Just when it seems that the Taliban could not possibly become any more inhumane, they manage to one-up themselves. On August 7, a Taliban group based in Badghis province publicly flogged and executed a pregnant woman for having an affair. News reports say that the woman was flogged 200 times and then shot in the head thrice. The Taliban also took responsibility for the murder of 10 foreign aid workers, accusing them of preaching Christianity in Afghanistan. These incidents should shock the conscience and cause a rethink among those who still maintain that the Taliban are solely an insurgent group fighting a foreign occupier. The Taliban have repeatedly shown that they are unwilling to tolerate any dissent from their worldview and anyone who dares to challenge their warped sense of morality will be dealt with cruelly and ruthlessly.
The US, in a tacit admission of defeat, is scheduled to begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan next year. Once they leave the country, the American responsibility in Afghanistan doesn’t end. Through aid, economic assistance and vociferous support, the US needs to do all they can to bolster anti-Taliban forces in the country. The Afghan government, meanwhile, has to regain control of the country. Badghis province is theoretically not ruled by the Taliban. But their power and influence in the area is so great that, as the shooting of the pregnant woman showed, they have managed to set up a parallel justice system.
Above all, Pakistan needs to pick a side in this war. The government has always made a distinction between the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban. The two groups may only be loosely connected and have different geo-strategic aims, but their notions of ‘justice’ are identical. If this is the kind of behaviour Pakistan is supporting and financing, as has recently been alleged, then it must end now.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2010.