you must first confront and overcome your personal demon,” she cautioned, “Only then will you be able to hear the bells”.

 

Personal demon? This was one of the most ludicrous things he had ever heard in his life.

The woman, reading the expressions on his face, said,

 

“When you do not know your personal demon it usually manifests in the form of a dog or a wolf”.

 

He began to feel a little dizzy. Maybe it was because of the water he had drunk thirstily after almost an hour of walking. He suddenly felt the need to leave the place immediately. His sixth sense was telling him that something bad was about to happen.

 

Not knowing where he should head for, he started moving in the general direction of the river that the woman had mentioned. Before crossing the bridge, Aurangzeb felt a strong presence. He knew immediately that there was no point in running away from the inevitable. He looked to his left and there he was: his personal demon, in the form of a wolf.

 

He locked his eyes with the wolf, frantically trying to find a way to deal with the situation. On his right stood a deserted house. He thought of climbing up to its roof but immediately rejected the possibility.  Aurangzeb was left with no other option than to go up against the demon.

 

Slowly, the wolf started to move towards him, making a low growling sound, which was more terrifying than a loud bark would have been. Then, seeing weakness in his eyes, the wolf leapt at him and began to bite him.

 

Aurangzeb began to fight, just to protect his throat and face. Then he felt excruciating pain in his leg. He curled up to see that some flesh had been torn away and blood was gushing out.

 

At that moment, embarrassing questions that he used to hurl towards his teachers echoed in his mind.

 

“What is next to ecstasy?”

“Pain.”

“What is next to pain?”

“Nothingness.”

“And what comes next to nothingness”

“Hell…”

 

Aurangzeb could not think beyond that. Yes, this was Hell indeed.

 

He never fathomed his death in such a manner. The wolf continued to tear apart his clothes, although Aurangzeb continued punching him with his bare hands. Then, all of a sudden, he heard a voice from within him. The voice insisted that he should not give up and, at that moment, he felt a club at his side. He grasped it and began beating the wolf with all his might.

 

The wolf started to retreat and, with the bloody club in his hands, Aurangzeb was imbued with an immense feeling of strength. He continued beating the wolf ferociously until he ran away, but started to feel dizzy from the loss of so much blood.

 

A farmer watched all this from a distance. He reached Aurangzeb just in time, catching him before he fell, unconscious, to the ground. He tore off a strip of cloth and wound it round Aurangzeb’s badly bleeding leg. Then the farmer took him to a nearby village where the doctor looked at Aurangzeb’s wound. The doctor advised him to rest until his wounds healed completely.

 

The next day when Aurangzeb’s woke up, the thought of temple suddenly flashed in his mind. Inquisitively, he asked the farmer about the lost temple.

 

“Oh, an earthquake swallowed up that temple, a long time ago,” he said.

 

This dampened Aurangzeb’s spirits but, still, he did not lose hope. After a few days, he began to limp around, but his wound still prevented him from walking. Lying on the floor, he contemplated his encounter with the wolf.

 

That one event had taught him a great lesson. It changed his way of thinking completely. Aurangzeb now realized that the temple, if it ever existed, was his own self and, in order to have control over it, one needed to reign in the ‘demons’ of greed, envy and lust that plagued it. Now, he would confront the world with the same weapons that were used to challenge him. With these thoughts in mind, he slept until the following day.

 

The next day, he again felt the urge to see the temple. The urge was so strong that he took one of the sticks lying on the ground and began limping towards the western bank of the river. When Aurangzeb reached it, he sat down on the river bank and stared out at the horizon. Yet, all he could hear was the sound of water touching his feet and cries of birds in the air.

 

For a moment, Aurangzeb forgot the idea of finding the temple and the treasure, and concentrated on the natural beauty that surrounded him.

 

He began to count numerous blessings with which he had been bestowed and, for the first time, he felt grateful for being alive. Then, because he was at peace with himself, Aurangzeb heard the first bell, then another, until all the bells in the temple were ringing.

