Archive for Taliban

The London Meet on Afghanistan

Posted in International Affairs with tags , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by Umer

 by Yohannan Chemarapally

(People’s Democracy)

THE London Conference on Afghanistan held in the last week of January was supposed to plan out a coherent “exit strategy” for the West out of the quagmire it finds itself in. Instead, the conference has only succeeded in sending out confusing signals to the international community. While there was a lot of talk of engaging with the “good Taliban there was also a continued emphasis on a military solution to the conflict.

However, the desperation to get out of Afghanistan was tangible from the statements of most Western leaders present at the meeting. The willingness to open a dialogue with the “good Taliban” to find a political solution was an indication of the prevailing pessimistic mood. But with a political or military solution nowhere in sight it was evident that the military occupation of Afghanistan would continue for another five years at least. The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, in fact wants foreign troops to be around for a minimum of 15 years. He reiterated this demand once again in London. More than 70 countries, along with the European Union, NATO and the UN attended the London Conference. The EU and NATO officials were critical about Karzai’s 15 year time line for withdrawal.

It is evident that the grandiose promise of President Barak Obama to withdraw all American troops by 2011 is no longer a feasible proposition. With the militarily ascendant Taliban refusing to be drawn into a dialogue, the conditions on the ground will mean that US troops will continue to be stationed in Afghanistan beyond the deadline set by President Obama. The 10,000 additional NATO troops from European countries that Washington expected to be deployed in Afghanistan as part of the military surge, does not seem to be materialising. France has announced that it will not be sending any more troops to Afghanistan. Germany has promised only 500 more troops while the Dutch are on the verge of pulling out all their 2000 soldiers out of Afghanistan.

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Gulf excess and Pakistani slaves

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2009 by Umer

by Rafia Zakaria

“We need slaves to build monuments,” says an Iraqi engineer living in Abu Dhabi to a reporter from the Guardian. In the published report he goes to add that he would never use the metro if it wasn’t segregated since “we would never sit next to Pakistanis and Indians because of their smell”.

The dismal condition of Pakistani labourers in the Gulf States is well known and the above statements are merely reflections of the deep-seeded and overtly racist attitudes of Arabs in the Gulf and otherwise towards Pakistanis.

The same Guardian report also details how Pakistani slave labourers work up to eighteen hours a day and often live twenty to a room without any ventilation and with only a single bathroom for several hundred people. Several do not see their families for four to ten year periods, unable to afford the airfare home and many die on the job.

Without any insurance scheme families are often not notified of deaths for months and the only compensation available to them is through an underground system through which other workers donate thirty dirham each which is then collected and donated. The strictly segregated society means that the rich Arabs never come across the lowly Pakistani workers who build their roads, clean their floors and drive their cars.

But in recent years, the oil-rich barons of the Gulf have found a new use for slave labour that goes beyond cleaning bathrooms and picking trash off the streets of Dubai. A recent statement issued by Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke in Brussels revealed that the Taliban are being funded by individuals from the Gulf States. Secretary Holbrooke said: “The Taliban receive more funding from the Gulf States than they do from the narcotics trade”.

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Class Basis of Taliban

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , on July 8, 2009 by Umer

by Taimur Rahman

It is my contention that the Taliban represent a reactionary and a restorationist movement. A simple definition of the term “reactionary” is as follow:

Reactionary (also reactionist) refers to any movement or ideology that opposes change or progress in society, and which seeks a return to a previous state (the status quo ante). The term originated in the French Revolution, to denote the counter-revolutionaries who wanted to restore the real or imagined conditions of the monarchical Ancien Régime. In the nineteenth century, the term reactionism denoted those who wished to preserve feudalism and aristocratic privilege against industrialism, republicanism, liberalism and socialism.

It is also a restorationist movement. An easy definition of “restorationist” is as follows:

Restorationism, sometimes called Christian primitivism, refers to the belief held by various religious movements that pristine or original Christianity should be restored, which usually claiming to be the source of that restoration. Such groups teach that this is necessary because Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians introduced defects into Christian faith and practice, or have lost a vital element of genuine Christianity. Specifically, restorationism applies to the Restoration Movement and numerous other movements that originated in the eastern United States and Canada and grew rapidly in the early and mid 19th century in the wake of the Second Great Awakening. The term restoration is also employed by the Latter Day Saint movement. The term is also used by more recent groups, describing their goal to re-establish Christianity in its original form, such as some anti-denominational Charismatic Restorationists, which arose in the 1970s in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Marxism does not preach a unilinear evolutionism (one sided historical development towards progress). It is premised upon the dialectics of class struggle that includes both forces of progress and forces of reaction.

