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  • Pakistan’s Talibanisation is a serious problem

    by Fe'reeha
    27th February, 2009 at 9:05 am    

    Pakistan has agreed to introduce Islamic law in Swat valley, and neighboring areas of the northwestern region, in a bid to take the steam out of a Taliban uprising raging since late 2007.

    The reasoning behind this move, according to the government is to use Sufi Mehammed, a cleric backing the movement to restore peace in Swat as a touch-stone for bringing stability to the region. However, as many critics have rightly warned this maybe a delusion and a short term measure which will only aggravate the situation further.

    First of all, one needs to understand what are the teachings of the clerics working in North Western areas? The sad reality remains, there is plenty of confusion about the teachings of Islam throughout the world. I found it in the sophisticated English-speaking British Pakistani Muslims I met in the UK, and I find it in all the sections of Pakistani society.

    Despite practicing the opposite, many Muslim are still afraid to say a loud word against the teachings of Madrassahs run under extremist ideologies. The frail criticism stems from the ignorance that many Muslims have today about their religion. Talibansation hence in this so called religious society formed on weak-minded teachings hence was easy and fast.

    Since the war on terror started, the surge of Talibanisation has only grown in Pakistan. Some have categorised it as resistance to so-called ‘sudden empowerment and modernisation’ introduced by the former President Musharrsaf, others have attributed it to the growing hatred towards West since the Iraq war.

    Pakistan on the brink
    Whatever the reasons, today Pakistan seems to be at the threshold where the surge of Talibanisation can turn the tide either way. In the last two years, the sprouting organizations of Taliban in Pakistan have sent warnings to CD shops around the country including Karachi that the music business needs to be stopped or they will be bombed.

    A CD market was actually bombed last year in Attock which is the gateway to Punjab, a province known for its modernity and education. Earlier this month, a group of clerics had a meeting with media requesting them to tone down on the use of unIslamic material in their adverts while newspaper reports have accused Pakistani media of having Taliban element in them.

    On the other hand, there has been strong criticism on Pakistan Army’s ISI for underhandedly supporting the Taliban, while the ISI dutifully denied this allegation saying that their war is actually against the Taliban.

    However, the timing of this new mini U- turn on Talibanisation in Swat is notable. It comes in less than one month since the new US government took charge of the office and at a time when Richard Halbrooke recently visited the region and gave a statement that India, Pakistan and the US face a common enemy in the face of Taliban. Lurking in the back are the eerie accusations of US writers Ron Suskind and David Sanger.

    Supporting an ideology one believes in comes well under a person’s democratic rights. What worries me immensely is the lack of understanding about the dangerous ideology imposed by the Taleban and the confusion amongst many Muslims that what Talebans support is a truly Islamic ideology.

    Whatever maybe the outcome of the peace deal, the long term impact of this on Pakistan does not seem promising.

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    Filed in: Current affairs,Pakistan,Religion,South Asia

    16 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. shariq — on 27th February, 2009 at 9:55 am  

      Agree completely Fe’reeha. One of the more bizarre things has been that people have been sympathetic to the Taliban fighters who are threatening the integrity of the nation.

      I guess American involvement and the fact they keep bombing civilians has something to do it with it but thats definitely not the only story.

      I wonder if the only solution would be to let the northwest go and have troops guard the border? Don’t think this is what the Americans are thinking as they would see it as surrendering. What do you think?

    2. platinum786 — on 27th February, 2009 at 10:05 am  

      I was gonna write a peice of this myself, unfortunately I’ve not had the time. It’s a very interesting topic which I found has split Pakistani society 50-50.

      To really understand what is going on you have to know the players involved and the history. Since the WoT begun the Pakistani army has been fighting several groups.

      1. The tribes of FATA (Federally administrated tribal areas). These are the local tribes who live in the area. The territory historically belongs to them and they have been fighting the Pakistan army for entering the territory (despite it being part of the Pakistani state). They support the Taliban in Afghanistan as they are of the same ethnicity. The current government in Afghanistan is made of ethnic minority players. A while back the government agreed a deal with them to allow troops into the area and not face attacks from the tribes. One of the reasons for this was that the tribes started facing attacks from the TTP as part of a local power grab. In tribal societies if you take out the top men,y ou are left with a weakened, uncoordinated tribe.

      2. TNSM - The Party of Sufi Muhammed who want Shariah law in the region. these guys have been around since 1994 in think. They want a return of Shariah law to the region, as they feel common law has let them down. Prior to the 70′s the FATA region actually did run by Shariah law and the judicial system was less corrupt than our current one. They went militant post 911 and launched a jihad into Afghanistan to back their ethnic and ideological brothers the Taliban. Sufi Muhammed was capured and arrested in Pakistan for doing so. When he was released he decided he would use his militant elements to enforce his shariah message.

