Logic of Taliban supporters: Time to deconstruct some myths and arguments

  • Friends of Taliban in Pakistani media and politics, as well as their agents on the internet (i.e. Hizbut Tahrir mafia), offer various forms of skewed logic in order to either hide, disown, distort or justify various acts of terrorism by Taliban and their affiliate jihadi and sectarian organisations. LUBP has compiled in this featured piece a number of articles and discussions which may be extremely useful in understanding and confronting the Taliban apologists’ strategy. Happy reading!

    Some candour, please

    Saturday, May 02, 2009

    By Babar Sattar

    The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad. He is a Rhodes scholar and has an LL.M from Harvard Law School

    Argument 1: Pakistan is fighting an alien war

    Those propagating a policy of pusillanimity and appeasement toward the Taliban make at least two flawed arguments. One, that Pakistan is fighting an alien war in FATA as a mercenary of the United States and the drone attacks and the hatred against US imperialistic agenda somehow justifies the Taliban insurgency against the state and people of Pakistan. Instead of fighting ‘our own people’ to please the US, we must negotiate with them and stand together against imperialists. Two, where there is popular local support for a political agenda, the army cannot attack such agenda or those articulating and promoting it. Thus, it is fine for the state and the army to act as a neutral arbiter when it comes to a disagreement between the Taliban and the rest of the citizens of Swat or Buner for example, and act as a facilitator to promote reconciliation between the Taliban (as the dominant local group) and the state through peace deals.

    Hatred for the US

    Let us address our hatred for the US first. There are two sets of truths that fuel this hatred. One, that the US has pursued a shamelessly selfish foreign policy that is bereft of principles. And two, our successive political and military elites have not had the spine to enunciate a policy that squarely focuses on promoting and protecting Pakistan’s national interest where such approach might be at odds with the US foreign agenda. Together, these truths leave the people of Pakistan indignant, and the slavish disposition of incumbent rulers toward the US shames and angers us by exposing the gulf between our self-perception as a sovereign people and our reality of being led by a self-serving elite beholden to foreign masters.

    It is understandable that there is some cheering and support for anyone who takes on a bully. We saw that during the first Gulf war when many in Pakistan (and in the Muslim world more generally) rooted for Saddam Hussain and Iraq, despite the fact that Saddam’s Iraq had never been a friend to Pakistan. Similarly the Hugo Chavez ‘the-devil-was-just-here’ speech against George Bush in the UN a couple of years back attracted loud cheers from all around. But amidst this understandable opposition to US foreign policy, must we cut our nose to spite the face when it comes to the Taliban and their insurgency within Pakistan? That the Taliban have couched their domestic political agenda in anti-American terms and a majority of Pakistanis are angry with the US for its drone attacks and resentful over its foolishly apparent stick-and-carrot policy doesn’t automatically align the interests of a majority of Pakistanis with those of the Taliban.

    It is indeed marvellous that even people like Imran Khan (forget Jamat-e-Islami) are oblivious to the fact that in their opposition to the US agenda they have emerged as apologists for the Taliban. We must not act against the Taliban because the US wants us to. But we must neither underplay the genuine threat posed by creeping Talibanization to democracy, civil liberties and constitutionalism in Pakistan, nor embrace the Taliban in order to spite the US. There is no need to root our national agenda in anti-Americanism. So long as we are committed to upholding and implementing the Constitution across the four corners of Pakistan, opposition to both, drone attacks and the Taliban-leashed barbarism creates no paradox.

    Argument 2: The state and army must not fight its own people.

    The second argument supporting inaction against the Taliban concludes that the state and the army must not fight its own people by making two subtle assumptions. One, the Taliban and those that they wish to impose their edicts over are in the middle of a political disagreement and the state and the army should not take sides. Two, the state should never use coercion or violence against its own people irrespective of their actions. Both these assumptions are misconceived. Let us remind ourselves that the Taliban are a product of Pakistan’s Afghan policy. The state created, supported and sustained madressas that propagated a brand of religious ideology that encouraged non-state actors to become agents of violence under the banner of jihad. The leaders of such madressas also had a penchant for a medieval society that shuns modernity and all things associated with the west.