The man with a thousand and one faces…. (Short Story)-Fiction

This story is written as an after math to 9/11 events and is about a girl from Karachi whose traumatic experiences changed her course of life …

 

The arguments with Bibi Jan were usual. But that day, the argument on a petty issue just couldn’t come to an end so she decided to walk away from it and went to a nearby park where after spending some time she would return home when things have settled down. She wandered aimlessly around the park when a man who was trying to take photos of an old tree caught her attention. It seemed he somehow couldn’t get the angle right.  

 

Noticing her interest in his struggle, he approached her and said, “Excuse me, may I ask you something?” he stammered, “Can you please take this photograph for me?” She glanced at him from top to bottom and noticed two more cameras dangling from his shoulders. “You seem to be a pro. How do you expect from a novice like me to get the photo right when you yourself struggle with it?” she said. “It’s quite simple” he said, “I’ll stand where the angle is right, you just have to focus my nose and Click!”

 

 

“Ok”, she agreed. While focusing on his nose, she noticed that he was quite good looking and there was something about his eyes that intrigued her. On the sound of click, she handed the camera back to him and the stranger thanked her for the help. Suddenly, a question popped up in her mind. “How will you remove yourself from the photo?” she asked. The man smiled and said, “You seem quite unaware of the techniques being used in photography these days. You have to have some soft wares and skillful hands then you can remove anything from your photos, Miss……Miss?” he said, snapping his fingers.

 

“Lilly!” she blurted out her nickname, “Oh, I mean Lala Rukh” she said sheepishly “And you?” she asked him. “Hmmm….” He paused “You may call me whatever you like”. She was taken aback with this reply. “What do you mean?” she said “You must have a name or identity”. “No, I don’t have any. Is that necessary?” he shot back. Saying this, he started to leave.

 

The abrupt encounter with that man in the park, though not very long itself, had a lasting impact on her. She felt as if she had come out of a trance to wake up to the same old problems at her house. For the next few days, his thoughts kept her mind occupied and no matter how hard she tried couldn’t shrug them off. His words continued to echo in her ears. “No, I don’t have any identity. You may call me whatever you like.” Others also began to notice her changing behavior. Being a realistic and practical girl that she was, she couldn’t come to terms with the fact that she has lost herself to a stranger in just one meeting.

 

 

Few months later, she was attending a function at American Cultural Centre. There, standing behind the Consul General, she saw him. “Oh, my God, not again!” she gasped. He was dressed immaculately in a pin striped suit and was roaming around shaking hands with dignitaries. She got hold of him back stage. “Hi, how are you?” she asked casually. “Pardon me, do I know you?” His reply shocked her. “You remember taking photos of that tree in the park?” she asked in a shattered tone. “What photograph? I don’t know what you are talking about?” he replied with an air of arrogance around him. She felt so embarrassed that she immediately left the place, crying.

 

 

The next week, she went for shopping. While she was busy going through some music CDs, she heard her name being called out. When she turned, she saw the same stranger in front of her, dressed casually. “Hello Lala Rukh, how are you?” he said. Without looking into his eyes, she said, “But I don’t know you!” “Oh, come on….” he said “How could you not recognize me when you were reminding me last week of a photo that you have taken?” he asked. “It seems that you want to get even with me” he said. “But why didn’t you recognize me that day?” she inquired. “I’ll answer all your questions but I need some time. Can we meet in the same park next week?” She wanted to say no but deep down inside she also wanted to get over with this mystery so she couldn’t help saying yes.

 

Slowly and gradually, the week passed. The night before they were due to meet in the park, she was invited to a dinner. There, she saw him again, this time with two foreigners. She approached his table and greeted him with a hello. His cold response didn’t surprise her. “You might not have recognized me this time as well, Mr. …… Mr.?” she said ridiculing him. “See, you don’t even know my name and you are claiming that you know me. I think that you have mistaken me for someone else.” He said without giving any hint of acquaintance.

 

His reply left her flabbergasted. That night, she decided that she will not be fooled by him any more. The next day, she went to the park against her will because first of all, she believed that he won’t come and even if he does, he will be paid in the same coin. When she reached the park, he was already there waiting for her. “What caused you to believe that I’ll come today?” she asked when she reached near him. “I knew you would come” he replied firmly. “Who are you? What are you?” Now she was beginning to lose her control. “Please, sit down”, he said.  “I can read peoples’ faces. I know what you are feeling now. You are confused. You want to know more about me. Am I right?”

