Where the Taliban are really winning

Published: June 27, 2010
The writer is head of the BBC Urdu Service (aamer.khan@tribune.com.pk)

The writer is head of the BBC Urdu Service (aamer.khan@tribune.com.pk)

If you take an overview of suicide bombings and attacks in Pakistan over the last year and a half, there have been some truly horrific months. This is especially so for Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan and Lahore which have emerged as three of the most dangerous districts in Pakistan given the frequency with which they have been attacked by the Taliban dogs of war.

Perhaps it is the ferocity with which they strike, or their daring, or maybe we have seen too much of it, that our alarm at what the Taliban are doing in Pakistan seems to have become tied to the frequency of such attacks. When they go up, we start talking about terrorism. When there is a lull, we let our incredulity slip into suspension when the likes of Rehman Malik say their anti-terror efforts are bearing fruit.

Perhaps we need to think some more. Bad as they may be, direct attacks by the Taliban on mainland Pakistan are neither an accurate measure of their power nor a true insight to how well entrenched they are. For that, we may have to take a closer look at some stuff that doesn’t really make the news. For example, a recent statement from the minister responsible for jails in Sindh saying that he doesn’t fear extremists and will soon restart music classes for prisoners in the Karachi Central Jail.

A few months ago, “religious extremists” among the prisoners objected to music classes, there was a brawl and they ended up smashing four keyboards, guitars, a harmonium and a set of tablas.

In recent weeks, many of my colleagues have been looking at the overall state of our criminal justice system. Terror suspects, it seems, get special treatment in jail. One religious group or the other is always around to look after their needs, they rarely have to eat the food prepared for other inmates, often have access to cell phones, forcefully preach their doctrine to others and are often not bound by jail discipline.

Prisoners envy them for their privileged status and believe the authorities are too scared to bring such people to heel. While many under trial prisoners languish in jails for years pending a decision of their case, trials of suspected extremists are “fast-tracked” under anti-terror laws and are invariably let off as the police fails to establish its case in most instances. Where the police may have a case, accomplices of suspects carry out daring daylight raids to wrest their colleagues away. Many are never even tried for behaviour that in any civilised society would amount to a crime against the state. Does anyone know what happened to the Lal Masjid girls and their mentor Umme Hasaan? Apparently, all are at large going from strength to strength, opening new madrassahs while compiling fantasmagorical annals of the sacrifices of Ghazi Abdur Rasheed Shaheed.

Outside the jails, deep rooted ideological confusion over what the Taliban are fighting for has helped extremists more than any Osama or Zawahiri ever can. I heard an educated and influential lady describe Baitullah Mehsud as “poor Baitullah” while venting her spleen on US drone strikes. Ali Azmat wants a caliphate, but is he really alone in that desire? Just ask our galaxy of religious visionaries who have in recent years earned country-wide fame for hosting programmes that perpetuate such confusion.

The state is faring no better. The federal government says 17 extremist organisations are operating and collecting funds across Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and politically powerful province. But the provincial government says the Punjabi Taliban is merely a word coined by the media.

It matters little if the combined might of the Pakistan army, the CIA’s resources and US military technology can take out a few Taliban groups in the tribal areas. As long as the Taliban ideology continues to drive confusion and command the privileges that it does in Pakistan’s urban centres, they are winning — suicide bombings or no suicide bombings.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th,2010.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Jun 27, 2010 - 2:30AM

    We are a stubborn lot. After years of violence and death, we are still mesmerized by the notion of some grand Islamic Caliphate, or a militaristic Pakistan battling infidels and spreading Islam. Its a vision fuelled by hate and contempt and a degree of playing the victim. So in our minds we sympathise with all those who situate themselves as warriors against our common “enemies”. We rout for them, but in doing so lay the foundations for another cycle of violence. The Taliban and their likes have already won! We might destroy their hideouts, but the ideals remain. Its just a matter of time before a new group, eulogizing martyrdom form to take on the powers to be.

    We can then return to our default position. Head in the sand, blame RAW-Mossad-CIA for all our troubles and the cycle of violence continues. Recommend

  • Jun 27, 2010 - 2:42AM

    There seems to be no cure for the religous bigotry that typifies our society.We are highly self-righteous,closedminded,rigid in our beliefs and highly dismissive of our minorities.We question the loyalty of our Hindu nationals on account of India,the Christians on account of the West.The minorities live like secondclass citizens not only due to the public’s attitudes & behaviour but also due to institutionalized discrimination in our laws & constitution.All ppl aren’t born equal in the state of pakistan.The minorities by birth are deemed inferior for a baby born to a minority couple can by law not become the president of this country.Recommend

  • faraz
    Jun 27, 2010 - 3:02AM

    The army has created this pseudo ideological concept of “Citadel of Islam” only to justify its large share in the nation’s resources. Recommend

  • Enam Hasan
    Jun 27, 2010 - 5:00AM

    True. They are winning here and there and they will everywhere – finally. Because we are not out there to stop them. Because we rely on boots only, not our own strength of protest.
    This country is already gone to dogs, all of us should see that now.Recommend

  • Jhanzeb
    Jun 27, 2010 - 12:10PM

    in my view our cruel policies for mainly responsible to create talibnainzation in our mind. when there is no job and injustice in the country then how it possible to recover these circumstances. out Govt should make friendly Pakisntani people policies for the wining of this battle against these curel Pakistani TailbanRecommend

  • Rehan Ali
    Jun 27, 2010 - 12:27PM

    When the Jews talk about Jewish nation its considered a universal truth. When Muslims do its extremism, bigotry etc etc. The Taliban are winning not because of their doctrine but because American Drones have less than 5% accuracy and rest of the times they Kill innocent Wazirs or Mehsuds. Recommend

  • Amna Zaman
    Sep 16, 2010 - 3:08PM

    In the mindset, induced is hatred and various forms of intolerance elements. They play with minds of youth where they find victory.Recommend

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