The Swat flogging video led to an alarmist, emotional, knee jerk response devoid of any political and historical context among the `bloggeratti’ (to borrow a term from Dr Omar Ali of Asiapeace), sms’ing crowd and TV talk shows. Those who are now calling for decisive action were not so long ago justifying the Taliban’s actions as an `anti-imperialist’ force.
Other `civil society’ attempts at countering Talibanisation include
demonstrations and even a signature campaign to the President against
Talibanisation initiated by a friend in Karachi and picked up all over the
country – a well meaning effort available at http://www.sacw.net (direct link
Women’s Action Forum is planning a broad-based meeting on May 8 at Karachi Press Club, 5 pm, on `Women to Reclaim Our Public Spaces’. WAF stands for:
- One constitution and one set of laws for all of Pakistan
- The writ of the government must prevail on the basis of moral authority
premised on protection, health, education, livelihood and security of all
- Urgent de-weaponisation of society
- No special accords compromising the rights of one group of citizens of
Pakistan over others
In the end, however, `Talibanisation’ is a political problem that has taken
decades to develop. It calls for long term political solutions. There are no
short cuts. Recognising this, I.A. Rehman advocates two immediate steps in
`Pakistan’s neo-Taliban’ (Dawn, Apr 30) – http://tinyurl.com/ctyl3l – the
government must reduce its trust deficit with the people, and people must see evidence that the army is able and willing to earn its keep.
Also see Dr Hassan Abbas’ report on police reforms in Pakistan as an urgent measure to counter terrorism. A PDF is available at his excellent blog watandost.blogspot.com
Direct link to the pdf file – http://tinyurl.com/codh8d
Also, three other articles that provide another perspective:
- THE ROVING EYE, The myth of Talibanistan, By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, May 1, 2009 – http://tinyurl.com/cp8zdr
Sent by S.M. Naseem with the note: “To reassure you that Islamabad is not going to fall to the Talibans any time soon. The rumours are about as credible as those about the USA becoming a socialist state during Obama’s presidency.”
- How Pakistan Is Countering the Taliban – The pacification model that worked in Iraq can work in the Swat Valley, By Husain Haqqani, WSJ, April 30 2009 -
- Between two fundamentalists, By Dr Mubashir Hasan, The Nation (Pakistan) April 30, 2009 – http://tinyurl.com/da8syr
Finally, a widely circulated article `I want my country back’ by Sehar Tariq, a development studies student, published in The News on April 17 -
Below, Seerat Hazir’s response to Sehar Tariq’s article (minus some distracting personal barbs):
“I am curious to find out which Pakistan she wants back. The one created by the British with the help of wealthy and influential feudals and nawabs as a gift to the Americans to serve as a pawn in the cold-war games after the 2nd world war? The one ruled successively by military dictators, aided and abetted by a conniving nexus of corrupt bureaucrats, politicians, industrialists, and devious feudals that many of us were privileged enough to be related to, getting our passports and driving licences made without standing in sweaty queues? The one that created a two-class system: the haves and the have-nots?
“…We are being over-simplistic by focusing just on the Taliban phenomenon, conveniently just mentioning in passing – almost as an after-thought, almost as something you pick up from a souvenir shop at the end of a trip to tell friends back home that you had been there – the real problem stemming from the imperialist greed – the fountain-head of all this violence and self-destructive frenzy which seems to have taken over the dispossessed of the world. It doesn’t take much intelligence… to understand what’s happening here in Pakistan at the moment. Here is how it goes, more or less:
“The US and allies decide to cut the Pak army and ISI down to size (re-read
Washington Post, since Obama). Obama admin decides to deal directly with the civilian govt and bully the army into playing second fiddle. Aid is made
conditional. Transparency is demanded. Pak Army tells the US, well, then let the civi govt take care of the war on terror. Within weeks things begin to happen:
Taliban blow up 200 Nato trucks, and practically force the Nato command into looking for alternative supply routes into Afghanistan. They can’t be stopped for some mysterious reason. Taliban take over Swat and are seen patrolling cities and towns with impunity, and they can’t be stopped for some reason. FM radio stations start spewing out extremist propaganda and they can’t be jammed for some odd reason. Girl schools are burnt down, video of a young girl being flogged ruthlessly by frothing fanatics pops up to remind everyone what Taliban are capable of. Rumours are sown in diplomatic circles in Islamabad that Taliban are just behind the peaceful Margallas, a mere 100 km from the diplomatic enclave, and, more disturbingly, Kahuta. Nazam-e-adl is given the nod. All this is stage-managed by the Army in connivance with a puppet parliament, to remind
the Americans and their allies how things will look if the army is not supported and financed the way they want it. This was a trailer shown to the men on the Capitol Hill who already have their ears cocked for such news from Pakiland. Officials and generals scurry back and forth. A deal is struck. and Hallelujah! General Kayani appears on the front pages on April 25, reiterating his resolve to fight the war on terror to the bitter end. The Taliban Tide begins to ebb back to its mysterious origins. Thanks be to Allah, the All Merciful.
“Pakistan (read pak army) again points the gun to its head and gets its demands. Only someone with eyes misted over by April showers can fail to see that Taliban of Swat is the other side of the ruling elite led by the army: the side that will flip into broad view once the US decides to take on Pakistan a la Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t know whether it’s misguided sincerity or plain escapist ideology that defines the activism of most of our more enlightened academics here and abroad. I only wish if all that painstakingly acquired scholarly wisdom were focused on unmasking the real culprits and their local and foreign cohorts, and identifying ways and means to move towards some kind of a solution, rather than joining the popular chorus written and directed by the western media. and which is sure to bring the crowd to its feet. The only solution lies in paving the way, through word and deed, for greater provincial autonomy and breaking the colossus of a corrupt federation controlled and manipulated by a greedy, all-powerful army.
“You and I are a sorry, confused product of a somewhat privileged class which directly or indirectly benefitted from the elitist culture cultivated by the establishment in cahoots with their foreign masters; a product of the unjust system which gave us an unfair advantage over the marginalized masses. Time now, if there’s still any left, to look back at all the injustices we had partnered in silence; raising our voice only where and when it suited us, as long as we could scamper back to our privileged existence, to the 6 O’clock appointment with the dentist after the 4 sweaty hours spent in robust activism at Regal chowk. The real question is not what we should do about Talibanisation: it’s what we should be doing to challenge and change the system which serves as a nursery for such carnivorous flora. But, sadly, we can’t tear ourselves away from our `qatil’ (killer) that Faiz wrote about, because he is our ‘hamdam’, our benefactor, too: Better blame a bunch of misguided, bearded fanatics with their shalwars hitched up above the ankles, sporting a Gotcha jacket, and be done with it.
“Wake up and smell the shit in our own pyjamas, and don’t be fooled by the
Taliban Cafe smell that the western machinery and its vendors in Pakistan so eagerly want us to wake up to.”