 

 

She was awe-struck as he had hit bulls-eye but she didn’t want to expose her feelings to him. “I don’t have enough time” she said with an attitude. “What I do know about you is that you are not a Pakistani and you do not have any other identity” she said. “Yes, people say that I am not a Pakistani but does that matter? What matters most is that a man should be humane irrespective of whether he is an Egyptian, Sudanese, American or an African”. “But your parents must have given you a name” she insisted. “OK, for convenience sake, you may call me Hussain and I was born in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, wherever you like”. Now he was getting irritated.

 

 

“OK, forget it. Now tell me why you didn’t recognize me twice?” she asked him in a complaining manner. “How could a person who is surrounded by enemies tell someone about his friends?” he replied calmly. “But the people who were with you were your friends, right?” she argued. “Miss Lala Rukh, a friend today could be tomorrow’s enemy. Anyways, can we be friends?” he said extending his hand out to her.”I don’t believe in a friendship in which you can insult your friend by not recognizing him in public!” she retorted. “Meet me alone and I promise that it won’t happen again” he replied. “But I am not in favor of such friendship” she clarified. “But you have no other choice” he said this in such a manner that even she couldn’t resist being friends with him.

 

 

 

 

On his birthday, he invited her on supper. She even bought a cardigan and a pen as a gift for him. While eating dessert, she asked, “Hussain, you are a Muslim, right?” He smiled “May be….” “What do you mean?” she was confused. “I have told you before that country, nation and religion is crap for me”. His reply upset her. “You know, you are a liar, a fraudster, a con artist, an impostor. Sometimes I think that you should act in a play” He smiled patiently, “You may call me with whatever name you like. To me, life’s a stage drama and every person has to play his part and I promise you that if I ever act or direct a play, I will make sure that you get to see its drop scene. Remember, we met accidently and an accident will do us apart”. She snapped, “Hussain, you…!!!” He interrupted, “Keep quiet, Lala Rukh, I want to feel your presence here”. She wanted to shout, “Will you please shut up, you a man with a thousand and one faces…!!!” but she remained silent. Then he dropped the bombshell. “I am leaving tomorrow. This is our last meeting. My mother called last night saying that due to her bad health, she wanted me to marry the woman whom I am engaged with in her lifetime.” So, that was it. This was bound to happen someday but she didn’t expect it to end this way. She was broken.

 

For the next few months, she would wake up at night, shouting, “I hate you…!” or “Leave me alone…!!!” Her condition got so worse that her parents had to consult with a psychiatrist. He suggested marriage as the only solution to her problem. So, this way she was married with Noman, a wealthy business man. Under normal circumstances, she wouldn’t have married him but she had no other choice. With the passage of time, she engrossed herself fully with her family and turned out to be a dedicated housewife.

 

 

Ten years after her marriage, she was returning with her family from Paris after having vacations. The flight was a bit late. Suddenly, there was commotion at the airport. The security police could be seen running and then she heard gun shots being fired. Somebody standing close to her told her that a hijacking attempt has just been foiled. She heaved a sigh of relief but the very next moment she saw two security men carrying a man on a stretcher. His body was drenched in blood but his eyes were saying all the things she wanted to forget after ten years. Her eyes were stuck on the now worn off cardigan she gifted him on his birthday. She couldn’t believe that he was a criminal. Events started to appear slowly as flash back in her mind.

 

“No, I don’t have any identity. You may call me whatever you like.” (He couldn’t disclose his identity owing to the cause he was associated with)

“You have to have some soft wares and skillful hands then you can remove anything from your photos” (Today some invisible hand has made him disappear)

“I have told you before that country, nation and religion is crap for me” (so that nobody could ask him any further questions)

“How could a person who is surrounded by enemies tell someone about his friends?” (He couldn’t trust anyone owing to the mission he was assigned)

“Remember, we met accidently and an accident will do us apart” (He knew the fate of the path he was treading upon)

To me, life’s a stage drama and every person has to play his part and I promise you that if I ever act or direct a play, I will make sure that you get to see its drop scene” (He was a man of his words)

“Keep quiet, Lala Rukh, I want to feel your presence here” (It was his last request)

The televisions at the airport were abuzz with this news. The reporter told that an attempt to hijack a Pan Am airline was foiled. The hijackers belonged to an underground Palestinian organization. If the plane would have been hijacked, they would have demanded release of their men being held in American jails. They were able to clear the security check as well but due to the folly of one of their accomplices, the plan failed to materialize. They resisted till the very end but ultimately all four got killed.

