Since the turn of the 21st century our region has experienced the emergence and resurgence of religious extremism, specifically Talibanisation. Although the whole country is varyingly affected by the menace, the extremist groups mostly surfaced in northwestern Pakistan and devastated, especially the Pakhtun areas, including Fata, K-P and the Pakhtun part of Balochistan.
The Taliban regime in Afghanistan (1996-2001) has been serving as a model for all contemporary extremist and terrorist groups in northwestern Pakistan. The latter have been craving for the former way of governance rather social control, which was based on naked and unqualified use of force by clerics. An important aspect of religious extremism and Talibanisation in Pakistan is that various such groups a la Afghan Taliban have had militant orientations and have thriven on violence. All these groups can be referred to as strands of political Islam aspiring for establishment of clerical state(s) and regimes. However, they have had a strange political agenda posing a grave threat to the entire society and the state.
In regions and countries where Muslim groups and movements have been struggling to get power some kind of a political narrative has been behind them. However, the Afghan Taliban lacked any coherent political thought and agenda, basically due to the lack of academic tradition among them. The composition of the Taliban reveals they have been entirely rural in orientation and outlook, not well-versed in either worldly or religious disciplines. The writings of Taliban leaders and chief clerics are also few. The only Taliban literature we find is the ‘Rasmi Jareeda’, which used to reproduce various farmans (orders and edicts) of Amir ul Momineen Mulla Omar and Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice or at times the text of radio commentaries or speeches of Taliban leaders. However, the available literature is very thin to know concretely about the political programme of the Taliban.
The Taliban philosophy or agenda, whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan, can be judged from their actions. Here one finds that their greatest emphasis has been on certain punishment for certain acts which they called Hudood laws. These laws have not been codified or based on procedural laws. Under the Taliban we find laws without codification or procedures but it was implemented in certain areas with vigour and for that an office was created called the ministry of vice. In a nutshell under the Taliban no true judicial process was extant. It seems that their ideals were somewhat Islamic but fused with Pashtun tribal traditions and that has been their intellectual wealth in terms of practices. So if one feels that the Taliban’s thought is a Muslim political thought then it is totally incorrect as it is heavily influenced by the tribal traditions of not only Pashtuns but also Arabs. Hence, the Taliban’s political philosophy in one word is ‘imposition’ of tribal and rural values on the population.
An important aspect of Taliban phenomenon in Pakistan is that all their leaders came from modest family and financial backgrounds. This is clearly in contravention of a tenet of classical Muslim political philosophy that the Amir should be from a well-off and intellectually sound background. Apart from the Islamic traditions even the Pashtun traditions were violated because never in the Pakhtun society a cleric had had a central or leadership role, rather the role has always been subservient and of little significance.
In Pakistan there has been one single organ of Taliban that is the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The TTP has been composed of groups from different areas led by disparate groups of clerics having their respective central figure dictating the group and followers. Though these leaders formed the TTP, they have been unable to evolve a unified set of objectives or a political philosophy. In absence of a vivid political or any political philosophy it is hard to know what kind of state(s) they want to create by implementing their respective laws.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2018.