Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Taliban Phenomenon - 5

Bint Waleed wrote:

Tariq Ali, Chomsky et al, may be atheists and secularists but they are somewhat objective and fair in their observation and judgment; they call spade a spade.

Tarek Fatah wrote:

When Tariq Ali and Qazi Hussain sing from the same hymn book, it should be distressful to any one who has any understanding of the Islamist agenda.


Dear Ms. Bint Waleed,

Which statement of Tariq Ali regarding Taliban and Islamists is to be taken seriously the one which you and Mr Kaukab Siddique quote or the one which I am quoting from his own website [NEW LEFT REVIEW] ! The article was written in 2000 by the same Tariq Ali whose critique is now objective, fair and as per you they call spade a spade and closer to the reality?!!!!



Ahmed Rashid’s book is the first credible account of the rise to power of the Taliban. The author is a courageous Pakistani journalist who has been reporting from Afghanistan since 1978, and refused to be intimidated or suborned in his pursuit of truths inconvenient to the powers that be. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the de facto alliance of states that had backed different factions of the mujaheddin soon fell apart. Islamabad did not want any broad government of reconstruction, preferring—with US and Saudi support—to impose its own pawn, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, on the country. The result was a series of vicious civil wars, punctuated by unstable cease-fires, as Hazaras (backed by Iran), Ahmed Shah Masud (backed by France), and the Uzbek general Dostum (backed by Russia) resisted. When it became obvious that Hekmatyar’s forces were incapable of defeating these foes, the Pakistan Army shifted its backing to the students it had been training in religious schools in the North-West Frontier since 1980, where the alphabet consisted of jeem for jihad, kaaf for kalashnikov and tay for tope (cannon). By 1992 the Chief Minister of the North-West Frontier Province could remark that the juvenile fanatics in the madrassahs might or might not ‘liberate’ Afghanistan, but they would certainly destabilize what was left of Pakistan.

The Taliban were orphans of the war against the Russian infidel. Trained and dispatched across the border by the ISI, they were to be hurled into battle against Muslims they were told were not true Muslims. Rashid captures their outlook vividly: ‘These boys were a world apart from the Mujaheddin whom I had got to know during the 1980s—men who could recount their tribal and clan lineages, remembered their abandoned farms and valleys with nostalgia and recounted legends and stories from Afghan history. These boys were from a generation who had never seen their country at peace. They had no memories of their tribes, their elders, their neighbours nor the complex ethnic mix of peoples that was their homeland. They admired war because it was the only occupation they could possibly adapt to. Their simple belief in a messianic, puritan Islam was the only prop they could hold onto and which gave their lives some meaning.’ This deracinated fanaticism—a kind of bleak Islamic cosmopolitanism—made the Taliban a more effective fighting force than any of their localized adversaries. Although Pushtun in origin, the Taliban leaders could be sure their young soldiers would not succumb to the divisive lure of ethnic or tribal loyalties, of which even the Afghan left had found it difficult to rid itself. When they began their sweep from the frontier, a war-weary population often greeted them with an element of relief: citizens in the larger towns had lost faith in all the other forces that had been battling at the expense of civilian life since the Soviet departure.

If the Taliban had simply offered peace and bread, they might have won lasting popular support. Soon, however, the character of the regime they were bent on imposing became clear to the bewildered population. Women were banned from working, collecting their children from school and, in some cities, even from shopping: effectively, they were confined to their homes. Girls’ schools were closed down. The Taliban had been taught in their madrassahs to steer clear of the temptation of women—male brotherhood was a condition of tight military discipline. Puritanism extended to repression of sexual expression of any kind; although this was a region where homosexual practices had been common for centuries, recruits guilty of the ‘crime’ were executed by the Taliban commanders. Outside their ranks, dissent of any sort was brutally crushed with a reign of terror unmatched by any preceding regime. The Taliban creed is a variant of the Deobandi Islam professed by a sectarian strain in Pakistan—more extreme even than Wahabbism, since not even the Saudi rulers have deprived half their population of all civic rights in the name of the Koran. The severity of the Afghan mullahs has been denounced by Sunni clerics at al-Azhar in Cairo and Shiite theologians in Qom as a disgrace to the Prophet.

Rashid makes clear that the Taliban could not have swept aross Afghanistan without the military and financial backing of Islamabad, sustained in turn by Washington. The top Taliban commander Mullah Omar, today the one-eyed ruler of Kabul (and bin Laden’s father-in-law), was long on the direct payroll of the Pakistani regime. The conquest of power, however, has had an intoxicating impact on the Afghan zealots. The Taliban have their own goal for the region—a Federation of Islamic Republics that would enforce a pax Talibana from Samarkand to Karachi. They now control sufficient revenues from the heroin trade to fund their land campaigns. But they want access to the sea and have made no secret of their belief that Pakistan with its nuclear arms will fall to them one day. They know they enjoy strong support at the lowest and highest levels of the Pakistan Army. Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz, Chief of the General Staff, and Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmed, the Director of the ISI, the two senior commanders who currently flank Pakistan’s more secular-minded military dictator, Pervaiz Musharraf, are well-known for their Taliban sympathies. The sad and squalid story of the wreckage of Afghanistan is told well by Cooley and Rashid, but the tragedy is far from over.

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