The news anchor continued to comment on the news but she couldn’t take it any more. The mystery that shrouded his personality was resolved. He was a freedom fighter working for the liberation of his country. An old man standing close to her said, “I hate them, these bloody Arab dogs.” She looked at him with her blood shot eyes as if she wanted to say, “I wish I could tell you who is a bloody dog.”

Pressure Cooker (Short Story)-Fiction

This is the story of an artist who could not compromise on his principles in a metropolitan city like Karachi…

 

Part I

 

It was 27th day of March. The servant silently slid into my room, lit the lamp and placed the breakfast tray and newspaper on my side table. Lazily, I left the bed and had the first sip of my bed tea. The tea was served hot and steam could be seen coming out of it. Then, something caught my attention. On the surface, a tea leaf was floating which made me think as to why it did not settle like other tea leaves. Was it because it wanted to stand out or was it because it was protesting on hot water surface?

 

As I was browsing the newspaper, I received a call from my friend, Kamal who told me that our other class mate, Zulfi, an artist by profession, has been missing for the last three days and that his wife was very worried about him. I tried to console him but the very mention of Zulfi caused the image of tea leaf floating on hot water surface pop up in my mind.

 

Zulfi was born in a lower middle class family. His father, Fazal Din, was a line man and although he owned some acres of land in his village but due to water-logging, the land was rendered uncultivable. One day, he was on top of a pole, repairing lines when he heard a girl screaming. Some men were trying to kidnap her, oblivious of the fact that he was up there. Without wasting a single second, he jumped from the pole and started fighting the goons with his cutters and pliers. As he managed to get hold of one of them, his accomplice attacked him from behind with a razor sharp knife, inflicting a deep wound on his neck but that did not cause him to loosen his grip on the kidnapper. When the police finally approached, the goon was booked on kidnapping charges and Fazal Din was shifted to the hospital where he expired owing to excessive bleeding.

 

Fazal Din’s heroic death could not escape media’s attention. When the word finally reached his village, his wife, Reshma, took the news well but seemed worried about the future of her only son, Zulfi.  The Government of Pakistan also decided to honor this act of valor with “Sitarae Jurrat”. But immediately after his death, her brother-in-law grabbed the land owned by her deceased husband and forced her to flee the village with her son, Zulfi. When she reached Karachi, she tried to knock the doors of justice but her plea was rejected on the grounds of insufficient documentary evidence. The urban life was getting tougher by the day for her so much so that she had to sell the medal for a meager amount. Luckily, she got work as a maid in Sheikh Rafiq Ahmed’s home, a local businessman. His wife was a kind lady who enrolled Zulfi in a public school. With the passage of time, Zulfi not only turned out to be a brilliant student but his drawing skills also got better and better.

 

After passing B.A. examinations with flying colors, he was accepted in The Department of Visual Arts in University of Karachi. Apart from studies, he started giving tuitions as well. Within a few days, Zulfi became the centre of attraction for all the teachers because of his intelligent questions. One day, during their study tour to the tomb of Jehangir, when all the students were busy painting the landscape, Zulfi stood with his blank canvas. When his teacher asked him as to why he was not painting, he replied that according to him, a good painting is created as a result of relationship between inner feelings and external stimuli. He often used to argue with his teachers and colleagues that a true artist is the one who realistically unveils those things in his/her paintings which a normal person normally ignores.

 

As the examinations were approaching, topics for final paintings were being finalized. The theme Zulfi chose to paint was that of Adam and Eve as pillars with the Universe in between with all its joys and sorrows. His teacher asked him to review his topic. Basically, nearly all his teachers thought him to be a non-conformist but he was not a revolutionary. The next topic that he came up with was that of a feudal lord torturing a peasant just because he did not vote for him. His teacher turned down his idea and instead suggested him to paint a scene showing refugees migrating to Pakistan with a glimmer of hope in their eyes.

