‘Tragedy of Errors: Contemporary Pakistan?’

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Shadman Bashir, a professor of Law and International Relations from Dixie State University, spoke about contemporary Pakistan on Feb. 4 at BYU.
Shadman Bashir, a professor of law and international relations from Dixie State University, spoke about contemporary Pakistan at BYU on Feb. 4.

An international relations professor from Dixie State University visited the BYU campus on Feb. 4 to discuss Pakistan’s changes since 9/11. Professor Shadman Bashir titled his lecture “Tragedy of Errors: Contemporary Pakistan?”

Bashir also addressed Pakistani stereotypes, how the government currently functions and what is in store for the country’s future.

Bashir teaches business and criminal law courses in addition to classes on war, terrorism and global law. He is a native of the Pakistani tribal region, an expert in South Asian law and speaks six languages and multiple dialects.

Bashir explained some of the stereotypes around Pakistan were inaccurate, such as the idea that Pakistanis run around and cut people’s throats. He explained that although certain stereotypes don’t represent Pakistan, there has been a drastic change in Pakistan over the last 15 years.

Bashir described the Taliban in the 1900s as the “classic Taliban.” Its ultimate goal was to restore peace and security and enforce its own Islamic law once in power. “Then there is the post-9/11 Taliban,” Bashir said. “These guys are purely terrorists.”

Bashir went on to describe the transformation that took place after Sept. 11, 2001, in Pakistan. “I left Pakistan in 2000, and I went back in 2007, and I was shocked,” Bashir said. “It wasn’t the same Pakistan anymore.”

He said confusion and fear is growing in Pakistan’s communities. One hundred thirty-two children and 9 faculty and staff members were killed in a school massacre in December 2014. “I thought that this would be Pakistan’s 9/11,” Bashir said. “We were hoping this would be the defining moment of Pakistan … but it was not.”

Bashir explained this was a perfect opportunity for the government to stand up and say enough is enough, but he said officials handled the incident poorly. Instead of taking a firm stance against terrorism, the government decided to form 16 committees, each headed by one person. “If you want to mess up a problem, just make a committee for it and wait for the reports,” Bashir said.

Bashir said the government shifted the responsibility of handling this attack to the 16 committees so that it did not become the direct target of terrorists.

Bashir explained that this chance for a stance against terrorism was wasted because of the government’s approach to the situation.

He said the Taliban’s drive for fear and power is fueled by hiring the unemployed to join the group. He said those who don’t work have an extra incentive to join the Taliban. This focus on “hiring” members of Taliban groups is corrupting society.

Bashir further said some of the reasons why people don’t stand up to the Taliban is because they are either killed, or they have to leave and become refugees. This is a sad reality for Pakistan’s society, and Bashir is not optimistic for the future.

“Society has become so extreme … I don’t know if there is any way in this decade or two decades for it to come back to pre-1979 Pakistan societies. … It’s really, really a big mess.”

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