    The jihadi project didn’t only create mercenaries driven by religious zeal, but also imbibed them with the ancillary objective of creating a backward society once the jihad against infidels succeeds. The state cared little about such collateral effect of a deliberate state policy to recruit jihadis to promote its geo-strategic interests. Unfortunately, the more esoteric calling of the militants – of creating an obscurantist society – has now merged with the primary objective of fighting the infidels, as they see the rest of Pakistan as one big agent of the infidels. It is then farcical for the state to act as if we are witnessing a difference of agreement between different political groups in Swat, Buner, Dir and FATA that needs to be sorted out by these groups themselves. The state destroyed the level playing field between citizen groups when it transformed one group into professional merchants of violence.

    To sit back and watch citizens with opposing points of view stake it out and develop a consensus in the tribal belt simply amounts to allowing the Taliban to make minced meat out of those opposed to their agenda and diktat. The state led by the army created this Frankenstein and it now shoulders the responsibility of confronting and neutralizing it. It is also incorrect that the state never uses violence against citizens. The state monopolizes the means of violence and uses it on an everyday basis against those who do not abide by the compact between the citizen and the state. We call it the penal justice system. Militant groups slaughtering fellow citizens, annexing their property and robbing them of their fundamental rights and liberties might be culpable of a higher crime against the state itself, but they are also guilty of murder, homicide, robbery, extortion etc. as defined by our justice system.

    We cannot amuse and appease militant groups

    As a matter of principle, we cannot appease and humour them in the name of peace and reconciliation just because enforcing the law is harder against this group of citizens in comparison to other criminals across Pakistan that are less organized and trained. Pakistan has been ambivalent about extending constitutional rights and obligations to the people of the tribal areas merely because we got comfortable with the colonial legacy and bought into the logic of not trying to fix what is not broken. Notwithstanding the past, now that the tribal belt is up in flames we have no option but to bring it within the realm of the Constitution. Would allowing Sufi Mohammad and the Taliban to run a system of governance that falls foul of our Constitutional structure and principles not amount to the state facilitating its own balkanization? If such separatism is acceptable in Swat, then why not in Balochistan and Sindh where people have been similarly disgruntled with the state?

    There is urgent need to inject honesty and candour in our discourse on the Taliban. Let’s admit that the Taliban are not barbaric because the US is bad. The Taliban are barbaric because they believe in a brutish approach to life and religion. If the US was to stop drone attacks in Pakistan or even quit Afghanistan, Muslim Khan is unlikely to go back to painting houses. The Taliban must be dealt with urgently and resolutely as an existential problem that is questioning and threatening the foundational principles on which our country is founded.

    Politicians must give up double speak

    Further, our politicos must give up double-speak. Let the PML-N say that it fears speaking against the Taliban because who knows they might prevail tomorrow and so this centre-right party wishes to keep its options open. Let the ANP plainly state that they had ‘no option’ but to surrender their writ to the Taliban because of the dithering resolve of the army to fight armed militias in their province. And let the PPP acknowledge that in trying to second-guess what every other power broker wants from Pakistan, this mainstream liberal party has lost all ability to support a thought-process of its own.

    The Pakistan Army

    The Pakistan Army’s will and capability to confront the Taliban is under question because the masters of our security doctrine are confused about the future role and utility of the Taliban. The lack of capability of the army to fight a guerrilla war in the tribal areas is predominantly a consequence of lack of will to develop such a capability. Unless there is frank admission that the Afghan policy of the 1980 and 90s and the jihadi project conceived as a result was flawed and has had terrible consequences for Pakistan, the approach toward confronting Taliban will continue to be of the ineffectual fire-fighting variety that we have witnessed in Bajaur, Kohat, Swat, Dir and Buner over the last year or so. Once the army reformulates its defence doctrine wherein (i) Afghanistan is no longer a strategic hinterland but a friendly neighbour that should have a sustainable government representing the plural Afghan society, and (ii) jihadis have no further role in promoting Pakistani state’s geo-strategic interests, the need to keep options open with the Taliban will automatically subside. Only then will we begin to meaningfully address the root-causes of religious intolerance and violence in our society.

    Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu (The News, 2 May 2009)


    A cobweb of myths

    Dr Tariq Rahman

    NOW that a military operation is going on in the Malakand Division it is imperative that it should be supported by the people and that the IDPs should be looked after with all resources at hand and be treated with compassion and respect.

    Unfortunately, we have many myths and conspiracy theories which prevent clear thinking and that need to be debunked.

