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lessons to learn from taliban saga

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    lessons to learn from taliban saga

    View Point Abid Ullah Jan

    A Lesson from the Taliban Saga

    While we are making cleaver observations of the on going events, absent from the discourse has been a critical review of the policies of the Taliban, which are presumed to have helped put them in this quandary. To get a lesson from the Taliban saga, we need to find out if the Taliban and their supporters were really ignorant enough not to see the US malicious designs and plan accordingly, or there were some other factors which would have brought this calamity irrespective of the Taliban's compromise and concessions.
    A superficial analysis would conclude that the Taliban's obsession with long beards, closing down girls school, destruction of Buddha statues, abrupt halt of all forms of popular entertainment etc, not only made them the focal point of World's ridicule and anger but also the anger of the majority of the Afghans that became so apparent as the Taliban rule crumbled like a house of cards. The Islamic researchers have to seriously analyse if it really was the harsh imposition of shariah issues that led to the destruction of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and all the associated promise for Islamic revival in this important part of the Islamic world or some other ulterior motives led to the present deaths and destruction.
    Although each count of the Taliban's indictment needs a separate book to present the actual position, suffice it to begin with countering the argument that the US ignored Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. In fact, the US did not leave Afghans alone at any point in the past 23 years. It is only that it could not establish a government of its choice for doing what the US calls "business as usual." The fall of Najib's government in 1992 was marked by a phase of destruction, devastation, and social anarchy. During this time, the US backed Hizb-I-Islami leader, Gulbadin Hikmatyar, for some time, but soon realised its betting on the wrong horse for his inability to head and sustain a pro-US government in Kabul.
    While spoils were being fought over in Kabul, the US helped consolidate the Taliban's position with the hope that creation of a new force would help bring a government in Kabul that for being obliged would be the most obedient servant. To the great annoyance of Washington, however, the Taliban refused to take dictation. The US hatred of the Taliban regime touched it peak with their announcement of an Islamic state with the Quran as its constitution. A strong propaganda campaign was thus launched against the "tyrannical" regime of the Taliban.
    It is true that initially the Taliban seemed to be largely content with the fundamentals of their own traditional and madrassa-tutored worldview. This approach was, nevertheless, considerably changed with the changing environment and improved law and order situation. The Taliban changed their conduct in many areas and indicated that they were not as violently fixated on extreme social conservatism as has been made out by world media. Any show of flexibility was useless as it was sufficient for the US to continue its war on the Taliban for their working on consolidating an alternative model of state system, based on Islamic principles alone. This is the point from which a lesson for other Islamic movements begins. The need is not to simply declare that Islam is anti-Terrorism, but also to prove that an Islamic State or Khilafa is not an enemy of the western world or a tyranny for its own subjects. It is only the vested interests of Kings, Sheikhs, and dictators in the Muslim and proponents of big government in the non-Muslim countries that are spreading the fear of Islamic states.
    A good analysis of the Taliban rule gives us an opportunity to show how they were turned to monsters with plain lies and some twisted logic. If anyone is more responsible than the Taliban for the current crisis, it is the media in the Muslim world. Despite many odds, the Taliban made tremendous progress and made various adjustments in the face of unending western criticism, yet none of us gave sufficient coverage to such changes. These changes, while provoked by necessity, were also presented with some backing of logic.
    For example, the move away from the position of banning television was presented as "starting television in Afghanistan when enough good quality programmes can be produced". There was no rigid control on women, except the restriction of wearing burqa. The Taliban opened women skills centres where they could work and earn money. Women were allowed to go to the University and schools wherever they could afford to have single sex education. Medical school at Kabul University had more women than men students. The Taliban granted permission for burqa-clad women to drive cars. Unlike Israel, they acceded to the UN demand for placing human rights monitors in Afghanistan, and replaced antagonistic rhetoric against the countries hostile towards it with repeated calls for dialogue and peace. Nothing of that sort was reported in the Western press.
    The Taliban regularly sent ministerial-level delegations to various countries, and were also beginning to open up to the international media. The Taliban authorities maintained that their willingness to engage critics extended to even the most complex of questions. They meant, obviously, the "Osama" matter. And it is not as if the Taliban had their head in the sand-more than half a dozen direct talks were held in Islamabad between the Americans and the Taliban on the Osama issue over the last four years. There had been at least one visit to Afghanistan by a US Congressman.
