What the Taliban ideology means
Editorial in Dawn, Karachi
19 Apr, 2009
The footage recently made public showing the flogging of a girl in Swat and the execution of a man and woman in their 40s reportedly in the Hangu district must have sickened anyone with respect for human rights and dignity. As such, these videos constitute a graphic reminder of the fact that behind the rhetoric of religion, the real face of the Taliban is one of unmixed brutality and murderousness.
This should come as no surprise. Since the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan during the 1990s and in Pakistan more recently, there has been ample evidence that the otherwise harmless moniker — which means ‘students’ — is a mask worn by an ideologically united group that uses tactics of violence, fear and gross coercion to get its way.
Given this, it is alarming that Pakistan’s state and society continue to bury their heads in the sand and resort to denial of either specific acts of brutality or the threat in general posed by the Taliban. The most recent example of this approach is an investigation team’s conclusion that the video depicting the whipping of the young woman in Swat was ‘fake and false’, as indicated by Interior Secretary Kamal Shah.
He quoted the final report as saying that that no such incident took place since the girl in question denied it and the area’s residents also expressed their ignorance. Yet anyone who has suffered such an act of barbarity, and who continues to live under the shadow of his or her persecutors, is unlikely to risk inducing their ire further. More dangerous, however, is the reduction of the issue to a debate over whether or not the video was ‘real’ and when exactly the incident took place.
This constitutes yet another example of the manner in which the Pakistani state and its citizenry live in denial of the clear and present danger to their personal freedoms. It is precisely this attitude that has allowed the Taliban and others of their ilk to make such deep inroads. Even if this particular video was faked, there is ample evidence otherwise of the Taliban’s brutality. Reports of beheadings, shootings and the coercion of people — who are citizens of Pakistan and residents of Swat — are made public practically everyday.
For the survival of values pertaining to freedom, democracy and citizens’ rights, the threat posed by the Taliban must be combated not only militarily but also by taking up positions on the ideological battleground from where they fire the salvos. For this to happen, the grotesqueness of the Taliban worldview must first be recognised and then rejected wholesale.
The Swati girl’s ordeal sparked outrage across the country; but such graphic footage ought not to be necessary to convince the citizenry of the Taliban’s real face. Living in denial is a luxury that is no longer available to us.
The price of moral cowardice
By Ardeshir Cowasjee
Sunday, 19 Apr, 2009 | 01:49 AM PST
Source: The Dawn, Karachi
Pervert form of religion has been legally sanctified to terrorise the state: Ardeshir Cowasjee. — APP
AUGUST 11, 1947, in the constituent assembly of Pakistan at Karachi: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” — Founder and maker of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
February 19, 1948, a broadcast to the people of Australia: “But make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it.” — Jinnah.
Later in February 1948, a broadcast to the people of the US: “In any case, Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state — to be ruled by priests with a divine mission.” — Jinnah.
Deliverance into the hands of the theocrats came a mere six months after the death of Jinnah, the delivery made by the man who had succeeded him as the leader of his nation. The Objectives Resolution was adopted on March 12, 1949 by the constituent assembly of Pakistan, proposed by the Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan. It clearly and unambiguously declared that religion had much to do with the business of the state. There could be no recovery, as history has proven over the past 60 years.
Now, with the resolution passed in the National Assembly of Pakistan on April 13, 2009, a perverted form of religion has been legally sanctified to terrorise the state, to threaten the nation, to widen the already alarming internal divide, and to spread alarm and despondency amongst those who still had hope that one day the creed of Jinnah would prevail.
The Nizam-i-Adl resolution, unanimously passed by the political parties present in the assembly on that disgraceful Monday in April is pure and simple appeasement by a weak government, by parties who have abandoned their principles, by other parties imbued with the bleakness of fundamentalism, all backed to the hilt by an army of over half a million men who were routed by a band of brainwashed terrorists.
To those of us who remember our history the signing of the regulation by the president of the Republic is akin to Great Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s gesture on his return to London from Munich at the end of September 1938, when he waved a piece of paper in the air and declared that there would be “peace in our time,” thus setting in place preparations for a long and bloody war.
Appeasement is, to put it mildly, a naïve policy denoting weakness. It is a yielding of compromise and sacrificial offerings. More bluntly, it is moral cowardice exhibited by pathetic men and women who offer concessions at the expense of others. Appeasement is doing deals with men who have insatiable territorial appetites with the wish to impose their own brand of false theological practices and beliefs. It is an indulgence in wishful thinking — peace in our time — at the price of surrender.
But all was not lost. The Chaudhry of Chakwal, brave and true to himself, spoke up when all were silent. My friend and co-columnist Ayaz Amir salvaged some of the disgrace when he told his fellow parliamentarians just what is what when it comes to dealing with the Taliban, when it comes to giving in to them, and when it comes to appeasement. He was rightly harsh on the government for its moral cowardice, and on the army in which he once served for having crumbled, for the abandonment of its pride. His warnings were valid, but have gone unheeded. He and the many whose heads are not in the sand are now at the mercy of a ragtag and bobble band of maniacal ‘students’ of a cruelly false religion.
Reservations are many about the MQM. We cannot forget the early 1990s, nor May 12, 2007. The party cannot be absolved of its past sins and crimes and its ‘cult’ image is somewhat off-putting. But last Monday it went far to redeem itself when Farooq Sattar, minister of this government and parliamentary leader of the party rose, prior to Ayaz, and told the house that a wicked precedent was being set, that the passing of the resolution will embolden all the militant parties of the land — and they are more than sufficient unto the day — that democratic and parliamentary norms were being violated, and that this pernicious resolution may prove to be the last nail driven into Jinnah’s Pakistan. He then led his party members out of the house and later further addressed the press in the same tone.
And that was it — just two went out on a limb, two out of the horde of parliamentarians, all of whom have vowed to uphold and honour the constitution of Pakistan, which constitution makes no provision for the passing of any such regulation as the Nizam-i-Adl, nor of the setting up in the country of a parallel judicial system, nor of ceding territory to dangerous fanatical outlaws.
The party in power claims to be a secular party as does the ANP of which the less said the better. The PML-N does not openly admit to secularism, its chief not being that way inclined as we know from his attempted 15th Amendment, but it also does not lay claim to be motivated by militant fervour. Those who let down the nation most severely were all the women parliamentarians, the most affected, the prime targets of the Taliban.
And where is ‘civil society’, where are the lawyers? They motor-marched for the independence of the judiciary. Why are they comatose when it comes to the imposition of a parallel judiciary by a supine parliament? The fearsome Muslim Khan of the Taliban may have threatened the lives of those who oppose the infamous Nizam-i-Adl, but there should be some, other than Ayaz Amir and the MQM, who can show a bit of spunk. The press, at least some portions of it, are doing their bit and speaking up and out. Where is everyone else? The army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, went to the rescue of the government at Gujranwala in March, but now he and his army have succumbed to obscurantism.
Now, only the US and the rest of the world can step in — we, in nuclear Pakistan, can do nothing but wait and see which way the cards fall. We, including the legislators, are all helpless, they by choice, we by default.
Footnote: Karachi is already feeling the Taliban pinch. Co- educational schools in Defence, Clifton and Saddar areas are known to have received visits and been threatened if they do not change, others have been sent letters with the same message.