When Raymond Davis infamously gunned down two Pakistani men in broad daylight, hypernationalists and their conspiracy walas pointed to the incident as proof that American agents were waiting in the shadows to kill with impunity. Novelist Mohsin Hamid described the situation as ‘hunting season‘ for American gunmen.
The affair has brought home what should have been obvious to us Pakistanis for a long time. Pakistan has become a game preserve, a place where deadly creatures are nurtured, and where hunters pay for the chance to kill them.
Here in the game preserve, money flows to the hunt. Pakistani extremists are funded, armed and trained. And American hunters, whether far away at the remote controls of Predator drones or on the ground in the form of men with the shooting skills of a Raymond Davis, operate under paid immunity. Want a blanket tribal area hellfire missile licence? That might set you back the price of 18 new F-16s. An all-Lahore Glock licence to kill? Perhaps double-oh-seven billion in development aid.
Over two years later, however, the specter of Pakistan as hunting ground for American agents has not come to materialise. There are many things to worry about in Pakistan, but being shot by an American is pretty low on the list.
That’s not to say that Mohsin Hamid’s terrifying scene was wholly fictional, though. If we have learned anything from events of the past week, it’s that Pakistan has become a hunting ground – only it’s not Americans that are doing the killing.
We have a lot of excuses for killings. When Pakistanis are killed in Balochistan, it is the fault of foreign agents trying to break up Pakistan. When Pakistanis are killed in FATA, American drones are to blame. When Karachi erupts in violence, it because of uncontrolled criminal elements. But who do we blame when innocent Pakistanis are being systematically targeted and gunned down in the streets of Punjab?
Some in media have tried to summon the foreign bogey as responsible for the violence that erupted in Rawalpindi a few days ago, but nobody is believing it. Nobody believes it because the hunters are not in the shadows this time. The hunters who killed University of Gujrat Professor Syed Shabbir Hussain Shah this morning may remain ‘unidentified’ by name, but we know who they are because they proudly told us: “The note was signed, ‘Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’.”
Conspiracy walas will shriek about invisible CIA agents. The Supreme Court will take notice of target killings in Karachi. Imran Khan will threaten to shut down NATO supply lines to protest drones. But to borrow another phrase from Mohsin Hamid: Widespread reports that our country has produced a more-than-previously-estimated 100 nuclear warheads will do nothing to decrease the number of jihadis with Shia hunting permits.