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Friday, February 13, 2009

Ayaz Amir: The Taliban Ho Chi Minh Trail

But Pakistani Talibanism, as represented by Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan and Maulana Fazlullah in Swat, is a slightly different phenomenon. It may have originated as a side-effect of the Afghan war but it has now mutated into something with a personality of its own. With all its primitive and even barbaric permutations — the bombing of schools, the insistence on what amounts to female segregation, the slitting of throats — it is a revolt against the Pakistani state. Or rather a revolt against the dysfunctional nature of this state.

Far from being defeated, much less crushed, this revolt is spreading. Hitherto it was confined to the Frontier Province. But on February 7 we saw this revolt cross the River Indus for the first time when a police check post in Mianwali (Qudratabad near Wan Bachran) was attacked by Taliban fighters. On Feb 11 another police outpost near Essa Khail came under attack.

But why should anyone be attracted to the Taliban? Don't we know what they stand for? Why should Punjab, of all places, ever afford them a foothold? There's no simple answer to these questions.

Every Punjab town, large and small, has a mosque, if not more than one, sympathetic to the Taliban brand of Islam. So at least there is a handy network — a Ho Chi Minh Trail, so to speak — down which the ideology of the Taliban can travel, whether we like this ideology or abhor it being a separate issue altogether.

If this were Nepal this would be a Maoist uprising. If this were a Latin American country it would be a peasant or a Guevarist uprising. Since it is Pakistan, the revolt assaulting the bastions of the established order comes with an Islamic colouring, Islam reduced to its most literal and unimaginative interpretations at the hands of those leading the Taliban revolt.

There are people who don't have enough to eat, who don't have a job and no prospects in life. If they are wronged they have no redress. There are people tortured daily in our police stations, people caught up for years in the endless grind of court cases. There is endemic corruption all round. Every government department, without exception, serves itself, not anything as esoteric as the people. If this is not recruiting ground for Talibanism, what is?


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