Myths and Re­al­i­ties

The Tal­iban are truly an in­de­pen­dent po­lit­i­cal en­tity that thrives on mil­i­tancy but there could be a greater hand be­hind their con­tin­ued ex­is­tence.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Huza­ima Bukhari & Dr. Ikra­mul Haq

Dur­ing the last few years, vo­lu­mi­nous lit­er­a­ture has emerged about the Tal­iban. Though the word means ‘stu­dents’ in the Ara­bic lan­guage, in po­lit­i­cal terms it has come to be known as the ‘Stu­dents of the Is­lamic Knowl­edge Move­ment.’ The main em­pha­sis of a ma­jor­ity of the writ­ers on the Tal­iban is to present them as “ter­ror­ists, re­li­gious ex­trem­ists, war­riors, bar­bar­ians, fun­da­men­tal­ists, crim­i­nals, drug smug­glers, anti-women, anti-ed­u­ca­tion, re­gres­sive and bru­tal.” No writer has so far tried to an­a­lyze the group’s ‘po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy’ from the stand­point of a spon­ta­neous reaction to an un­just New World Or­der—where the mighty states want to con­trol and ex­ploit the wealth of the poor na­tions. The Tal­iban — dubbed as the en­emy of hu­man­ity—are pro­jected as a per­pet­ual threat to world peace. South Asian states are par­tic­u­larly per­turbed by the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Tal­iban who are con­sid­ered a cat­a­lyst for rad­i­cal­iza­tion of so­ci­eties lead­ing to re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance and ter­ror­ism.

The Tal­iban came into the lime­light twice—first as holy war­riors (mu­jahideen) dur­ing the Soviet war in Afghanistan that lasted nine years from De­cem­ber 1979 to Fe­bru­ary 1989 and then as a re­sis­tance force in the wake of the in­va­sion of Afghanistan by the United States and its al­lies af­ter 9/11. Once fa­vorites of the West, the Tal­iban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 un­til 2001, were os­tra­cized from the world com­mu­nity be­cause of their sup­port for the Al Qaeda, ruth­less­ness to­wards women and im­po­si­tion of an or­tho­dox brand of Is­lam through the use of force. They as­sumed power dur­ing Afghanistan’s long civil war and man­aged to hold 90% of the coun­try’s ter­ri­tory be­fore be­ing ousted from power in De­cem­ber 2001 by the U.S. mil­i­tary and Afghan op­po­si­tion forces in re­sponse to the Septem­ber 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tack on the Twin Tow­ers of New York. The Tal­iban re­fused to hand over the main lead­ers of Al Qaeda and in­stead de­manded ev­i­dence against them.

It is in­ter­est­ing to note that the Tal­iban ac­tu­ally orig­i­nate from Pak­istan. The In­te­rior Min­is­ter of Be­nazir Bhutto, Ma­jor Gen­eral (re­tired) Naseerul­lah Baber (late) pub­li­cally con­fessed, “Tal­iban are my brain­child.” He minced no words claim­ing “I con­sider them as strate­gic and po­lit­i­cal al­lies of Pak­istan.” It is well es­tab­lished that Pak­istan’s po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship, along with the CIA and oth­ers who re­sisted the on­slaught of the Soviet Union, cre­ated a mon­ster that they were un­able to con­tain. With­out un­der­stand­ing the con­tours of their ide­ol­ogy and am­bi­tions, the ad­vo­cates of the Free World sup­ported and trained them, thus paving the way for Al Qaeda to find a sanc­tu­ary and launch world­wide ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment is now fac­ing the bit­ter re­sults of its pol­icy of ap­pease­ment to­wards the mil­i­tants and now openly at­tacks them show­ing no re­spect for past re­la­tions. It is true that cre­at­ing and sup­port­ing the Tal­iban and other mil­i­tants was a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion but it was never de- bated in the par­lia­ment. Noted writ­ers like Steve Coll in Ghost Wars and Ahmed Rashid in De­scent into Chaos, men­tioned that Naseerul­lah Babar and oth­ers worked closely with Afghan lead­ers such as Gul­bud­din Hek­mat­yar and Ahmed Shah Mas­soud and pro­vided train­ing camps for guer­rilla war­fare with money com­ing from the CIA and else­where. The West aban­doned the Afghan re­sis­tance forces promptly af­ter the withdrawal of Soviet troops. Soon enough, they started fight­ing each other, which cul­mi­nated into a hor­rific civil war. For the West, the dis­mem­ber­ment of USSR as a su­per­power was the goal that it suc­cess­fully achieved us­ing Pak­istan and the stu­dents of madras­sas (re­li­gious schools) it pro­vided.

Though the Tal­iban is one iden­ti­fi­able ho­mo­ge­neous po­lit­i­cal en­tity, it is also a coali­tion of var­i­ous groups that wish to cap­ture state power and im­pose a par­tic­u­lar or­tho­dox brand of Is­lam through the barrel of gun. It is also a myth that Pak­istani Tal­iban are dif­fer­ent from the Afghan Tal­iban; they both rep­re­sent the same ide­ol­ogy though hav­ing a dif­fer­ent com­mand and lead­er­ship.

Tehreek-e-Tal­iban Pak­istan (TTP) is a for­eign-planted or­ga­ni­za­tion. It is one of the many ter­ror­ist out­fits and crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions that have been cre­ated by the CIA for the fur­ther­ance of in­ter­ests of USA and its al­lies in South Asia and else­where. The main aim is to con­tain so­cial­ist China, demo­cratic In­dia and nu­clear Pak­istan. Th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions use the name of Is­lam to ad­vance their own

agen­das and work closely with each other to raise funds for pur­chas­ing arms through drug trade and other or­ga­nized crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties like smug­gling and kid­nap­ping for ran­som. In re­al­ity it is a sit­u­a­tion where many mil­i­tant groups are en­gaged for more power and money. There­fore in­ter and in­tra fight­ing amongst them can eas­ily be wit­nessed.

The Tal­iban phe­nom­e­non is com­plex and rid­dled with many puzzles. It can­not be un­der­stood with­out study­ing US for­eign pol­icy in which ter­ror­ism, drugs, arms and war play a piv­otal role. From the early twen­ti­eth cen­tury, US lead­ers have been us­ing arms, drugs and war hys­te­ria as tools to ad­vance their for­eign pol­icy ob­jec- tives. The mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions by the US and its al­lies against a num­ber of coun­tries in re­cent years should be viewed in this per­spec­tive.

The ghastly at­tacks on GHQ Rawalpindi, PNS Mehran Base in Karachi, PAF Base at Kamra, in­tru­sion in Abbottabad, the in­va­sion of Afghanistan and Iraq, cam­paigns against Libya, Iran, Syria and other Mus­lim States should be seen from the per­spec­tive of keep­ing the threat of Tal­iban­iza­tion alive, by US and its al­lies. In­dian scholar, Dr. Sa­chithanan­dam Sathanan­than ob­serves, in his pa­per, ‘The Great Game Con­tin­ues,’ that the pur­pose is not to elim­i­nate the “Is­lamic threat” but to con­tain it within man­age­able lim­its and to spawn the next gen­er­a­tion of “ter­ror­ists.” In­vent­ing new en­e­mies and elim­i­nat­ing old ones is part of the New Great Game. The “Is­lamic threat” through the Tal­iban is “Wash­ing­ton’s lever­age to in­ter­vene in Pak­istan to dis­tance Is­lam­abad from Bei­jing and ex­ploit en­ergy re­sources abun­dantly found in Balochis­tan and, in the long run, per­haps de­rail the US ad­min­is­tra­tion’s well-laid plans to bring Afghanistan to heel and to dom­i­nate Cen­tral Asia and its oil-rich Caspian Sea Basin.” Dr. Ikra­mul Haq and Huza­ima Bukhari - part­ners in the law firm Huza­ima & Ikram (mem­ber Taxand) - are Ad­junct Pro­fes­sors at the La­hore Univer­sity of Man­age­ment Sciences (LUMS).

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