Tag Archives: Talibanisation

Pakistan’s South Punjab: politics of marginalisation

Raza Rumi

The discourse on South Punjab conceals the grassroots social movements and the clamouring for a linguistic identity in the region

The conundrum of South Punjab remains a major challenge for analysts, policy makers and above all the people of this marginalized region. Socio-economic data testifies to the impoverishment and the deprivation that exists in the region. Add to this the iniquitous land distribution and utter lack of economic opportunities for the local population. Despite the rhetoric of the establishment, the region has been neglected through decades of “modern” development in northern and central Punjab. The bulk of public resources were invested in Lahore, Rawalpindi and other urban centers of the North. Industrialisation, growth of private education facilities and the rise of the middle class are phenomena that have eluded the dusty environs of South Punjab.

The result is clear: the electoral patterns show support for redistributive agendas and which are deemed as pro-peasantry. In recent years, southern Punjab has also witnessed two conflictual yet interrelated trends. First, the rise of Islamism through a network of sectarian madrassas which train militants and mercenaries alike; and scattered yet influential social movements around the issues of linguistic identity and livelihoods. How does one make sense of these contradictions?
It is well known that the Wahhabi-Salafi ideologies backed by potent financing networks have played a major role in turning this impoverished region into a nursery for militant Islamism that targets the plural Sufi culture embedded in the cultural mores of the local inhabitants; and act as a bastion for the Taliban network across the country. There is insurmountable evidence to this effect and those who are not willing to confront this brutal reality are living in a state of denial. Since the Zia years, the state is no longer a neutral arbiter and it promotes a particular brand of Islamic ideology. It is also clear that a sophisticated regime of economic incentives addresses lack of public entitlements and a non-responsive state apparatus.

However, we have also witnessed that the peasants in Okara and Khanewal have valiantly resisted appropriation of land by security agencies and have set a momentum of challenging the state’s land policy. Similarly, issues related to water distribution and resettlement due to mega projects sponsored by International Financial Institutions (IFIs), have also come into public light due to the political mobilization that has been taking place in D G Khan, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and elsewhere. It is a separate matter that such stories do not receive adequate attention in the media which is owned by rich, powerful barons whose interests are integrally linked to an extractive state. As pointed by a leading activist, Mushtaq Gadi, the discourse on South Punjab willfully ignores the authentic voices from the grassroots that revolve around livelihood struggles and the quest for a regional identity.

Another dimension of the regional turmoil pertains to the growing movement for linguistic identity. The Saraiki language and its submerged identity is now a rallying point for most living in the southern most districts of the region. This movement for cultural expression has gained momentum with increased calls for a separate province and the fact that the disputed status of Bahawalpur State has been raised by politicians from the region is a case in point. The state of affairs, reported rather cautiously in the mainstream media, points to the fact that political elites are now forced willy-nilly to subscribe to the idea of a separate province. Else, they are likely to be rejected at the next general elections.

In fact, the decades’ long denial of rights and entitlements and a politico-cultural identity act as great catalysts for breeding militancy. If one were to add the economic deprivation and endemic poverty to the list then the situation is quite alarming. No wonder we are seeing history unfold in front of our eyes. The nexus between poverty and militancy is problematic but certainly undeniable. FATA and other parts of Pakistan have shown us how a poor majority finds ‘opportunity’ in the game of terrorist networks and their well oiled financing machines. South Punjab is no exception.

Pakistani state will have to think beyond its mantras of national security and ‘foreign hand’ and accept that its policies have led to the explosive situation in South Punjab. At the same time, this region is not Swat or a FATA agency that can be bombarded with troops and drones. Also, it is important to note that at the people’s level, Talibanisation has yet to take root. There is hardly any evidence to suggest that there is popular support for the Taliban agenda. A relevant book entitled, Probing the Jihadi Mindset , Sohail Abbas (2007) that looks at the profiles of over 500 jihadis shows that participation of South Punjabis in the ‘Jihad project’ is minimal.

What next? First, major investments in public works and programmes that enhance employment and livelihoods in the region must be the focus of the state. Second, a comprehensive madrassa reform should take place concurrently that should quite logically start with the registration, documentation and curricula standardization. Third, networks that finance militancy should also be traced and tackled. The issue of a separate province or an autonomous region within the monolith Punjab province will need to be confronted sooner than later. Brushing it under the carpet will not help.

