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'The Talibanisation of Pakistan?'

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    'The Talibanisation of Pakistan?'

    One is always hearing of American politicians pontificating of the danger of the Islamic zealots seizing the reins of power in Pakistan. And once in power the Islamists are bound to make Pakistan a Taliban-style theocracy as if that is the only model of an Islamic state in the entire Muslim world?

    First, do the American's realise that Pakistani society is very much different from Afghan society i.e. that we have not been subject to 23 years of ceaseless war and destruction?

    Second, that they - the USA are largely responsible for creating the mess in Afghanistan and its related elements in Pakistan? When Islam suited them they used it to further their global geo-political goals and created such 'monsters' as Osama Bin Laden. Once Osama was flying around in American planes and now he is being bombed by them - how ironic huh?

    Finally, why do the Americans think that every concession made by Pakistani governments on the Islamic front is necassarily wrong or that it is a sign of the 'Talianisation of Pakistan'.

    Do the Americans have a sense of history, a knowledge of Islam and different political systems and an admission that they are one of the main causes of instability in the world? Or is it true that American foreign policy is made by half-literate Islam-bashers currying favour with the vested interests who control the US political system?


    Talibanisation of Pakistan

    Masud Akhtar Shaikh

    In a recent statement, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Karl Inderfurth, has expressed US fears about Pakistan's likely drift towards Talibanisation, meaning thereby the emergence in this country of fundamentalist forces taking the Taliban of Afghanistan as their role model, and capable of capturing the reins of power by forcibly throwing out the liberal and progressive elements. The American tax-payer must have been fleeced of billions of dollars over the last few years to support the covert efforts of the CIA sleuths to piece together bits of apparently insignificant information to paint an intelligence picture on the basis of which their worthy Assistant Secretary has made his latest revelation about the dreaded Talibanisation of Pakistan.

    Are the American apprehensions in this respect really justified? Well, these are certainly not far-fetched, particularly if we keep in view the fact that the bugbear of fundamentalism has become a constant source of mortal fear in the mind of the American administration and its proteges, ever since the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan. In addition, certain developments taking place in Pakistan have been sending some positive indicators that must have shaken the US authorities to realise the gravity of the situation. Some of these indicators are summarised hereunder:

    Ever since the armed forces took over the reins of power, religious parties have been dominating the political scene which had remained for decades the monopoly of the Muslim League and the Pakistan People's Party. Taking full advantage of the political vacuum in the country, and the blemished reputation of the two major political parties which stand badly split due to internal discord, the religious parties have been more assertive, more vocal, and more effective than ever before. Their enhanced might can be judged from a number of instances in which they have succeeded in forcing General Musharraf to backtrack on his decisions on issues having religious side tones.

    The general's statement regarding Ataturk being his role model gave rise to a lot of hullabaloo as the religious parties interpreted it as an indication of his intent to go secular instead of seeking guidance from Islam. In response, Musharraf quickly came forward with an apologetic version of his statement to pacify the Islamists. Next, his announcement regarding the intended modification of procedure for reporting cases of blasphemy to the police had to be abandoned in the face of relentless opposition from religious fanatics. Again, due to the vociferous opposition of the religious parties, he saw no alternative but to beat a hasty retreat on the issue of joint electorates he had been planning to introduce.

    Similarly, his declared policy of collecting vital data about religious schools (madaris), including the state and sources of their funds, their detailed syllabi, the qualifications of the teaching staff, etc, and his plans to equip them with computers and other modern training aids had to be abandoned under pressure from numerous religious groups who refused to accept any government interference in the affairs of their educational institutions. This has left the religious parties free to train thousands of their disciples every year, all imbued with the indomitable spirit of jihad, or war in the name of Islam for the victory of truth against injustice and evil. They have thus made sure that with every passing year, they emerge far stronger than before, to effectively challenge the anti-Islam forces in the world, particularly in the western countries.

    The latest target of the religious parties are the ever multiplying NGOs whom they have started labelling as a clever gimmick of the Indo-Zionist lobby working at the behest of the US in order to shift the orientation of the Pakistani rulers from Islamisation to secularism. This has put Musharraf in a tight corner because if he yields to this pressure as well, he will have to shunt out a number of his able ministers who are related to the working of the NGOs in one way or the other.

    What could be the US motive in making the said statement at this particular juncture? Their main intention seems to be two-fold. Firstly, to cause a scare among the secular Central Asian states which have a Muslim majority and are pursuing an anti-Taliban policy, to be on guard against Pakistan which, according to the US perception, could ultimately become a source of additional strength for the menace of Taliban and hence a threat to the secular rulers of these states. Secondly, by alienating the sympathies that the Central Asian states nourish for Pakistan, preventing the emergence of a grand alliance of Muslim states which could result in the ouster of America, Russia, and India from this important region of their prime interest. Also, by painting Pakistan as a devil incarnate, shattering the age-old friendly ties between China and Pakistan, thus reducing the potential threat that these two countries jointly pose to the strategic interests of the Indo-US-Russian trio in this region.

    While forecasting a gloomy picture of Pakistan in the days to come, Inderfurth conveniently omitted to mention the active role his own country and the American stooges in the developed world have been playing to make Pakistan's political and economic fields fertile for the seeds of Talibanisation to germinate and take deep roots. US indifference towards the early solution of the festering problem of Kashmir, her pressure on Nawaz Sharif to hand over the strategic Kargil heights to India on a plate, the imposition of prolonged economic sanctions against Pakistan since the nuclear explosion that she was forced to conduct in response to the Indian nuclear initiative, her constant arm twisting of Pakistan for signing the CTBT and for acting as go-between to get Osama bin Laden delivered to the clutches of the American prosecutors, her latest tilt towards India in pursuance of her own selfish motives, in addition to the innumerable betrayals to victimise a faithful ally like Pakistan at the most critical periods of her history, are all having their cumulative reaction in the Pakistani society. There are mounting anti-American sentiments among the people which the religious parties are cleverly exploiting to their own advantage.

    Pakistan's multifarious religious parties have all along been the victims of irreconcilable disunity among themselves, resulting in the neutralisation of the immense power that the clergy commands over the minds of the common Pakistani citizen. Thanks to the persistently flawed policies and biased behaviour of the US government towards Pakistan, these parties are gradually getting closer to each other. Their growing hatred of America seems to have ultimately provided them a common denominator which has the potential of becoming strong enough to bring them all on one common platform in pursuance of their mission of Talibanising this country through jihad.

    If Mr Inderfurth is lucky enough to retain his present slot in the US administration even after the elections, he would be well-advised to suggest to the new US government to keep the above situation in view while formulating its foreign policy with reference to Pakistan. Sincerely implemented corrective action even at this late stage may produce the desired results in the interest of both America and Pakistan.