Monday, April 27, 2009

The Talibanization of Pakistan

When the Swat deal was done by Mr. Zardari and his rather ill informed government, I had written that this form of appeasement does not mean that the Taliban have been stopped, it only implies that they have discovered the formula of continued expansion. Thus their recent entry into Bunner district, a few rocket throws from Islamabad, comes as no surprise; indeed friends tell me more black and green turbaned youth are visible in Lahore then every before. Its almost like a Fifth column infiltrating society and given their religious accent know that opposition to them will be minimal and when needed the Taliban form of law 'Nizam-e-Addal' (System of Justice) will be meted out.

I recently saw a wonderful movie, Khuda Kay Liye (For the Sake of God) which portrays exactly the challenge we now see in Pakistan. While US statements that they would not wish to see Pakistan be held hostage by the Taliban are all fine and sweet rhetoric, the truth is that as the majority of Pakistani's do not want the Taliban in their own midst, it is they who must speak out. The People Party of Zardari and the Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif have never had an agenda of support for the Taliban and they combined hold the maximum public vote. It is therefore logical to assume, rightly, that it is these two political parties who have to speak out against what the Taliban is doing.

Well where is the solution then?

First with the Taliban spreading to Bunner, the Pakistan government should tell them the Swat deal is off, and it should establish its own effective rule over the Swat valley, and then if America really wants to help, a major program be started to rebuild roads and hospitals and schools (yes the Taliban destroyed 160 of them) which will create jobs and let people see that their future is in prosperity and not in black turbans and rocket propelled launchers. It is the lack of economic opportunities that has driven people to the hard liners who have stepped into a vacuum of ineffective government and in the process created a promise that the Taliban can guarantee security for the people better than the government.

Secondly, if the US really wants to help they must understand that missiles fired in Pakistan cannot help the eradication of the Taliban. If nothing else in the shrapnel and the dead bodies, mostly of innocent civilians, lies the very proof that the Taliban carry from village to village telling people that the 'Infidel Americans' and their 'Stooges in Islamabad' are their enemies. The hunt of foreign fighters and the issues now within Pakistan of a Pakistani Taliban are entirely different and while may be connected through some moral umbilical chord, are really a distinctly different set of circumstances. The Al Qadea want to get even with the US, the Pakistan Taliban want to take over Pakistani society through what I call 'social subversion'. While their aims may eventually be the same the battle grounds are distinctly different.

Finally, I do feel that the Pakistani ISI needs a complete overhaul, better still it needs to be disbanded and a new structure be created that is truly nationalist as opposed to religiously motivated. The damage that General Zia has done to the Pakistan Army remain deep and he must still be beaming his toothy smile that almost 15 years on and he still has his pet organization pulling the invisible strings of government.

For those who will claim that the issue of Pakistan is about Islam miss the point. Islam is not a religion about violence or coercion and its tolerance through the ages is well documented. The Taliban have no credence to claim any sanction under the name of Islam, because simply put what they advocate is not Islam, but some hybrid creed developed in the caves and villages of Afghanistan by a half blind mad man, Mullah Omar, whose understand of Islam could be put on a postage stamp and still leave room to spare.

This is indeed time for everyone in Pakistan to speak out against the tyranny of the Taliban and if we could have a million man march to restore the judges why cannot we have a 10 million man march in Pakistan to denounce the Taliban. Let them hear this message that their creed cannot be in a country which was founded on modern principles of Islam.