Looming Shadows: Himal on Taliban

Raza Rumi

Himal Southasia’s current issue has published incisive, chilling articles on what is happening in the northwestern frontier province and elsewhere in Pakistan. The reporting is fabulous and the voice far more grounded and reasoned than the shrill of agenda-laden western press. I am posting the opening paragraphs with links for readers to follow. Not-so-happy reading.

The Taliban primer
By: Rahimullah Yusufzai

SABIR NAZAR, “khawaja khizr”

Unravelling the Taliban phenomenon has never been easy, but it has undoubtedly become more complex with the rise of the Pakistani Taliban in 2003, making it necessary to differentiate this group from the Afghan Taliban. The former constituted the ‘original’ Taliban, militants who captured power in Afghanistan against heavy odds in 1996 by fighting and defeating the mujahideen who had earlier waged jihad, or holy war, to oust the Soviets. But members of the Afghan Taliban have been vigilant, regrouping after the ouster of their regime in Afghanistan in December 2001 as a result of the post-11 September 2001 invasion by the US. Indeed, militants with the Afghan Taliban are now resurgent, and pose a tough challenge to troops from 41 NATO and non-NATO countries, including the US, United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Those now considered Pakistani Taliban, drawing inspiration from their Afghan, Pashto-speaking, counterparts, have fought the Pakistan Army and brought it to a standstill in some of the tribal areas such as South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Bajaur, Mohmand and Darra Adamkhel as well as Swat district. The militants have established their influence in a wide swath of territory bordering Afghanistan, and have forced the Pakistan government to sign lopsided peace treaties with them. However, the Pakistani Taliban did not enjoy the kind of public support that the Afghan Taliban did, due to the simple fact that the latter group has been resisting US-led foreign forces occupying its homeland. Blame is heaped on the Pakistani Taliban militants, on the other hand, for destabilising their country and fighting their own soldiers.

The establishment of a Taliban emirate
By: Kamran Arif

All photos by Kamran Arif

Under the terms of the latest ‘peace deal’ in the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA), the militants have gained everything and the government nothing.

The Swat Valley has been in the news since early 2007, when a group of militants that we now call the ‘Swat Taliban’ began to succeed in taking over parts of the district by force. When their activities could no longer be ignored a military operation was launched, though it soon became painfully apparent that the militants were more than a match for the Pakistani troops. The sheer brutality of their tactics – including public executions, beheadings and open displays of butchered corpses – convinced most people that the Swat Taliban were not merely a few ‘misguided’ residents of Swat, waging a war for the imposition of Sharia. Rather, these were battle-hardened fighters with links to extremist organisations in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Afghanistan and perhaps even beyond.

Mullah Radio
By: Manzoor Ali

By using illegal FM radio broadcasts, militants in Pakistan are gaining the stature of a parallel government.

David Swanson

Here is a brief sample of a typical radio broadcast given recently by Maulana Shah Doran, a cleric who has risen to fame for his fiery transmissions in the Swat Valley: “I was coming to meet you people, but the infidels” – the army, police, politicians – “were there, so I cancelled my plans to visit the village of Shamozai Zarkhela. These infidels are opposing Sharia, and I say that if they do not implement it, we will enforce it on our own … they should be torn to pieces instead of being beheaded.”

Residents estimate that the militancy that is currently plaguing the valley owes some 90 percent of its strength to a single illegal FM radio station – the same that now broadcasts Maulana Shah Doran – set up by a local cleric in 2006. The story starts back in 1994, when Maulana Sufi Mohammad, the head of the Tehrek-e-Nifaz-

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5 Comments

Filed under Pakistan

5 responses to “Looming Shadows: Himal on Taliban

  1. Chris Hayes

    It is stunning the state never blocked the radio station. FM transmissions are extremly easy to block, to the extent it happens all the time accidentally. Really either the action was deliberate or the army signals guys were simply incompetent.

  2. Chris Hayes

    But on the plus side it emphasises the small numbers involved. Iran had a revolution due to a combination of opposition groups uniting. Such an event, perhaps massive simultaneous attacks accross Pakistan encouraging widespread desertion and mutiny in army ranks, is highly unlikely and very remote. More likely is constant misery and depressed prospects for the country with the insurgents playing a long game of trying to win through Islamic infiltration and the state looking to again hive off friendly insurgents that can be effective paramilitaries (as in Kashmir) to secure its borders and harass its enemies (who will be endevering to ensure its human weapons backfire onto Pakistan, generate lots of bad press, affect its credit with America and perhaps if its Iran look to help Shia get one over on the Sunni).
    Sucks to be a citizen in the middle though.

  3. @Chris – The situation in western Pakistan is pretty fluid. Things are not exactly what it seems. There are major internal players pushing the conflict in that region. The fire that the military establishment started is coming back to haunt them back home.

    For more discussion on this, you can email me directly at znt2002@gmail.com

  4. Milind Kher

    The overall picture looks grim. What compounds it is the painful fact that many of those who are economically and educationally not so well off look at the Taliban as saviors.

    Whatever action has to be taken will have to be taken fast, else this could morph into a popular movement.

  5. bir san

    I agree with the fluildaity of situation in Pakistan and tribal areas of Pakistan.I am jat sikh whose grandparents were from pakistan in administrative services and moved to india after partition.My grandfather ever longed to see his ancesterol village and talked fondly of those days in Pakistan.My appeal to so called pakistani taliban or afghanistan taliban is to find a solution to ongoing problem.DONOT make aid money as a source of income and for gods sake( may be allah/jesus/or gurunanak)think of next generation of children growing up in the war hysteria of vengence and self interest.Parental love is the same in pakistani /pushtoon/punjabi or non pushtoon,have mercy on next generation of flowering buds we call as our children.