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17th March '2014
Pak-Taliban Confrontation

Recently there was a terrorist attack on the Islamabad courts in which 11 people including the 23 year old young lawyer Fizza who had just returned from U.K. after completing her law degree were killed. 29 others were injured. A splinter group of Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. This group was disowned by the main leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. Earlier the Pakistani Taliban had decapitated 23 Pakistani soldiers whom they had been holding as prisoners. That incident had infuriated the members of the Pakistani security forces so much that they virtually forced their government to start a massive aerial operation to eliminate the militant leaders in Waziristan. Nawaz Sharif’s initiative to start a dialogue had to be suspended mid-stream because of the attitude of the Pakistani Taliban. The targeted massive aerial operation using helicopter gunships and jet fighters resulted in the killing of many militant leaders and forced the Pakistani Taliban to announce a unilateral month long ceasefire. The Islamabad attack took place even after the unilateral declaration of the ceasefire. Talks have supposedly been restarted but no one can say whether these will succeed. There appears to be some dithering whether to go for dialogue or confrontation.

Here, one needs to distinguish between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban. Taliban (meaning students) were the children of the Afghan refugees who had been brought up in Pakistan. After the Russian takeover of Afghanistan millions of refugees landed in Pakistan by crossing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. General Zia-ul-Haq with American patronage got the children of these refugees indoctrinated in various Madrassas and created the fighting force of Taliban. The General also known in the west as “grandfather of global Islamic jihad” was the brain behind the training of about 90,000 Afghans as guerrilla fighters through the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). With the US and Saudi patronage and financial assistance he infiltrated these into Afghanistan to fight the Russians. After the Russian ignominious exit, the Americans in their jubilation totally forgot about Taliban and let the Afghans settle their own scores. There was total civil war and ultimately Afghan Taliban took over the control and formed a Shariah Government. Many western journalists commended the Taliban rule. Osama bin Laden who had initially been picked up and trained by the Americans to fight the Russians turned against them and formed the deadly Al Qaeda. The 9/11 episode shattered the Americans and brought them back into Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden and to eliminate the Al Qaeda. As an irony of fate the Americans who had used the Taliban to throw out Russians now faced their former allies in a destructive war.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan also known as the Pakistani Taliban came into being in December 2007 when Baitullah Mehsud brought together 13 groups of militants. It was led by Maulana Fazlullah. While as the Afghan Taliban strictly oppose targeting the Pakistani State, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan exclusively target the elements of the Pakistani State. Pakistanis trained the Taliban to help them free their country from the invaders but the spill over came back to them. The worst part was the free flow of weapons. These weapons were used by one and all to settle scores among themselves. There was a phenomenal increase in armed sectarian clashes. The most disturbing aspect was the birth of suicide bombers. The free flow of guns has also helped in the drug trade and Pakistan, according to UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has almost 7% of its population as drug addicts. Another impact of these militant groups in the tribal areas has been on the traditional Jirga system where elders would decide all the community matters. Jirga has been subdued by these roaming militant groups. If one minutely dissects the phenomenon of these desperate violent acts one would discern that all this violence has been brought on itself by the highly westernised elite claiming to be the rulers of an Islamic Republic! These people have done exactly the opposite of what Mohammad Ali Jinnah had dreamt and pioneered!

Pakistan has an interesting dichotomy. On one hand it has the rich of the richest as rulers. Most of these rulers are totally westernised. They have properties in western countries and Middle East. Zardari is supposed to be worth over $ 20 billion. He owned a complete Chateau in U.K. Nawaz Sharif is worth over $ 8 billion. The country is ruled by dirty rich feudal elite whose connections go everywhere. In the Army, in the Air Force, in the Navy, in the Civil Service, in the Foreign Service and above all in the Inter-Services Intelligence. They have been living in posh colonies in palatial bungalows. Their life style is totally against the basic tenets of Islamic teachings. One can see this from the various Pakistani TV channels. Pakistan also has now a growing middle class which is trying to strike balance between the strict Shariah laws and western style living. On the other hand, the majority of the people are living in dire poverty. It is these have-nots who have nothing to lose but their chains. The militant organisations are determined to establish a set up based on Shariah. They find sympathy and even recruits from these classes of deprived people. Thus, it is headed for a civil war and the recent military operations are just the beginning. Will the security forces succeed in subduing the Taliban? Difficult to say at this stage. However, the Pakistani Taliban is not the only headache for the government. Violence of all types within as well as outside the country has to end if Pakistan is to survive as a state envisioned by its founder. He had dreamt of Pakistan, the “land of the pure”, as a modern, progressive and a secular country where the Muslims could not only profess their faith freely but march ahead with the fast changing modern civilisation. He could have never imagined that the land of his dreams would turn into the most violent country in the world!

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