Following in the illustrious footsteps of the Afghan Taliban, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other fundamentalist parties have also undertaken the campaigned destruction across Pakistan. Over 1,000 schools have been destroyed. They have undertaken public punishments, including gruesome torture and amputations that are a throwback to medieval practices. They have bombed the Islamabad International Islamic University, various Shia processions, the Moon Market of Lahore and many other civilian targets. The inquiry of the elected government has implicated the TTP in the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto. They killed the governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and the minister of minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti. They attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009. They have killed countless tribal leaders in the northern areas. For instance, they claimed responsibility for the November 6, 2008 attack that killed 16 tribal elders and injured 31 others in Bajaur. The TTP claimed responsibility for the coordinated strike in Lahore against buildings used by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Manawan Police Training School and the Elite Police Academy. They have killed many NGO workers. For instance, they took responsibility for an attack against the UN’s World Food Programme’s Islamabad office on October 5, 2009. In Lahore, they attacked two mosques of the Ahmadi community in May 2010. On March 8, 2011 they blew up a gas station in Faisalabad that killed at least 32 and injured another 125 innocent people. On April 4, 2011, they attacked a Sufi shrine during the time of the annual urs in Dera Ghazi Khan, killing more than 50 and leaving more than 120 injured. Similarly, they attacked Data Darbar in July 2010, causing mass casualties. They attacked Baba Fareed’s mazar in Pakpattan. And they attacked Rehman Baba’s shrine. They have targeted the homes, families and even the funeral processions of their opponents. The government estimates that more than 37,000 people have been the victims of terrorism in Pakistan (30,000 of these are civilians). Hence, it is clear that religious fundamentalists are in an all-out war with the rest of society.
This extreme brutality has turned the Pakistani public against them. This swing in public opinion had the potential of turning the population against religious fundamentalism in all its manifestations. To counteract this swing, right-wing forces within the Pakistani mainstream media have very successfully convinced large segments of the Pakistani population that these attacks are not being carried out by religious fundamentalists but by the intelligence agencies of India, Israel and the United States. This deliberate confusion has dissipated the energy of the masses that would otherwise have been directed against the religious fundamentalists.
What can we do? Firstly, we have to fight against the confusion created by right-wing forces. Arguments such as: this is America’s war; the Taliban are fighting US occupation and should be supported; opposition to Taliban is an elitist, pro-imperialist, NGOist demand; opposition to the Taliban means opposition to Islam; and let the Americans fight the Taliban to understand that the increasing power of religious fundamentalism implies proportionately decreasing power for the people.
US imperialism or the armed forces of Pakistan are interested only in fighting those religious fundamentalist groups that are no longer under their control. They are not interested in fighting religious fundamentalism as a whole. If they are able to come to an agreement over the spoils of exploitation, they will be at peace with each other as they were during the Cold War.
For the people, it is different. In order to emancipate ourselves, we must confront and defeat religious fundamentalism as a whole. We must recognise that behind the façade of religion are the class interests of tribal heads and jagirdars. We must recognise that behind the façade of fighting US occupation of Afghanistan is a history of collaboration with imperialism. We must recognise that today these forces have become the most important impediment to the emancipation of the people.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2011.
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