 

After graduation, he received a one year scholarship for Chicago Institute of Arts from American Cultural Centre. When he reached there, he was awe-struck and observed a visible difference in the modes of expression at his alma mater and the institution in which he was presently enrolled. He availed the opportunity to interact with students from other countries as well and visited nearly all the art galleries.

 

Once during a class discussion, when a Hindu student from India alleged that Islam terms artists as infidels, the otherwise calm and cool Zulfi reacted sharply to it, so much so that the teacher had to intervene to settle the matter. At the end of the course, a study tour of America was arranged by the Institute in which Zulfi got the opportunity to observe American culture closely. One of his teachers even asked him to extend his stay in America, if he wished, owing to the lack of freedom of expression in Pakistan. In response to this offer, Zulfi explained that once he gets back to Pakistan; his mission was to expose the gross injustices that the down trodden segment of the society had to suffer at the hands of the ruling elite.

 

After coming back to Pakistan, he got a job in one of the top-notch advertising agencies of Pakistan through the reference of one of his teachers. Things started to get better. He tried to adjust himself in the new environment and all was going well, when one fine day, Zulfi resigned from the job owing to certain unethical practices that the agency was engaged in. Immediately after resignation, he met his teacher and asked why it is so that the people with the potential to bring about a change in the society are confined to bread and butter only. He frequently visited different tea houses where he used to discuss these issues with other intellectuals but was discouraged to learn that unlike him, others have succumbed to the pressures of the regimented society. Tired of wrestling with this inner conflict, he settled in his village quietly where he married his maternal aunt’s daughter, Zubaida, according to his mother’s wish.

 

Then, one day, an advertisement in the newspaper caught his attention. It was a project called “Vision Pakistan” initiated by the President of Pakistan aiming to project a soft image of Pakistan worldwide. He applied for the job, anxiously waiting for the results. His happiness knew no bounds when he finally received the offer letter from the President Secretariat. He felt as if this was what he always wanted to achieve and considered it as a good opportunity to prove his patriotism. Although he prepared some thirty paintings for the project, nine of them could be termed as master piece and were selected for an exhibition. His paintings got a mixed response from the print and electronic media. Most of the critics were of the opinion that his paintings reflected a socialist mind set as he used to highlight poverty, desperation, illiteracy which negated the presidential claims that the country was now on its way to progress and development.

 

After getting married, Zulfi settled with his wife in Karachi. After a year, they were blessed with a baby boy whom he named, Farrukh. But as the years passed by, his marital life became disturbed due to increasing expenses of his wife and subsequent demands for more money to spend. Now, he spent most of his time painting alone in his studio. He used to consider himself as a chimney whose vent has been choked so it could not throw the black smoke out. Then, finally one day, he decided to call it quits. He burnt his canvas and brushes and then left for an undisclosed location. When he did not return home after elapse of three days, his wife got worried and informed the police. The only clue about him that they got was from a truck driver who told them that three days back, he had seen a man running wildly with brushes and canvas in his hands, followed by children who were throwing stones at him, claiming him to be a mad man.

 

 

Part II

Interminable curiosity…..

While all this was going on in Karachi, the very same day and time, in another part of the world, vultures from all over the world were gathered in the jungles of Africa to defend the allegations leveled against them by their counterparts, the eagles. The basic premise on which the eagles based their argument was that since vultures feed on dead meat and none of the birds does the same, therefore they should be forced to leave the jungle. The jackal was assigned the responsibility to represent the vultures. The last time such a large gathering of birds was observed was when atomic bombs were used in World War II and the birds decided to leave the planet terming it as unsafe for their offspring.

The jackal argued that the vultures feed over dead meat because of their instinctive ability, to which the falcon presented a counter-argument that they were not gathered over there to discuss instincts, instead claimed that initially, the vultures used to hunt their prey but later on started eating what was forbidden. It further elaborated that eating permitted food creates positive vibes in the body whereas eating forbidden food leaves a negative impact on one’s life. The wood pecker asked the vultures the reason for their interminable curiosity referring to their long flights at night and inquired whether it was due to their eating the forbidden food or was it because they were searching something.

