“Ground Zero at Home”
by Aanya F Niaz
Marking one decade since the War Against Terrorism has made me sweat, with after tastes of a lonely, wet cigarette in my mouth. There is no getting away from that taste; it sticks to you and slowly all you can swallow, is the saliva of bitterness, enveloping your body, clenching onto your lungs.. Killing you, slowly.
Pakistan has been dying, slowly yet steadily since September 11, 2001. President Bush declared to Pakistan “Either you are with us, or you are against us” and we stood by our US allies, just one step behind a US soldier in conviction of killing Muslim brothers, but two steps ahead of the US soldier in killing those that brutally murder the innocent families of the Pakistani soldier.
Pakistan’s involvement has been unpredictably costly: both economically and socially. Not only is 60% of Pakistan’s Federal Budget channelized towards Defense and Military spendings, but the dead have left their families lonely, without ways to feed the children, without schools to educate the needy, with regular bombings in their daily lives. This does not, in any way, indicate that Pakistani’s have an interest in encouraging terrorism, it simply means that the cost of war has drained Pakistan’s resources and the young, 64 year old nation is struggling to stay above the dirty waters. In fact, Former President Musharraf, who was leading Pakistan in 2001, did not hesitate before he shook hands with Former President Bush in declaring a War Against Terror. However, the War against Terror as turned into a War Against Home as well. The number of Afghan refugees filtering through the border with Afghanistan, adding to the already booming population of over 174 million in Pakistan, along with a shortage of water and electricity has clasped onto the throat of economic stability in Pakistan. Not to mention that the US, undoubtedly larger is size has a manageable population of a mere 60 million. The US, indeed, provides us with resources to combat these fierce challenges. Since 2001, over $15 billion have been sent from the US to Pakistan, however, the bulk of these resources were given to the Military. In fact, America’s funding to Pakistan infuriated the Taliban network in Pakistan, who began bombing residential areas and market places in order to avenge Pakistan’s camaraderie with America. As you can see, the vicious cycle of terrorism continues on a fast pace, gaining acceleration in Pakistan. The highest number of human casualties has been in Pakistan, even more than in Afghanistan. Doesn’t that make you think? The destruction of Pakistan has been deemed as mere ‘collateral damage’ in the War Against Terrorism in Afghanistan. As bombs hit and shake the windows of my very own home, we stop for a second, gauge and define that as a blast and then, and then we just carry on. Does that no scare you? Immunity to national destruction is only a recipe of disaster. Why is my country suffering the most? Why is no one realizing that the death toll rises and rises, but ceremonies for the dead are only held abroad. The soil I grew on, played with and danced in is bleeding red.
I cannot just feel sorrow and frustration, I realize that to step forward, I cannot only look back. Therefore…
Instead of quantifying the tragedies that target my peoples, I want to qualify for the quality of life that is lost in my homeland.
All I ask is that, as we mark this day of September 11 with gloom in our hearts, fear in our eyes and sorrow in our minds, lets take one more moment of silence for the 1 million deaths that have ensued after the 3,000 killed in New York and Washington DC on that devastating September 11 morning. Do not forget the smiles that are erased off of a daughter’s face, when her father never returns from the Durand line. Do not blind yourselves of the sons that bid their mothers farewell to fight the war against terrorism, alongside the West, trying to be the very best. Do not let your head down, when body after body, man after man, woman after woman falls into the cracks of terrorism’s so-called ‘collateral damage’.
Ground Zero tremors with the brutality that painted it red, but Ground Zero takes place weekly, if not daily in my homeland of Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan.