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.
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).