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All Taliban Are Not the Same

All Taliban Are Not the Same

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Published by raziaha

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Published by: raziaha on Nov 01, 2009
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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. 
When the so called Taliban started burning girls’ schools, forcing their way into thevillagers’ houses in gangs of 10 or more and making unreasonable demands, those whocriticized them disappeared. Days later their bodies would be found decapitated, their heads hung in the village squares. Only then did the locals realized that these were notsincere Muslims. They did not observe normal Islamic code. For example, among other things, the obligatory prayers did not apply to them, and they even changed the “ayas” of the Qur'an to fit their purpose.Taliban in South Waziristan, on the other hand, are left over 'mujahidin' from the time of the Russian invasion. They married locals and have been assimilated. The US isconducting drone attacks in North and South Waziristan. The Taliban in both those areasare fighting American aggression, just as they fought the Russians. The majority of thecasualties from the drone attacks have been civilians. The traditional life of the NorthWest Frontier Province’s proud people has been disrupted; there is no peace, nor do people enjoy the normal life we all take for granted.A man from North Waziristan told us sad tales about the aftermath of drone attacks. Hetold us that hospitality is a Pashtun tradition that applies to enemies as well as friends. If any Taliban visits them, they feed and protect them. Quite often the drone attacks camelong after the Taliban had gone. The villagers have to carry the injured for miles beforereaching the paved road and wait there for any means of transport to reach the Red Crossfacility.What will happen to the displaced people when their homes, their crops, their fruitorchards and their livestock are destroyed? They are living under horrendous conditions;coming from a colder climate, the Punjab heat is unbearable for them. How and when arethey going back to their homes? Who is going to take care of them until they can return?The United Nations is already overburdened and out of funds. A majority of the affected people, (~80%), are cared for by the community and charity organizations. How long canthe goodwill and resources of these organizations last? The western media is raising the specter of Pakistani nuclear bombs falling into the handsof ‘terrorists’. Nothing could be further from truth. The Taliban fighters are primitive,uneducated people fighting a guerrilla war to preserve their centuries old life style andtradition and rid their country of foreign meddling. They do not have the sophistication toassemble the nuclear bomb even if they stumble upon it. The Pakistan army is the onlystable and over half a million strong institution in Pakistan. It is extremely unlikely thatit will succumb to ragtag local Taliban. The notion that terrorists will gain access tonuclear weapons is another scare tactic used by the great super power to frighten its own population, causing them to close their eyes and let Uncle Sam keep them safe. The drones, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have been dropping bombs in SouthWaziristan since 2004. A Pakistani newspaper - The News, April 10, 2009 – reportedthat: “Figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities show that a total of 701 people,including 14 al-Qaeda leaders, have been killed since January 2006 in 60 AmericanPredator attacks targeting the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

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