Naturally, the Taliban do not want to restore “original Christian” they want to restore “original Islam”. Hence, in ideological terms there can be little if any doubt that the Taliban are both reactionary (opposed to progress) as well as restorationist (want to restore original Islam). What is the class basis of reactionary and restorationist movements?

It is only logical that pre-capitalist ruling classes destroyed by the spread of capitalism will from time and time attempt to restore the way of life in which they dominated. What we see in the shape of the Taliban is similarly an attempt to take society back to medieval times through blood and violence. Let us take a few examples:

  1. The burning of modern educational institutions are undertaken to substitute the medieval system of madrassah education.
  2. The veiling of women is a throw back to the medieval period when the 20th century women’s movement had not managed to win basic democratic rights.
  3. The discriminatory attitude towards religious minorities is characteristic of the medieval period.
  4. The public punishments including gruesome torture and amputations are a throw back to medieval practices (when such punishments were fairly common).

I could go on but I think these four examples suffice for now.

These examples should not be misconstrued to mean that capitalist modernity has achieved women’s emancipation, secular education, non-discrimination, or done away with human rights abuses. That is certainly not the case. However, in the modern world ethical sensibilities have so changed that such things are considered “ideals” that we should strive towards. Conversely, the inability under capitalism to achieve these “ideals” is considered “a failure”.

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Class struggle in Swat?

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , on June 5, 2009 by Umer

This question has been raised over and over again all over the world after the news that Taliban are distributing land amongst the people in Swat. Are Taliban leading a class struggle in Swat?

Afzal Khan Lala, local leader of Awami National Party (ANP), who has militantly resisted the Taliban onslaught against all odds vehemently disagrees with the notion of class struggle. Here is an excerpt from an article by Ayesha Ijaz Khan that appeared in Counter Punch:

Afzal Khan Lala takes a clear position. Having suffered the loss of two grandsons and been ambushed by the Taliban himself, he remains steadfast in his defiance, stating categorically: “The Taliban movement is not an ideological movement. All the men of Sufi Muhammad and Maulana Fazlullah are loyal to Baitullah Mehsud. In fact, all the Taliban are loyal to Mullah Omar and most of them are criminals, looters, bandits, car snatchers, absconders and drug runners. He is the centre of gravity both for Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.”

When asked if it was a class struggle, he responded: “In class struggle between haves and have-nots, you do not become a criminal. You do not harm innocent people, snatch vehicles, dump arms and ammunition; you get popular through the force of ideology and not force. Taliban are terrorists and have no ideology.”

I agree with Khan Lala. However, I don’t say that Taliban don’t have an ideology. They have a clear ideology of reactionary pan-Islamism and they do try to exploit the local class rifts. They also find good support amongst local criminals and lumpen proletariat.The real question, then, is in whose favour do they exploit the class divisions? Is it progress or regress? Revolutionary or reactionary?

Backwards, forward, twisted around

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2009 by Umer

The Taliban’s continuous reneging from agreements made with the government may yet turn the tide against them and enable the military to move decisively against them, which it has so far been unable, or unwilling, to do. A journalist’s notebook

Beena Sarwar Karachi Hardnews

In November 1999, like many others, I thought that the Taliban were the ‘last gasp of a dying order’. They were isolated in Afghanistan. The world largely turned a blind eye to their oppressive system imposed in the name of religion — public floggings, limb amputations and executions – for alleged moral transgressions that the Taliban saw as crimes, like adultery.

Such punishments were not entirely an aberration in the last decade of the 20th century: USA’s most allied ally, oil-rich Saudi Arabia, routinely meted out similar punishments (and continues to do so). The Taliban in Afghanistan controlled an area across which America wanted to build an oil pipeline. Until they refused to allow this, their ‘barbarism’ received little notice in the West, particularly America.

