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.
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