Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yet another Peace Deal and Shia Blockade

News headlines from Pakistan's tribal belt proclaim a new "Peace Deal" with "militants" along with an appeal for the Shia victims of the Kurram agency blockade imposed by the Taliban. On the surface, these two developments seem disconnected.

The News Headlines:
The "Peace Deal" involves a leading militant in Pakistan's Khyber region, Mangal Bagh, and the local administration to end nearly two weeks of fighting, according to the BBC.

Another BBC report indicates that doctors in Pakistan's north western tribal region of Kurram have appealed for urgent medical aid to avert a humanitarian crisis. Shia Muslim areas in Kurram have been cut off by the Taliban from the rest of the country since November 2007 following violence between Shias and Sunnis.

No Strategy Behind Peace Deals:

Are these "Peace Deals" being made one deal at a time in a piecemeal way? Are there any enforcement mechanisms? Is there a comprehensive strategy to end the Taliban insurgency? Or is it just an interim effort to the postpone the inevitable battle for another day?

Given the history of the past "Peace Deals", each deal has helped the Taliban become stronger to make further demands. The Taliban have not only solidified their grip on the tribal belt on both sides of the Durand line, but the militants are now feeling strong enough to threaten settled areas in Swat and Peshawar as well as Kandahar. They are not on the defensive in FATA any more. They are bringing the war to Pakistan's and Afghanistan's major cities, including the capitals.

What Do the Taliban Want?

So, what do the Taliban want? Recently I had an email exchange with a gentleman in Pakistan on this question. I am sharing with you the message I received and the my reply below:

The Message I got:
No one wants to give the Country to Taliban and ironically neither are the Taliban interested.
All they want is purity in the Muslims all over the world, including, but not limited to Pakistan.
Their aims are simple. All Men should grow long beards, and be dressed properly, i.e. kurta (long tunic) shalwar (baggy pants) and turban.
Women were created to serve the menfolk, nothing more, nothing less. They should reproduce and look after the children, do house chores, like sweeping, washing of dirty linen etc. For doing all this they do not need to go to school and get education. Education at home is enough.
Since music, video, films and the like are all haram (forbidden), all indulging in these sins should be made example of. Video Shops, cinema houses, theaters and the like should be burnt down.
Idolatry is sin, so there should be no statues, no paintings of humans and animals, no cameras, still or movie.
Riba (Interest) is haram (forbidden) so there should be no banks, no cooperatives, and the like.
All females should be veiled, from 6 years and above, and the veil should be total coverage which some low intellect people call shuttle cock. (helps boost the textile industry)
As long as Muslims adopt this (what is the basic edicts of Islam) the Taliban would not bother them.

My Answer:
Really? I like your sarcastic tone. Here's more in the same vein.
If what you say is correct (and I have no reason to doubt it), who will be the judge, the jury and the executioner?
Isn't there a need to have a ministry of vice and virtue?
And the powerful intelligence service and religious police?
So , the bottom line is, they do want power to become the final arbiters of good and evil. Of who is a Muslim and who is not.
They want a theocratic Police state, not democracy.
And they want exclusive monopoly on the use of violence in society.

How Should Pakistanis Respond?

While the tone in this exchange is satirical, the topic is extremely serious with far-reaching consequences for Pakistan, South Asia and the world. Though his remarks are tongue-in-cheek, the gentleman I corresponded with clearly understands the Taliban agenda.

But do the rest of the Pakistanis understand it well enough to take a clear position? Why is there so much ambivalence on this subject in Pakistan? A majority of Pakistanis favor their government not fighting Al-Qaeda and Taliban but negotiating with the terror outfits, while viewing US as the greatest threat to their personal safety, according to a recent survey by the Center for Public Opinion and the New America Foundation. Frequent US attacks causing large numbers of innocent civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan reinforce this thinking. It seems to me that many Pakistanis are willing to accept the myth that the Taliban are fighting for Islam by standing up to "evil" Americans and America's allies in "war on terror". What they really need to understand is that this a defining battle between two competing visions of Pakistani society. A battle for a modern, pluralistic and democratic Pakistan versus a medieval, theocratic state bent on coercive implementation of their misguided interpretation of the Shariah laws. Pakistanis need to stop being confused or neutral in this fight and clearly understand the large implications of the Taliban's success for their own lives.