      3. Baitullah Mehsud - A tribal militant who’s cousin was in Gitmo. . This guy is highly Al Queda affiliated. His cousin was in Gitmo bay and on his release kidnapped Chinese engineers in the FATA region as part of his revenge. He was killed by a Pakistani missile strike. His cousin Baitullah is harder to kill. These guys don’t seem to be involved in any obvious activity in Afghanistan but rather are key in terrorism against Pakistan.

      4. TTP - The Pakistani “Taliban”. Run by Mullah Faazullah, some in law of the TNSM’s Sufi Muhammed. Also known as Mullah FM for his FM radio station he used to broadcast propaganda. He picked up where his father in law left off but became more violent and more extreme. He’s been the real element the Pakistani military has struggled to handle. He has focused on anti Pakistan terrorism and assasination to weaken the tribal structure and the heirarchy in the region. He has killed business leaders, religious scholars, community leaders, tribal leaders, police officers, soldiers, anyone with any power, to install fear into the communities of the region. He claims he wants to see Shariah law re-instated in the region. Also note that Mullah Omar has issued statements saying that the activity of the TTP is not related to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

      The situation

      The Pakistani military has been winning the battles against these groups, however the security forces like the police are so weak in the region (and the rest of the country) that they have not been able to protect the soft targets like the community personalities and the schools and shops etc. The army will move in, militants will move out, they’ll fight pitched battles in the hills, go underground, the army will move on they’ll return and extract revenge on the people.

      A lot of this is possible because they do have a degree of Public support. the TNSM and TTP and Mehsud claim to be fighting for the re-instatement of Shariah in the region, something that was legislated in the 90′s but never signed by a president, not a single one since then.

      Shariah Law

      The aim of the government by re-instating shariah law is to give a lot of the fighters of these groups no reason to fight, ie undermine the credbility of these groups.

      The TNSM has agreed to disarm as part of the deal and help the security forces. The people in general are in support of the deal, as it’s something that they had before, was removed, justice was then hard to get, so they think, these set of laws will help them get justice under the old system.

      The TTP and Mehsud have agreed to a temporary ceasefire to see how it pans out.

      My take on the deal

      I personally think there are positives and negatives to the deal.

      - The people want Shariah as the legal system, they’ve got it.

      - It will bring peace to the region.

      - Anyone who continues to fight will have no public support and will find it hard to get fighters.

      - The Frontier Corp who did the majority of the fighting will finally be upgraded. These is a force that was kept in place simply to put people in employment. They are massively under equipped and under trained. Now the US is providing funds to train them in border control and counter insurgency skills.

      There are a bunch of negatives to it too.

      - The deal has an amnesty for all the crimes commited. I think you’ll end up seeing revenge attacks, the people of the area are not likely to forgive as easily as the government. This is not helped that as part of the effort to ensure security the state is going to arm 30,000 people in the region and train a “security force”.

      - The state appears to have given up. What is to stop someone using the same successful formula elsewhere in Pakistan for the same goal or other goals?

      - Pakistan as a country as created as a homeland for Muslims. A part of that we feel is that our state obeys adn works by the laws of god. Now it appears we are creating a two tier society, one with shariah and one without. Nobody has answered why. It works in Malaysia as they have a large ethnic minority group, we don’t, we’re 95% Muslim, so what’s the deal?

      - What does it say about justice in Pakistan that people are willing to “risk it” in a Shariah court rather than a common law court?

      - The constitution states;

      227. Provisions relating to the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah.
      (1) All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, in this Part referred to as the Injunctions of Islam, and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such Injunctions.

      Where does the bringing in of Shariah courts leave that?

    3. Sukhi — on 27th February, 2009 at 10:22 am  

      Brilliant article. One needs to be more vocal against Talibanisation and just because the US maybe the bad guys, it does not mean they should be allowed to impose what they believe is right.

    4. Sid — on 27th February, 2009 at 11:18 am  

      How is it possible for the actors of a region of Pakistan to confer an extra-constitutional legal system which diminishes the rule of law established by the democratically elected legislative?

      This might be a victory for Taliban-friendly Islamists, but to me, it looks like a milestone on the road to Failed Statehood.

    5. Shamit — on 27th February, 2009 at 11:22 am  

      This might be a victory for Taliban-friendly Islamists, but to me, it looks like a milestone on the road to Failed Statehood.

      Spot on Sid.

      That is why I have always been against talking to these groups unless they accept the rule of law. Talking to groups like this without any political agenda but interest in imposing their way of life on others may make some feel good but in the end it always brings catastrophe.

