Sometime ago, I received a link to an article in an English newspaper – (http://www.dawn.com/news/839896/using-fear-as-a-political-tool – on how fear is used by tin pot dictators and leaders, to enforce their authority.
The article states that we are all victims of fear sometime or the other in our lifetime. If there is a natural calamity, we fear death and disaster, if there is a political or economic crisis, we fear insecurity, and if we or close relative has an accident or falls seriously sick, then we fear death.
At the same time, living in a state of fear, weakens us morally, physically and mentally and shakes are confidence in the system of governance, our judiciary and the LeA. We become pliable in the hands of state and non-state, selfish political and religious leaders, who want to use and exploit us politically, to promote their own Self Above All personal agenda.
Realizing the importance of this weapon, conquerors and dictators have used fear as a political means, to make people submissive and obedient. It was the practice of conquerors to unleash terror in the occupied land and to order massacres to terrorize the people into submission and recognizing their authority without any challenge.
The Romans and the Mongols mercilessly butchered whole populations in occupied towns, as a warning to others to surrender. They were successful because seeing this bloodshed, the cities and towns laid down their arms and opened the gates to the invaders to save themselves from death, torture and destruction.
Those who resisted or challenged the rulers, were punished publicly, by floggings, hangings or beheadings in public, as a warning to others, displaying the dead body of a rebel or his beheaded head, a tactic that the Taliban use to promote their agenda and fully utilized fear to keep people under their control.
Hitler organized his Nazi party to use all such instruments which could silence the people. His storm troopers created terror among Hitler's opponents and Gestapo was the secret agency whose task was to trace any critics of the Nazi government and to arrest and summarily execute them.
Such was the terror and horror of these organizations that Hitler's opponents either left the country or maintained complete silence. The judiciary came completely under the control of the Nazi government and special courts, staffed by the loyal judges of the party and torture and execution without trial were common.
Modern-day dictators followed Hitler's pattern and continued the same brutal methods to silence their opponents. The Shah of Iran and his secret agency Savak were notorious for persecuting dissidents. Israel has followed a policy of persecution to create fear among the Palestinians, by expelling them from their homes in order to occupy their land to eliminate resistance.
And over the years, governments have adopted sophisticated methods to create fear among the people, by using state institutions. The Koreans have mastered this art, with an awesome display of tanks artillery and disciplined armed soldiers, while the Americans and its allies overwhelmed the Iraqis, with their massive display of fire power.
Spying on people and electronic surveillance have become the second most important instrument tool to keep people fearful and nearly all countries use them to report activities of suspected terrorists, dissidents and the opposition and the warning, ‘BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU’ has become a reality.
While the electronic and print media have become powerful tools to create fear in the public, but unfortunately, it is also misused for creating panic, by misreporting or distorting events. For instance, security agencies claim that the recent reports relating to the attacks at the Karachi Airport were exaggerated and misleading and created panic in the city, as the situation had not been that bad.
However, this was the forth attack on a major military installments in the last two years and exposes an all round failure of the law enforcing and security agencies to stop such attacks. Even the fire department and rescue teams failed miserably to take effective and immediate action, as they lacked proper training and equipment.
The rise of the ‘politics of fear’ has also become an important tool in many countries, including the US, which has used it with great skill with its "war on terror", by launching the war on Iraq and destroying the country. We are witnessing the same in Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine.
After 9/11, The Cheney Bush administration introduced Home Security, followed by the 2001 Patriot Act, which eroded civil liberties in the US. Citizens were requested to keep a watch on any suspected activities in their neighborhoods.
The activities of Arabs, Pakistanis and citizens of Asian origin immediately came under scrutiny, especially at airports, creating fear and insecurity in the community. Thousands of innocent people had been detained, interrogated and deported. While hundreds had been arrested, tortured and illegally imprisoned without charges, and denied their right to fair trials.
The Bush administration also labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea, amongst others, as rogue states, and that they were an "axis of evil" against the US, just to get ‘voter sympathy’.
The Taliban, terrorists, militant groups and even some political leaders use fear as a tool to further their own agenda to destabilize and pressurize the government. The recent shutdown of Karachi, due to events taking place in a different country, is a sad example of how fear and street-power can be used to cause panic in a city, by using armed goons to force businesses to shut down, causing loss of billions of rupees and even schools and hospitals, causing citizens and students to face extreme difficulties and suffering.
The kidnapping of citizens by the Taliban and of over three hundred girl students by Boko Haram in Nigeria is another example of how terrorists and a gang of criminals can use fear to terrorize the citizens.
Even preachers and priests use fear to promote the concept of good and evil and heaven and hell, by warning their congregations that if they do bad things, then they will be punished and go to hell and if they do good deeds, then they will go to heaven.
Fear is also used by parents and educationists, who warn their children and students that if they study hard and do well in their exams, then they will succeed in life, but if they don’t, then they will be a failure.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org