    Myth 1: America wants our nuclear weapons and is destabilising Pakistan through the Taliban.

    This myth is dangerous because those who subscribe to it also believe that America pays the Taliban to destabilise Pakistan to create an excuse to take away our nuclear weapons. This makes it difficult for the government to fight the Taliban while accepting American aid as the whole thing seems to be a cruel hoax to ordinary Pakistanis.

    The US has over 5,400 nuclear warheads and it is thousands of kilometres away from this country. Moreover, it allowed Pakistan to develop these weapons. America would not gain if Pakistan is destabilised because then Al Qaeda would be strengthened and that would threaten America.

    During the 1971 war America warned India not to overrun (West) Pakistan because it was not in America’s interest to destabilise South Asia any further. In 1999 during the Kargil episode America helped Pakistan to cut its losses without further bloodshed.

    During the Afghan war the US wanted to defeat the Soviet Union and paid Pakistan to do so. Pakistan helped because it needed the military aid and money (and Ziaul Haq wanted American support). And now, once again, America wants to defeat the Islamic militants because they threaten America and Pakistan needs the money. That is what the Kerry-Lugar bill is for and that is precisely why the IMF and the Friends of Pakistan consortium have lent Pakistan billions of dollars. It is not in America’s interest to destabilise Pakistanbecause if it breaks up or is Talibanised it will be a threat to America.

    So, while America’s policies might not be the most productive, it makes no sense to claim that the Taliban are US agents in a conspiracy against our nuclear weapons.

    Myth 2: Nothing gets done in Pakistan unless America wants it to happen.

    This is a different version of the previous myth and it is not true. No country is so powerful that it can get everything done. Pakistan made friends with communist China againstAmerica’s wishes. Later, it was the US which sought American help to develop its own relations with China. Pakistan also developed nuclear weapons against American wishes. During the lawyers’ movement America was a supporter of Musharraf until he turned weak and it was no longer in America’s interest to support him.

    Myth 3: The Taliban want Islam in the country but their approach is wrong.

    This depends on personal interpretations of the Sharia. The Taliban want to impose their version of it. However, it is not only a matter of approach, it is also a matter of the interpretation of the Sharia. In fact the Taliban version of the Sharia would make life joyless for all and a torture for women. Secondly, the country would lose a pool of talent to other countries. Thirdly, productivity would decrease as Pakistan would be isolated.

    Fourthly, science and technology, indeed all knowledge, would suffer as creative minds would be stifled in an atmosphere of fear. Fifthly, either the US or India or Iran would be so alarmed as to attack us or stop all foreign aid to us because such a regime would be a threat to their way of life and religious practices. Lastly, the Taliban is a name for disparate groups and gangs. They would fight for power, making us another Afghanistan.

    Myth 4: If Nato forces withdraw from Afghanistan there will be peace.

    Nato forces should withdraw from Afghanistan as a matter of principle but this will not end Talibanisation. Indeed, if Nato forces withdraw, parts of Afghanistan will be ruled by the Taliban once again. If Pakistan sides with them it will be isolated by the rest of the world. If it does not, it will have a hostile neighbour. In either case the Taliban worldview will be strengthened in Pakistan.

    The groups seeking power in order to enforce Taliban-style Sharia in Pakistan will continue their attempt to succeed. This will mean that the danger to girls’ schools, women’s freedom of choice in moving around, dress code, art and music will remain under threat.

    However, in addition to the principle that one does not want any country to occupy another, one would want America to withdraw since the occupation creates a backlash. So, even at the risk of strengthening the Talibanisation of the Pashto-speaking areas our government and thinkers should raise their voice for a Nato withdrawal. When this happensPakistan will find it easier to fight the Taliban because Pakistanis will stop calling it an anti-colonial war.

    Myth 5: Islamic militancy is created by poverty and ignorance.

    This is only partly true. The family background of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musaib al-Zarqawi (killed in 2006) — all leading lights of Islamic militancy — cannot be called a poverty-stricken one. Osama’s family is among the richest globally. Zawahiri comes from a distinguished Egyptian family. Zarqawi’s father was an army officer and mayor of a town in Jordan called Zarqa.

