By Jug Suraiya
18 Mar 2009
Nawaz Sharif's civil agitation is a sideshow. Pakistan's real danger is that of being taken over by the Taliban. This represents both a serious threat as well as a crucial lesson for us in India. The threat is obvious; the lesson less so, but all the more vital for that.
The Taliban is in full control of Swat, where it has declared Sharia law. Islamabad, whose writ does not run in the area, has virtually bribed the forces of radicalism into calling a truce as uneasy as it is transient. Like a tidal force that cannot be checked, Talibanisation is spreading across the country and now threatens to overwhelm Peshawar.
A Frankenstein's monster which they helped to create with US help to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, the Taliban have turned on Pakistan's army and the ISI in a deadly twist of irony. The murderous fanaticism that Islamabad exported, first to Afghanistan and then to India, in continuance of its 'proxy war' with New Delhi, has rebounded on its creators, with dire implications not only for Pakistan but for the entire South Asian region, beset as it already is with continuing strife and instability in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
What makes a Taliban takeover of Pakistan particularly scary is Islamabad's nuclear arsenal. Washington's reassurance that Pakistan's nukes are adequately safeguarded with the US playing a supervisory role sounds increasingly hollow in the face of the Obama administration's dithering disguised as strategy that seeks to fight the 'bad Taliban' with the antibody of a specious 'good Taliban'. A nuclear-armed Taliban, whether 'good' or 'bad', whose sworn agenda is ceaseless war against all infidel nations which includes India, along with the US and Israel is South Asia's worst nightmare becoming a reality.
That's the literally terrifying threat that a Talibanised Pakistan holds out for India. And the lesson? That there but for the grace of democracy and a vigilant civil society go we. That we in India could follow Pakistan's slippery path to extremist perdition. The thought of a Talibanised India might seem absurd. But the seeds of fanaticism have been sown and have begun to sprout on Indian soil, not just among the Muslim minority but far more alarmingly among the Hindu majority. While most Muslims and Hindus cleave to the Indic tradition of what has been called spiritual secularism the belief that all faiths are deserving of reciprocal and interdependent respect there is growing and disquieting evidence of radicalisation in both communities, be it in the form of SIMI or the Indian Mujahideen or their mirror avatars like Abhinav Bharat or the Sri Rama Sene.
Alleged conspiracies involving home-grown bombers as in the Malegaon case and attacks on pub-going women in Mangalore are a far cry from the radicalised coup that threatens to overwhelm Pakistan. But, as Pakistan has shown, the embers of fanaticism can only too easily be fanned into a raging fire that is difficult if not impossible to extinguish. What is at the heart of this virulent fanaticism, what is common to both the Muslim Taliban and its sectarian alter ego, the nascent Hindu Taliban?
Apart from religious bigotry and intolerance the one striking feature common to both is a violent misogyny, a pathological fear and hatred of women. In Talibanised Pakistan or Afghanistan, women cannot go to school or receive any education, they cannot travel anywhere or go out in public unless accompanied by a male member of the family. In proto-Talibanised India, women are susceptible to physical assault if they are seen to socialise with men, particularly if they belong to a different community, or if they dare to be so 'un-Indian' as to go to a pub or wear jeans and T-shirts in public.
The systematic demonisation and suppression of women which militates both against the Hindu principle of Shakti and the gender egalitarianism of Islam whereby the Prophet's first disciples were women is the beginning of the suppression of civil liberties and a free society. That's Pakistan's lesson for us. Are we prepared to learn from it?
Source: The Times of India,