Cartoon by Kevin Kallaugher, The Economist


Anonymous said...

You are looking at the final scene of progressive battle of interests but are missing the main move and it,s motives.
After 1979 Iran,s revolution having met it,s success in Iran, like all revolutions they tried to export it, remember Kaaba,s siege. That became tamgible threat to Saudi Monarchi, and the counter offensive came in shape of promoting Wahabi-isn in Pakistan, followed by Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
The battle is still between Shia and Wahabi, Talibans are only a tool, with the legacy of some rule style post Prophet time, in which Islam was under threat on daily basis and rulers extreme Terrorising tactics over masses was the best way for continuity.

Riaz Haq said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thanks for explaining the context of Shia-Wahabi conflict. The larger point of my post was the Taleban's intolerance toward any one that's different from them. Whether it is Shia or beardless men or a woman without a veil etc. etc. They want to impose their medieval, tribal way of life on the world in the name of Islam, and they are prepared to use extreme violence to accomplish it. And some Pakistanis sympathize with them while others tolerate them because they see the Taliban as fighting for Islam against the West. This ambivalence toward the Taliban allows them to operate with impunity and engage in suicide bombings against innocent people and create havoc to achieve their agenda of total dominance under their self-styled "Islamic Rule".

Anonymous said...


The Shia-Taleban should be seen in the context as the Anonymous said, its a fight for regional superiority between historical arch rivals, Arabs and Persians!

Shia's of that area didn't help Taleban during the Soviet invasion, and that is also a decade old problem in the Taleban heart.

Another important issue will be that Shia Muslims are majority in Hangu and Parachinar, and as we have seen all over the world, whatever Muslim group is in majority end up dictatorial on other minorities, non-Shia'ts are very often oppressed - which leads to bad blood!

Just thought of sharing some random thoughts...

Riaz Haq said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. But I still think the fundamental issue is one of intolerance toward anyone different. It could be sectarian or ethnic. This could easily grow into major civil war in Pakistan if the Taliban or similar outfit took control of the reigns in Pakistan. Beyond that, it could engulf the entire region into a major conflagration involving our neighbors in Iran, India, Afghanistan, China as well as the West. The consequences are extremely dangerous for all Pakistanis regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs.

Anonymous said...


indeed what you say is the cause and expected effects. Like a good citizen of this world and that small but great country(PAKISTAN), our concern draws us into brainstorming.Identify the problem correctly, correct solution emerges automatically.What we are doing presently is , weather forecast. study certain conditions and say tomorrow the hurricane strength 5 will hit us.
Ujmi got into justifying the Taliban actions, interesting logic like Elephant crying being crushed by a rabbit, calling a small hangu and Parachinar group becoming dictatorial.
Taliban with their brand and style of Islam, were the low intellectual people who got exploited into delivering some body elses agenda.The actions continue, the supporters(type I) and Look other way(type II)as pointed out by you, have accepted surrender as fate accomply, to impending disaster.

Riaz Haq said...

Dear Anonymous,
The purpose of my writing is to draw attention to what you correctly describe as "pending disaster" and push for quick course correction to prevent it. Each of us needs to do whatever is within our power to point our nation in what we believe to be the correct course.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with you Riaz.

Anonymous. Just wanted to be right on the record, I did not imply to justify the actions of Taleban and will feel pretty awkward if it seemed so. I just mentioned the ground realities hoping to be as impartial as possible.

But since I seem to have sort of offended you, then yes my statement even holds true on the radicalized Sunnis who when in "majority" persecute innocent Shi'ats who might be in minority at that place.

I hope I was clearer now.

And once again, Pakistan has become a sandbox for world it Arab-Persian, or West-East - we are just getting brunt of everything!