    Nor is the leadership illiterate. All were educated though not in the liberal arts or the social sciences. The fact is that their ideas about using militancy to defeat what is perceived as western domination (called ‘Crusaders’ by them) and the corrupt ruling elites of the Muslim world emanate from Sayyid Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood and Abd al-Salam Faraj of Egypt. Indeed, they go back to Taqi Uddin Ibu Taymiyya (1263-1328) who lived during the tumultuous time of the Mongol invasions.

    The leadership disseminates ideas about the permanent grievances of Muslims, such asIsrael’s domination of Palestinian land, to young people who burn with a sense of outrage. Here the poverty nexus does come in since the ordinary rank and file of militant movements come from poor, unhappy, violence-prone households. They want money, respect and justice and these are promised to these deprived angry young men. They then become cannon fodder for the militants.

    If we understand these and other myths and realise that we have created our own Frankensteins and not foreign countries; that most of the militants are our people and not foreigners (though some are); that foreign countries may help militants but are not powerful enough to keep them alive for ever; that we made mistakes in the past of which we are reaping the harvest — then we can still make Pakistan safe for our children. (Dawn, 14 May 2009)

    Source: http://criticalppp.org/lubp/archives/1944

  • Assalam-o-Alaikum-Warahmat-ULLAH ALL,

    Legal trickery won't get you anywhere. People will remain unsatisfied as long as injustice continues.

    I accept the way Gen. (R) Mirza Aslam Baig describes 'Pakistani Taliban'. He's right about them;

    They are local criminals, who have 'attempted' to 'raise' their not-so-deserving reputation by 'voluntarily' adopting the name 'Taliban'.

    People of FATA would have destroyed 'Pakistani Taliban' long ago, if Govt. of Pakistan wouldn't have committed treason against them, by;

    • colluding with US on drone attacks

    • becomming US's foremost partner in 'war on terror'

    Tribal people are efficient in killing traitors than the 'civilized' world.

  • hizbul tahir mafia and the taliban are all trojan horses of the west. They are both financed by Anti Pakistan forces and are working on a agenda to destroy this beautiful country.

  • Assalam-o-Alaikum-Warahmat-ULLAH ALL,

    Actually, its not Taliban who are being financed by anti-Pakistan forces, it is the people who use the guise of 'Taliban' who are being financed by them.

  • @hariskhan

    Pls go through the original post :)))

  • Assalam-o-Alaikum-Warahmat-ULLAH ALL,

    I'm doing that. That is why I put up a small response as my first response on this thread.

  • @hariskhan

    You started posting comments without even reading the original post :))))

  • Assalam-o-Alaikum-Warahmat-ULLAH ALL,

    I read the first paragraph, and the arguments headings. They were sufficient enough for me to get the general idea.

    I understand what would follow in the details.

    But .. I'm reading it now.

  • "Actually, its not Taliban who are being financed by anti-Pakistan forces, it is the people who use the guise of 'Taliban' who are being financed by them. "

    @Hariskhan, these are all semantics invented by those who support taliban. Doesn't matter if anybody is under guise of taliban or not, what matters is that this group (no matter what it calls itself) is supported by mullah gang and other right wing elements which is why they want to negotiate with these groups "under guise of taliban".

  • Friends of Taliban vs Friends of Busharraf (equally dangerous for common pakistani)

  • @LetsDoIt

    Wat do you mean by 'Friends of Busharraf' ?

    Do U mean anyone opposing Taliban basta*ds should be termed as 'Friends of Busharraf' ????

  • Assalam-o-Alaikum-Warahmat-ULLAH ALL,

    @Wahid Doyum: You stand for indiscriminate killing.

    That is not what Islam teaches us. As long as you drag that line, I consider you to be a non-Muslim propagandist.

  • @ Red-Scorpion

    I am clear my dear and even you know that. I am against the double standards. Pakistanis are under attack both by Taliban and Busharraf forces, both are killing innocents but one group only criticizes Taliban and dont let any one even mention blackwater/Xe etc and the other group is only criticizing US and not correcting themselves and majority of Pakistanis are victims of both of these groups which are in minority.

  • Wrong hariskhan, you stand for indiscriminate killing and then negotiation with the killers.

    I stand for targeted killing of terrorists who fail to follow even basic rules of Islam or humanity. And your takfiri ideology is open for all to see.

  • As this thread is about taliban, having marked religious overtones therefore being moved to 'faith and religion'.

    Discuss 'takfeeri ideology' under 'faith and religion' a most suitied section.