If the political elites have settled issues such as renaming NWFP, provincial autonomy and NFC then why can’t this issue be resolved within the democratic framework?
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE FRIDAY TIMES
Raza Rumi is a development professional and a writer based in Lahore. He blogs at http://www.razarumi.com

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Justice, movements, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, Punjab, Punjabi, Rights, Society, south asia, Taliban, Terrorism

Is Pakistan collapsing? A father and a citizen speaks

by Ali Dayan Hasan

At my daughter’s annual school parent’s day event in Lahore last month, the tension was palpable. Bewildered at the speed with which this innocuous annual event had transformed into a maximum security operation, anxious parents filed in their hundreds past security guards, metal detectors and bag searches into Theatre Number Two of the Alhamra Cultural Complex – a modernist structure that the citizens of Lahore would tell you proudly is amongst the largest public-funded exhibition and theatre complexes in Asia. They were there to see their children, none older than seven, perform the usual amalgam of tableaux on “Peoples and Festivals of the World”, a smattering of Kathak – a North Indian classical dance, a “Chinese dance” performance and, of course, my daughter’s favorite – a Disney-esque version of the Bangles hit – “Walk Like an Egyptian.” The event began, as always, with recitation from the Quran. Tense primary school teachers grappled with security issues and as I walked in; a very public stand-off between a security posse comprising teachers, local police and plain clothes personnel and a random man who was on the premises for “no known reason” was underway. The man was eventually deemed harmless and let go but there was no parent who entered that hall without making note of the exits. Two hours later, as we filed out, I and virtually every relieved parent thought and said the same thing: “One more year like the last one and next year there will be no Parents Day. Another month or two like the previous ones and there might be no school left open.”

Since December 27, 2007 – the dreadful winter’s day when streets across Pakistan fell silent in the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistanis have understood and expressed in varying degrees, or disagreed in desperate denial, that the Islamization project unleashed by the United States and implemented by the Pakistani military since 1979 had turned on its creators, snarling at the United States, devouring Pakistan and exposing its army for the megalomaniac but intensely incompetent institution that it is. And the narrative of impending disaster, brutal dispossession and disembodied lives in exile for stateless citizens harking back pathetically to a lost life, hitherto the preserve of Palestinians and Cubans, Afghans, Somalis and the ethnic mosaic of the Balkans, beckons to Pakistanis as well. One could argue that Pakistanis are scared of a future comprising daily doses of floggings, beheadings, daisy cutters and drones. They might be too. But no one has had time to think that far ahead. The truth is more prosaic: After all, if your children cannot go to school, the future has ceased to be. And when societies cannot have a future, they die. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Sindh, state, Taliban

Pakistanis protest at girl’s flogging – while some are in denial

This piece summarises the key perspectives on the recent release of a brutal video that has further sharpened the political divides in the country. There has been an unprecedented backlash against the atrocities committed in the name of our great religion. Raza Rumi

Girl’s flogging exposes Pakistani rift

Salman Masood (writing for The National)

ISLAMABAD // The video of a teenage girl being whipped in public by the Pakistani Taliban has riveted the country and has highlighted an ideologically strained and divided society faced with the growing threats of Talibanisation and extremism, analysts say. Continue reading

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Filed under North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism

Death to Infielders, Take Five

typed by kinkminos sometime in octomber

“Woke up this morning and found myself dead” is the working title of a film treatment i’m working on at the moment. Hardly an original title, as hard core fans of the late Jimi Hendrix will testify. You have to admit, though, that as kitschy commentary on the state of affairs of the current affairs of state, it does have a certain moribund relevance to the vexatious theme of escalating puritanicalism. 

“Come on, let’s do it again,” sang Peter Frampton. 

The structure of the story conforms to the basic three-act action-flick formula. There is, of course, a mian hero, representing an heroic class of White-hatted folk. These are Good People. Kind people. The kind of people who help the old and the infirm and the respectable. Who give unstintingly of themselves and never forget to say “masha’allah” when admiring the cherubic cheeks of clear-skinned toddlers. They are not prone to prejudice, except towards the darker-complexioned, and one or two of the lesser ethnic groups of our purestate. But then that hardly counts, right? Let’s face it, you wouldn’t want your daughter marrying a Bengali, ya?

