Thursday, July 31, 2008

Taliban at the Door

They are just a wall away from my city. Really.

Will the Taliban take over NWFP? Will the Taliban take over Pakistan? Intriguing questions. well they have gained a strong foothold in Swat. O that beautiful valley is so torn now. It was rumored that Peshawar was about to fall to them.. luckily that did not happen. But the operation did start against the 'militants and criminals' in the adjoining areas of the provincial metropolis.

Some years back, Taliban were an entity that was in Afghanistan. Now they are in Pakistan! These hardcore beard sporting-gun wielding-pants (shalwar) up till ankles-tribals employ a strict interpretation of Islam - which serves their interests well. The protectors of Al Qaeda, the tormentors of Hamid Karzai, the irritants for NATO, the headache for Pakistani government and fear for any population under their control.. are planning to take over Pakistan!

I'll be evaluating various issues that will confront them in their plan to take control over Pakistan and her population.

1. Electoral Bottleneck.

Well thats a serious one. Religious parties cum political parties have not fared well in Pakistani politics. Yes MMA got the NWFP Govt last time but they were routed this time by ANP and PPPP who have a secular attitude. No Taliban will ever find this route easy. (Although for the sake of events.. one hopes they do join the political process instead)

Forget about Taliban thinking of the same route. They don't believe in it (as it is a representation of infidel system and that democracy is not compatible with Islam!)

2. Religious Affinity.

Definite plus point for Taliban. Tag anything with Islam and Pakistani people will fall for it.. well most of them. Reason is simple. Pakistanis are religious. They accept religion as a major factor in their life and to support it they can go to any length - irrational extremes even.

The Taliban of Swat have only one thing to say - impose Islamic Shariah. I mean who can disagree when asked whether you would want to have God and His system placed in the country?! Nobody will surely ask 'what system by the way'! Ordinary perception is that there is only one variety. Pakistan has majority sunnis and most of them think (keeping aside their militant acts) that Taliban are true representation of early muslims. A true portrayal of Islamic values which obviously is a hard fact. Religion is no chill pill they will tell you.

Then there are medressahs. They provide fresh crop of religious students who have almost no contemporary knowledge of the world. They are not imbued with critical thinking and thus are easily 'converted' for malafide acts. For ordinary tribal, they do not see any wrong with what goes on in medressah. They have sent their children to learn the religion of God. If they cant succeed in this world and at least life hereafter would be better for them.

3. Inept Government

This is closely linked with the previous one. Why most people find Islamic system attractive? One it relates to Islam and secondly the state has been so inept at performing its duties that people hope that the new system would solve their problems. Take for example the justice system employed by Taliban. If there is a wrong committed and a call for redressal is made - it is acted upon quickly. If the offenders are caught they are dealt there and then. No courts where the trial would continue for yars and years to no effect. Simple dispensation of justice (with all merits and demrits of course).

Similarly the political environment. There is no penetration of main stream political parties of Pakistan in tribal areas. They are ruled by a century old Frontier Crimes & regulations Act (FCR). The federal government appointed political agent acts as the god father. Until very recently, tribal people were not even able to cast their votes. The people know no way apart from jirga system, their clan lords and political administrator. You might argue that Swat had a political structure in place so why it did not work there? When the religious organizations like Tehreek e Nifaze Shariat e Mohammadi (TNSM) demanded that shariah law be imposed in Swat, the successive governments since 1996 always said they would do so soon. What did this knee jerk reaction convey? That their demand for shariah was valid, that people were not being governed by an Islamic system and that the political administration was plain idiot.

Inept governance is also evident on the developmental work. FATA areas have never been on the developmental priority of the federal government. The area contains huge mineral resources. The mines built were of no use because tribes fought amongst themselves and Government could not mediate between them. Now Taliban with the force of the gun, have made the mines start working again and started levying their own tax. Simple and efficient.

4. Tribal Affinity.

This is a very conducive environment for Taliban. FATA area and areas near the border of Afghanistan (Dir and Swat) are inhabited by Pathans. Its a mix of Pathan code (pukhtoon wali), tribal customs and medressah Islam. Add to it the fact that FATA area has always been a no go area for the Pakistani Government- in fact for anyone for that matter. And tribals take pride in it. Its their rules, their customs and no body else interferes.

5. Anti-American Sentiment

The holy nectar. Give one sip and the person is yours. If there is a satan on earth - then its America. For Taliban and most of the muslims, the America is the reason for all ills that afflict the muslims all across the globe. Things got more complicated after 9/11. Every muslim is a terrorist and beard sporting pathan even more!

Americans have made a mess in Iraq, in Afghanistan and brazenly support Israel. Guilty all the way. Then they kill ordinary Afghans in collateral damage raising the hate sentiment for the invading army. Americans keep pounding suspected Taliban hideouts in Pakistani controlled territory. Add to this fact that Pakistani Government is seen too compliant of American interests. You getting labeled as an American agent can lead you further to search for your chopped head.

6. The Power of Gun

Taliban are ruthless. They do not give a damn about you if you go against their interests. They wont care if you are seen without the compliance of their definition of Islam. The power of gun can silence anyone. This means 'peace' - a misnomer here but still peace. Everyone keeps telling you about how peaceful Afghanistan had become during their rule right? Well its because of the fact that you cant talk or do anything against them. For ordinary people its much better than the lawlessness that they have to witness during war time. At least you don't die.

7. Cultural Obstacles.

Tough one for Taliban. Pakistanis are one separate thing and Taliban are another. If they could, they would make every man sport a beard, wear a cap and make them raise their pants till ankles. They would make every woman wear a burqa and shunted in homes. No girl schools, no women workers. I like the idea. No women - 50% percent problems solved. That is a quantum jump in problem solving you know.

Cultural 'relaxations' are evident when one travels from North of Pakistan to South of it. In Peshawar a girl in jeans is 'uh huh. ok'. In Karachi it would be 'so what?'. Taliban are too out-dated fashion wise for most of the Pakistanis.

Majority of Pakistanis also fear the invasion of western culture through satellite dish and cable. They think that Pakistani society is being rendered morally bankrupt with terms like 'enlightened moderation' which are just a tool to introduce foreign culture. There is a need for a saviour for Pakistani society against this onslaught of sin. So who to turn to help? Pure Islamic system. Taliban are a proponent of that and although Taliban may not be supported in major cities - the idea gets a warm response in the form of Lal Mosque. Remember - they were supposedly out their countering sins and purging society of it.

All in all, Taliban are a reality breathing down your neck. They will be in major towns of Pakistan unless the government takes remedial action. They have to tackle them on political and religious front. They have to get more involved administratively in Swat and FATA. Taliban have to be brought in to the political mainstream. Diverse opinion has to be introduced in the religious discussions so as to introduce moderation in their views.

Lets pray and hope for the best.

Related Post

- Why Do I Hate The Taliban

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