All Taliban Are Not the SameBy Razia AhmedAugust 20, 2009
During my recent trip to Pakistan with Kathy Kelly and Dan Pearson of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, I found a confusing set of circumstances. Taking a cue from theUnited States, the educated and westernized elite believe in ‘crushing’ the Taliban, whileothers believe Taliban are the only people standing up to the madness of the UnitedStates. The Pakistani government is weak and corrupt, garnering no respect from the eliteor the peasantry. Pakistan’s government abdicated its responsibility when it surrenderedthe country to the United States. Furthermore, to please the United States, the governmentlaunched a major assault on its own people. To eliminate a few thousand Taliban the‘operation’ has displaced over 3 million people from Swat, Buner and Dir, and more areleaving South Waziristan as the army starts an offensive there.By the time we arrived in Islamabad on the morning of May 25, 2009, the army‘operation’ in Swat was well underway and the drone issue had taken the back seat in public consciousness. We spent the first two days meeting with activists/elites at CivilJunction Cafe. Almost everyone spoke English and was educated or had spent some timeabroad. A majority of them supported the military operation and believed in ‘crushing’the Taliban.We met displaced people from many villages and towns, mostly from Swat, and somefrom Buner and Dir. We met them living just outside Islamabad (Bara Koh, Satra Meel),in Attock, Swabi, Mardan (Haathia, Jallah), Tarbela, Ghazi and Hasan Abdal. We metthem living in empty buildings (hospital, schools, colleges), private homes and tentedcamps.Afghan Taliban have said there is no connection between them and the Pakistani Talibanand that Taliban from Swat are not the same as Taliban of South Waziristian. Many of the displaced people with whom we spoke echoed this statement, adding that about twoyears earlier, outsiders with long hair and beards started to come into their towns and takeover police stations. They promised “nizam adil” and quick justice. They also offeredlarge sums of money and arms. Some locals - poor, unemployed and criminally minded - joined them. In the beginning, people supported them. Women donated money and eventheir jewelry for the cause. Swatis are religious people; women dress modestly, observe pardah and believe in education for girls. We met several female high school and collegestudents, in various camps.