Tuesday, April 14, 2009

March of the Taliban

I've pasted below a startling essay from a top English-language daily in Pakistan. A huge sense of alarm oozes from this essay. We ought to take note. There seems to be a sense in the US that all we need to do is stay cool, and that somehow we can work with the Pakistanis to fix everything. I spent a lot of time last evening reading several media analyses and think-tank reports about how to fix "Af-Pak." I was astonished by the often cool, calculated approach of international-relations experts for whom this situation was more like a challenging puzzle, or game of chess, rather than a humanitarian disaster heading for catastrophe.


March of the Taliban

ON Saturday, March 11, a convoy of 10 double-cabin four-wheel drive pick-up trucks loaded with Taliban armed with every description of portable weapons – Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers, heavy machine guns – drove from Daggar the headquarters of Buner district to the villages of Sohawa and Dagai in Buner.

It entered Swabi district at Jhanda village, drove through the district headquarter (the town of Swabi), drove on to the motorway, exited at Mardan, drove through the cantonment of Mardan and, showing their weapons for all to see, went on towards Malakand.

In doing the above, the Taliban broke many laws of the state of Pakistan not least those that prohibit the possession of heavy weapons; showing weapons publicly and so on. They drove through a district HQ of a district they have not yet occupied (but are well on the way sooner rather than later, given the non-governance being exhibited by the ANP non-government of the Frontier); on the federally policed motorway; through an army cantonment – as a matter of fact right past the Punjab Regimental Centre’s shopping plaza containing the usual bakery and pastry-shop run by serving soldiers – and thence through the rest of the crowded city of Mardan which is also the home of the chief minister of the province.

Must have struck the fear of God into the populace of the villages/cities/ towns/cantonments they drove through, these ferocious men who so recently humbled the great Pakistan Army! So what am I going on about, talking of the laws of the state? What state? What laws? Much shame should adhere to the various actors, or shall we call them jokers, who are prancing about on the national stage striking nonsensical attitudes and mouthing pitiable platitudes.

Just as one example, the very same ‘leaders’ of the ANP who just eight days ago admitted on TV that the flogging of poor Chand Bibi had actually happened but that it happened before they signed the (craven) deal with the Taliban, are now saying the flogging never happened! Look at Muslim Khan, the fiery spokesman of the Taliban in Swat who said, again on TV, that the woman was lucky to have got away with a beating – that she should have been stoned to death. He now says there was no beating at all.

As another, the COAS, Gen Ashfaq Kayani says several weeks after the army handed Swat over to the Taliban that it was ready to face any threat, internal or external! Can you even believe any of this? What is happening to this country of ours; how long will we live in denial; when will we realise that if we don’t act now it will all be over; that the Taliban will simply take over the state using the shock and awe that comes from killing wantonly and cruelly.

Let’s go back to the most recent ‘flag march’ the Taliban carried out from Buner to Mardan via Swabi and see its effects already furthering the Taliban’s agenda. Please go to http://buner.com and see what mayhem they are creating there, recruiting jobless youths by encouraging them to ‘take-over’ their respective areas and neighbourhoods. What, pray, would the loquacious Mian Iftikhar, the Frontier’s information minister, say about this latest in a series of coming conquests for the Taliban?

Does he know that Mansehra and Haripur are next on the hit list and that once in Mansehra the Taliban are but a few hours’ drive from the Karakoram Highway? Does someone in the federal non-government know that once they tie up with the Sunni Chilasis who hate the Shia Gilgitis with a passion, there will be havoc of a very special kind in our Northern Areas?

Is Islamabad the Beautiful cognisant of the fact that our great and good friend, China, is already up to here with the Taliban and others of their ilk, who have forever interfered in their restive province of Xinjiang. This interference goes back to the early 1980s when the highway opened to public traffic and I found myself in the company of two American friends at the Chinese customs post which was then located just below the Khunjerab Pass on the Chinese side.

We noticed that our Pakistani companions, most of them bearded young men, were being searched most closely and out came copies of the Quran from their baggage which the Chinese confiscated saying there were enough copies in China. It is too well known to repeat again the charge the Chinese have oft laid at our door that Chinese citizens are trained in guerrilla training camps in the Frontier.

So, has our FO, ‘unaware’ that it usually is about matters that concern the country that it supposedly serves, taken stock of how the Chinese might react to the march of the Taliban? How will they do when they see that the Taliban are advancing, unchecked, to threaten the one land link China has with Pakistan, and through it with the rest of the world, not forgetting Gwadar? And that once there, given the fact that they face no real opposition from the great Pakistan Army, it is but a day’s drive to the Chinese border itself?

Have our Napoleons and Guderians and Rommels given any thought to any of the above? Where are they and our hopelessly inadequate government in Islamabad the Beautiful in all of this? Have they even begun to realise the gravity of the situation our country is faced with? That if they don’t act fast the Taliban will pick up enough recruits to seriously threaten them and their ill-led and poorly motivated troops? Whilst they might well think that they are safe in their palatial villas guarded night and day by weapons-toting guards and barricades and tens of servants, all it will take is one beheaded body per cantonment every second day for their guards to throw in the towel.

On the ‘bloody civilian’ side, Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been talking down to the Indians most recently in words that are a lot of hot air and bluster. On Swat: ‘The whole of Swat is neither under Taliban control nor is being attacked by them’! On the ISI: ‘Without ISI’s help you (India?!) could not have apprehended the 700 or so Al Qaeda operatives’. As to his first statement the minister obviously needs to read the papers/see TV. For the second I can only say that he is mightily ignorant if he means the 700 as part of those that Musharraf sold to the Americans for $5000 each. Of whom at least 90 per cent have been proved to be innocent by none other than their jailors in Guantanamo. So have a heart, minister.

There is a great furore going on in our self-righteous media about how Pakistan will not accept aid under any conditionality. In the first place it will starve, which isn’t a bad idea at all considering that our brass hats will come crashing down to reality; in the second, let’s see if we have a country by then!

In the meantime, could the non-government of the ANP please resign for its acts of omission and commission re: Swat and Buner.


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



John Robertson said...

Thank you, Ann. I appreciate the nice words, and the feedback.



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