    6. platinum786 — on 27th February, 2009 at 11:30 am  

      Sid, under the constitution they do have the right to have shariah law.

      No doubt about stepping on the ledge towards failed statehood.

    7. Y Haider — on 27th February, 2009 at 12:09 pm  

      Hi Fereeha g
      Could you please gime name n address of single madrassa who teaches extremism. The reason ISI fighting Taliban half heartedly is for a reason and u know it very well.
      This Islamic law is nofin new for swatis.
      If the long term impact of this deal on Pakistan does not seem promising. Do you have any alternative.

    8. platinum786 — on 27th February, 2009 at 12:21 pm  

      ^^^ Have you not checked your green pages?

      How’s she supposed to give you the numbers, does she sound like she chills at them places….lol

      The reason Pakistan is not 100% against the Taliban is simple. The Taliban are the military force that represent the pukthoon population in Afghanistan. A pukhtoon majority government is a pro Pakistan government. The current government of Afghanistan is full of the Northern Alliance who are anti Pakistan.

      Problem is whilst we play with fire, we’re getting burned.

    9. qidniz — on 27th February, 2009 at 3:13 pm  

      And how many of you starry-eyed idealists believe that girls in Swat will continue to go to school?

    10. Nyrone — on 27th February, 2009 at 3:13 pm  

      Excellent article and great contribution Platinum.

      ‘This might be a victory for Taliban-friendly Islamists, but to me, it looks like a milestone on the road to Failed Statehood.’


    11. platinum786 — on 27th February, 2009 at 4:03 pm  

      Qidniz, believe it or not, the schools are back open. They’ve even got police officers returning. Police officers abandonded their jobs and ran away as the militants were targetting them. They were overwhelemed, majorly under equipped and a symbol of government power, so you’d find a lot of dead police officers.

      How long they remain open, heavens only know. It appears the TNSM is sincere about it’s actions, who knows about Mehsud and the TTP. I don’t think those two will last the course, they’ll start fighting and the only way to defeat them will be to kill them.

      The TNSM is from the older generation of jihadist, who knows the benefit of diplomacy, if yo can consider their tactics of brutality and then ceasefires as diplomacy. People like Mehsud and Fazullah of the TTP are animals, total mercanaries.

      You’ve got to admire the effectiveness of their brutal tactics, it’s got them “what they want” though I think a stronger leader would not have dealt with them. It’s a dangerous precedent.

    12. ashik — on 27th February, 2009 at 7:44 pm  

      Why some posters generalise madrasha education as encouraging extremism is beyond me. Madrashap’s provide an education where the state cannot. They come in all shapes and sizes. They often work on shoestring budgets.

      We should welcome such initiative.

    13. Foxyullah — on 27th February, 2009 at 8:05 pm  

      I just can’t believe this, what we know

      (1) Pakistani was making progress under Mushie, albeit slow and at times painful.

      (2) The Taliban and their pet mullahs are a malign cancer.

      It goes without saying that the Taliban need to be kicked into the dustbin of history, theirfore I’m struggling with the logic of the current pakistani government, what will this move accomplish apart from sowing further seeds of radicalisation.

    14. qidniz — on 27th February, 2009 at 10:17 pm  

      believe it or not, the schools are back open [...] How long they remain open, heavens only know.

      The trajectory isn’t hard to predict here. Curricula systematically stripped of all non-madrasa-like material, except in a special few institutions to which admission will be tightly controlled and whose enrollees will be under threat to conform (which means that a fraction will succeed in escaping Swat for good while the rest will toil away to maintain a crumbling infrastructure.) As for girls, they’re fated to become women, and women according to Q2:223 are tilth, good only for men to plough, so it’s back to the zenana with them.

      The TNSM is from the older generation of jihadist, who knows the benefit of diplomacy, if yo can consider their tactics of brutality and then ceasefires as diplomacy. People like Mehsud and Fazullah of the TTP are animals, total mercanaries.

      Fazlullah is TNSM also, Mehsud is TTP. The only reason these two aren’t at each other’s throats is that they’re at opposite ends of NWFP. Sufi Mohammed’s days are numbered; at some point he will lose his usefulness to his son-in-law.

      Animals? Mercenaries? Brutal tactics? So what? All for the sake of Sharia. Enjoy.

    15. dave bones — on 27th February, 2009 at 11:16 pm  

      The NWFP has always been pretty much Taliban no? Its just spread south a bit, no doubt due to the influx across the border since 2001

    16. sikander — on 28th February, 2009 at 11:46 am  

      If you want to read more about Pakistan, please visit

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