Stop Apoligizing for Taliban

by Gulmina Bilal Ahmad

One has always believed that confusion is good as it breeds creativity. This is not merely a position that is propagated by pop psychology quizzes and agony aunts of newspapers. In fact, if I remember correctly, during my psychology graduate days, we were told that one of the signs of highly creative people is that they are highly confused. This, for understandable reasons, was oddly consoling for me personally too!

However, nowadays, increasingly I am realising that not all confusion is “good”. Just like I am finding out that not all creativity is “good”. Like “good” and “bad” cholesterol, there is good and bad confusion. Confusion of the mind that leads to thinking out of the box is good, to cite an example. Confusion of the mind as exemplified by some leaders and political parties calling for negotiating with mercenaries, rapists, kidnappers, arsonists, i.e. the Pakistani Taliban, breeds chaos and unrest. Perhaps the point that I am trying to make was articulated eloquently by one blogger active in the Pakistani blogosphere: “The dilemma of a section of the Pakistani middle class is their mental confusion. They condemn the bomb blasts but not the source of the blasts. They deplore the act of closing down of girls’ schools but find excuses for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to order the closure of schools.”

This section of society is fortunately only a handful, but unfortunately well entrenched in some political parties and some sections of the media. They are self-styled experts whose understanding of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has been acquired by reading perhaps two books and three newspaper articles. Their familiarity with Swat perhaps would be more for touristic reasons than anything else. However, without batting an eyelid and without skipping a beat, they urge the curtailment of military action against the Taliban and attempt to make a case for differentiation between the “good” and the “bad” Taliban. They are also at great pains to explain to us that the TTP is actually fighting for justice — justice for the Muslim Ummah apparently — and that in order to curb Talibanism and extremism, it is important that festering political issues like the Middle East conflict and the Kashmir issue are resolved. According to these Pakistani Taliban apologists, there is value in the TTP’s argument for ensuring speedy justice and fighting in the name of Islam as Muslims are allegedly under threat from all the nations of the world, as exemplified by the lingering Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Kashmir.

Space here is limited for getting into the pros and cons of the Palestinian-Israeli and the Kashmir conflict. However, suffice it to say that you cannot talk about rule of law, you cannot claim to be for justice, peace on the one hand, and support the act of taking the law into your own hands through violence on the other. This is what I mean when I specifically refer to confusion in people’s minds — intellectual and ideological confusion.

The Pakistani Taliban, specifically the TTP, are individuals with a narrow understanding and interpretation of religion as well as limited world view. They openly declare that their ideology is to enforce their brand of Islam in Pakistan and declare that their objectives are to “struggle against the Pakistani Army and NATO forces in Afghanistan”.

Pakistan is not a banana republic. It is an independent and sovereign country with its own laws. To openly declare a struggle against the laws of the land cannot be justified nor excused under any pretext. To justify their acts by declaring that the TTP has out of frustration resorted to violence is to indirectly support and justify not only the use of indiscriminate violence but also promote anti-state activities. It is tragic that these Pakistani Taliban apologists are actually promoting extremism, radicalism and anti-state activity.

It is baffling to note how anyone can support and justify the TTP while at the same time proclaim to be champions of democracy, rule of law, equality before the law and most of all justice. Or do they mean justice TTP-style? Is justice for them the lashing given to the poor girl in Swat who was accused of having illicit relations? Is democracy for the apologists, government in the hands of people against the people and for inhabitants of Central Asian States who have been given refuge in the tribal areas of the country? What rule of law are they talking about when they urge talks and a “soft hand” with individuals and organisations like the TTP who are banned by the government of the country. For, it is a fact that since August 2008, the TTP is a banned organisation with frozen bank accounts and a ban on media appearances. If the Pakistani Taliban apologists are actually serious about the rule of law, how is it that they are supporting banned organisations?

The case of 13-year old Meena is well known. However, this is just one case. Just North of Malakand, there is a rehabilitation centre for children captured by the army in Swat. These children were being trained by the Pakistani Taliban as suicide bombers. Interviews with the children revealed that they were mostly kidnapped, thus busting the theory of the ideological commitment of suicide bombers. These children, after being kidnapped, were threatened with dire consequences if they did not agree to become suicide bombers. One child, during the interview, revealed, “There were three of us. They locked us up in a room. They did not even let us pray. They would say that you boys do not need to pray as you are already going to heaven.” A hue and cry is raised by some political Taliban apologists about “collateral damage”, but the Pakistani Taliban treated the children not just as collateral damage but as cannon fodder. One of the children at the rehabilitation centre said, “I asked them how can I blow up a mosque? To which the reply came that the mosque will get martyred and the people there will get martyred too. They would then go to heaven and would be grateful to you for sending them to heaven.”

The dictionary defines confusion as a “state where one is unable to place oneself correctly in the world by time, location and personal identity”. This is perhaps the best way to describe the Pakistani Taliban apologists who tragically are present in the country’s political, social, media and academic arena. Until this segment of society is tackled, efforts for peace will remain half-baked.

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