    The US was, in fact, not ready for any compromise or peaceful solution to the Osama issue. It worked behind the scene to demonise the Taliban as much as it could. On Feb 02, 2000, a senior Afghan leader Mulla Mohammad Rabbani told the media in Islamabad that his government had floated a number of proposals to the international community to allay their doubts about Osama's alleged role, but its response had not been helpful. "We presented many proposals to the US and also the ways to resolve this issue, but to no avail." The issues remained unresolved simply due to the American insistence that Osama shall be handed over without any evidence.
    The US insistence on a one-point demand was not meaningless - the Americans actually didn't want to solve the issue of Osama before getting rid of the Taliban's much-publicised Khilafa, and the recent events are a clear proof of this pre-determined plan. When outsiders superficially accused the Taliban of imposing alien ways on the Afghan public, they failed to realize the Taliban's very ability to understand, accept and assimilate the organic ways of administering Afghanistan that had made them such a sustained success. Raining down dollars and daisey cutters for a record time in the human history could have defeated even all of the US strong Western allies together. The fall of the Taliban is absolutely not due to a disenchanted Afghan public. The Taliban's influence and control over a majority of the provinces up to the last minute was directly linked to their ability to keep the population satisfied.
    The fact that the Taliban couldn't produce a credible spokesman who could complete a sentence in English without making a mistake becomes irrelevant where the world's super power is determined to throw a government out for its efforts to establish a model Islamic state. For this reason, the same could happen to any state, with perfectly acceptable human rights practices, with extensive and effective use of the media to send its message across, with very fluent spokespersons and with no Osama in its ranks. The war on Afghanistan is not a war on terror or Osama or a repressive regime. This is a war to show the world that an Islamic State cannot survive and send the message across that any state established in the name of Islam would meet the same fate.
    Most Muslims writers and reporters maintained an embarrassed silence or a pro-Western approach. It might be more honest to say that they didn't want to know what was happening, much less expose the facts honestly. Criticism of the Taliban was often heavily overlaid with prejudices or political interests. Muslims remained ignorant of the grand game the US intended to play after completing the process of Taliban's demonisation. The Muslims often showed their partisan, class, ethnic and sectarian interests in their criticism, deriding the Taliban as "ignorant Pakhtun", or "Wahhabis".
    The Western criticism was clearly a way to proving that any attempt to actualise Islam's socio-political dimensions in this age is doomed to failure-in fact, that nothing could be worse than a society based on Islam. Other Afghan factions have been making political mileage out of such western media attacks, but now is the time for all Muslims, in and outside of Afghanistan, to pay a high price for such coverage and support to the US in its war on the Taliban. It would now be used as a weapon against any Muslim self-assertion anywhere, even of the most peaceable and innocuous sort.
    The much-trumpeted "harsh rule" of the Taliban would look like the most liberal rule only if we compare it with the US sponsored repressive Israeli and Indian regimes. The Taliban harsh treatment of those who broke the rules was an application of the modern view that state interference in the lives of individuals is the answer to most social problems. Undoubtedly, due to the Taliban's ignorance of the world politics, their over-literal focus on individual Qur'anic verses and ahadith helped the West obscure the larger picture.
    Whatever weaknesses the Taliban had in their rule were bound to be removed with their increasing interaction with and recognition by others. For instance, if they could celebrate International Women Day in Kabul on March 8, they could have corrected many other minor deviations exploited by the media with the passage of time. But the US would not let it happen. It had planned to deteriorate the situation till the things fell apart to let many of the Muslims wonder at the validity and reliability of an Islamic state and also let secular organisations build on the disillusionment of the Muslims with Islam. With the situation progressing as it is, just a few years from now, no one will dare to walk in the streets of Muslim countries wearing a beard or a burqa.
    The Islamic movements need to look honestly at the fate of the Taliban, analyse their indictment sheet, develop necessary responses, and chalk out ways to reach the western public and let them reassure that we are not the enemy. We need to explain that there is only one Islam and any government established in the name of Islam would never ever think of destabilising or annihilating the West as the scaremongers are propagating in the Western media. Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times (December 12, 2001), "we do not want a war with Islam, we want a war within Islam." The US has realised that it cannot afford a war with Islam and the notion of a "war within Islam" is, in fact, the way to wage a war on Islam. Just imagine anyone among the Muslims declaring that he wants a war within the United States, won't he be chased to the other corner of the world in a more horrible manner than Osama bin laden? Accepting the propaganda notions and classifying ourselves as moderate or liberal Muslims in an apologetic manner would simply fan the "war within Islam." Averting our faces from the hard job of explaining the realities to the Western public is an option we cannot afford, both because it betrays the suffering of many Muslims in many places around the world, and because of the long-term consequences for both the Muslims and non-Muslims alike.