After hearing all the arguments, the Old crow asked the eldest vulture to step forward and gave him an opportunity to defend his tribe. He drew similarity between man and vultures by explaining that a long time ago, a man settled underneath the tree who, with the passage of time became a hermit. One day, he hanged himself with the branches of the tree and as the vulture tried to untangle him with its beak, it tasted human blood for the first time. Since then, vultures have been feeding over dead creatures. He also came to know of the fact that of all creatures, it is the man who fears death as he wishes to remain immortal. As a child, he remains in the blissful world of ignorance but as he grows up, he experiences change and it is this fear of death that keeps him restless.

At this point in time, all the eagles unanimously asked the Old Crow to announce his decision to exile the vultures from the jungles of Africa. The eldest vulture did not resist and asked all his tribe to start leaving. But before leaving, he said that that there were two kinds of passion, constructive and destructive. Constructive passion elevates man to the level for which he was originally created but destructive passion causes him to make bombs and sow such things in the womb of Mother Nature, repercussions of which are experienced in the forms of natural calamities. Having said this, the vultures bid adieu to the jungle, leaving other birds awe-struck.

Epilogue

In our story, Zulfi defied the mantra “While in Rome, do as the Romans do” by refusing to participate in the rat race. In our society, such “abnormal” people are hard to find who could swim against the currents. He was recognizant of the impact of forbidden food on one’s life hence resisted tasting it till the very end. Such people may have lost a few battles but ultimately they win the war. Since time immemorial, the conflict between the good and the evil is going on and will continue till the end of this world. 

Repackaging war on (t)error…!!!

One of the most important and polarizing debates in Pakistan continues to this day with the most fundamental question still unanswered: Is the war on terror our war or not? The international narrative on war on terror is overwhelmingly geopolitical. The West continually blames Pakistan for providing safe havens to militants in FATA from where they launch offensive against the US in Afghanistan. From US drone attacks to the attacks on Salala and Abbottabad, re-opening of NATO supply line, American financing of war efforts and arrest of American spies in Pakistan everything points to a direct American link to this war within Pakistan so much so that American policy makers consider Pakistan and Afghan territories as a “joint war theatre”. On the physical front, the US has engaged militants with Pakistan security forces whereas on the intellectual front it has pitted “liberals” against the Taliban just to ensure that her strategic objectives are not threatened.

 

It is, in this backdrop, we should try to assess Obama’s address to the National Defense University on 25th May 2013 in which he tried to redefine the war on terror. US President Barack Obama replaced the phrase “global war on terror” with “overseas contingency operation” after he first assumed office in 2009 but did it change the lawlessness embedded in the actions of his predecessor George W. Bush launched post Sept. 11 terrorist attacks?
The record of the last four years shows that Obama has vigorously embraced and employed every one of his predecessor’s tools and methods that include drone strikes or killing by remote control, one of the most brutal features of the war on terror, which have grown eightfold under a president who is a Nobel Peace laureate. Moreover, Obama has not found anything wrong with continuing extraordinary acts like indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay without charges and the targeting of citizens of other countries.

 

The most important point in the speech was that he would work with Congress to “refine, and ultimately repeal” the post-9/11 authorization for use of military force. On Guantanamo, he said that he would press Congress anew to lift other restrictions that have made it impossible to close the facility. 
In his speech, Obama did not say he would stop drone strikes as he doesn’t want to appear “soft” on the issue of national security. All he said was that drone strikes would henceforth be limited to scenarios in which there was virtually no risk of civilian casualties. Here again we see a reluctance to tackle the moral and legal issues associated with the drone warfare, indefinite detention and other harsh and brutal measures that have become integral parts of the war on terror. According to the New America Foundation, between 1,717 and 2,680 people were killed during 2004-2011 and of them 293 to 471 were “civilians”. The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism puts the number of civilian deaths during the same period at 391 to 780, including 175 children (out of 2,372 to 2,997 casualties)

In essence, Bush’s war will continue but under a different name. The war on terror has only created more and more enemies in more and more places for America without eliminating the threat of terrorism. Doing the same thing again and again under a different label is not going to produce a different result. (Ahsan Nisar)