Our hero, a morally upright member of an uptight community, finds himself, as is often the case, unwittingly pitted against the forces of darkness, led by Continue reading

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Filed under Identity, Islamism, Pakistan, Religion, Terrorism

Understanding ‘Media Mujahideen’ of Pakistan

This post by Manzoor Chandio is articulating an alternative viewpoint on the growing phenomenon of urban Taliban. We do not subscribe to all the views presented below but strongly support the argument on the proxy jihadism that is being recklessly promoted by the media channels. (ed.)

Since President Zardari’s statement calling Kashmiri fighters as “terrorists”, Media Mujahideen of Pakistan (columnists and anchorpersons of English and Urdu newspapers and TV channels) have turned their guns on him, despite the fact that militancy never supported Kashmiris.

Hitherto we considered the Mullah-Military nexus responsible for all the ills in Pakistan, but chutzpah shown by Media Mujahideen since the making of Pakistan is the real cause of concern.

Senior journalist Dr Ayub Shaikh in his today’s Kawish column has termed them ‘Urban Taliban’ manufacturing conspiracy theories against the present government. This clean-shaved and full-suit wearing Taliban are fierce opponents of democracy and national rights of Sindhi and Baloch nations.
Urban Taliban and the brigade of Media Mujahideen are as old as Pakistan itself. If Mullah Mujahideen were proxy for the US against the USSR, Media Mujahideen are acting as proxy for Urban Taliban. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizens, Pakistan, Politics, Taliban, Terrorism

‘Justice’, Taliban-style

by Beena Sarwar
Violence against women has been on the rise in the Taliban-dominated areas of Pakistan. Recently the Taliban moral police killed two women in Peshawar, leaving notes on their mutilated bodies accusing them of immoral behaviour and warning others of similar repercussions if they didn’t reform. See Asma Jahangir’s statement at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan blog:

I wrote about this issue in March, for a Shirkat Gah publication that has just been published, ‘2007 Events & Analysis’. Other essays in the publication are: ‘Lal Masjid Occupation and seige’ (Kamila Hyat), ‘The lawyers’ movement’ (Asad Jamal), ‘The students’ movement’ (Aasim Sajjad Akhtar), ‘Media’ (Muhammad Badar Alam) and ‘Violence against women politicians’ (Shahzada Irfan Ahmed). I don’t see it up on their website yet – www.shirkatgah.org. My essay below.

Being a woman and a teacher cost Khatoon Bibi her life. On Saturday, September 29, 2007 four masked men on two motorcycles shot her dead with AK-47 assault rifles as she waited at a bus stop to return home from school in Pakistan’s Mohmand Agency, part of the tribal belt adjacent to the North West Frontier Province. Continue reading

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Filed under Islamism, North-West Frontier Province, Peshawar, Terrorism, Women

The Wahhabisation of Pakistan

* Manan Ahmed published in the guardian.co.uk,
* Friday June 27, 2008

The migration of thousands of Pakistani men to Gulf states since the 1970s has had a huge impact on the character of the country

“Pakistan is in a leaderless drift four months after elections”, concluded Carlotta Gall in the New York Times on June 24. Just two days later, comes news that “Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban” has killed 22 members of an intermediary peace committee between the State of Pakistan and Mehsud. I guess there are some leaders in Pakistan, after all. Pakistan’s “Talibanisation” in the northwestern rural regions and the stalled lawyer’s movement in the major cities appear, at first glance, to reflect a deep chasm within Pakistani society. This division, if one should call it anything, is routinely understood as a manifestation of moderate v extreme Islam. But that raises the question of why it manifests itself along rural/urban, and class lines.

Extremist ideology, as we have learned in the last 8 years, is just as prone to attract highly-educated members of the professional class as unemployed, frustrated youth. We have to delve deeper into Pakistan’s recent past if we are to understand the crisis it faces at the present. Sub-continental history is dotted with intermittent mass movement of people – usually triggered by famine, war or worse – replete with attendant tales of distress and misery. In my reckoning, the early 1970s saw the another key migration that has so far received little analysis. It involved vast numbers of men from the rural and semi-urban parts of Pakistan moving to the emerging oil-based oligarchies in the Gulf. Continue reading

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Filed under Islam, Islamism, Pakistan, Religion, Terrorism