The Taliban’s attitude towards women was an extreme version of attitudes generally prevalent in the context of this region. Women across South Asia are verbally and physically abused every minute of the day, every day of the year. ‘Honour killings’ in one form or other are common all over the Middle East as well as South Asia, in addition to the ‘dowry deaths’ and female foeticide prevalent in India. At least 1,210 women were killed in Pakistan during 2008, including at least 612 in so-called ‘honour killings’ and at least 185 over domestic issues, according to the recent annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

“The malaise is more widespread than we care to acknowledge,” wrote Jawed Naqvi in his column My fanatic versus your fanatic (Dawn, reproduced in http://www.hardnewsmedia.com, after the ‘Swat flogging video’ came to public notice. Highlighting gender violence in various societies including India, he comments, “What goes for religious fanaticism elsewhere can easily mutate into caste bigotry in a country like India. Although caste-based zealotry goes largely unnoticed because of its prevalence in under-televised rural areas, it works with the brutality associated elsewhere with honour killings and violence against women generally.”

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Congress created Pakistan, Pakistan created the BJP?

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by Umer

By Jawed Naqvi

A potentially sinister event has prompted this column. It is my sense from a few visits to Pakistan beginning with 1997 that a large number of Pakistanis prefer the rightwing religious revivalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to rule India. On the other hand, they are wary of the Congress. This tendency, I gather, is more pronounced within the Pakistani bureaucracy and the military. I know of Pakistani diplomats and officials who would be privately praying for the BJP to win the April-May elections in India.

To some extent this is true also of some of the journalists I have interacted with from different parts of Pakistan. They include those that claim to work for peace and dialogue between the two countries. The BJP has sold them the myth that it can alone solve the Kashmir dispute, not the Congress or anyone else.

There is a counter grouse among Pakistanis. Many of them feel, and they are probably spot on, that the bulk of the Indian establishment, including that media which works with the establishment, has a subcutaneous liking for the military in preference to civilian governments in Islamabad, and, in recent days, for General Pervez Musharraf in particular. This was reflected in some ways in the standing ovation the former army chief received recently at the end of a televised interaction he had with the movers and shakers of Delhi. And who was the one person Musharraf wanted to meet in Delhi but couldn’t? It was none other than his favourite BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee.

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Towards theocracy

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2009 by Umer

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

Frontline on net

Note: This article appeared in the Frontline magazine of India. Therefore, the contents of the article and the message is addressed to the Indian audience. The article, nevertheless, is highly essential for us living in Pakistan.

Towards Theocracy: State and Society in Pakisan Today 

EMILIO MORENATTI/AP

Women in burqas and children from the Bajaur and Mohmand agency areas wait to be registered at a refugee camp near Peshawar in January. Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of displaced people streaming into cities and towns.  

FOR 20 years or more, a few of us in Pakistan have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. Nevertheless, none anticipated how quickly and accurately our dire predictions would come true. It is a small matter that the flames of terrorism set Mumbai on fire and, more recently, destroyed Pakistan’s cricketing future. A much more important and brutal fight lies ahead as Pakistan, a nation of 175 million, struggles for its very survival. The implications for the future of South Asia are enormous.

Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of IDPs (internally displaced people) streaming into cities and towns. In February 2009, with the writ of the Pakistani state in tatters, the government gave in to the demand of the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban Movement) to implement the Islamic Sharia in Malakand, a region of FATA. It also announced the suspension of a military offensive in Swat, which has been almost totally taken over by the TTP. But the respite that it brought was short-lived and started breaking down only hours later.

The fighting is now inexorably migrating towards Peshawar where, fearing the Taliban, video shop owners have shut shop, banners have been placed in bazaars declaring them closed for women, musicians are out of business, and kidnapping for ransom is the best business in town. Islamabad has already seen Lal Masjid and the Marriot bombing, and has had its police personnel repeatedly blown up by suicide bombers. Today, its barricaded streets give a picture of a city under siege. In Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), an ethnic but secular party well known for strong-arm tactics, has issued a call for arms to prevent the Taliban from making further inroads into the city. Lahore once appeared relatively safe and different but, after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, has rejoined Pakistan.

The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy. Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals, and ordinary people praying in mosques have been reduced to hideous masses of flesh and fragments of bones. The bearded ones, many operating out of madrassas, are hitting targets across the country. Although a substantial part of the Pakistani public insists upon lionising them as “standing up to the Americans”, they are neither seeking to evict a foreign occupier nor fighting for a homeland. They want nothing less than to seize power and to turn Pakistan into their version of the ideal Islamic state. In their incoherent, ill-formed vision, this would include restoring the caliphate as well as doing away with all forms of western influence and elements of modernity. The AK-47 and the Internet, of course, would stay.

But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of military action against the cruel perpetrators, choosing to believe that they are fighting for Islam and against an imagined American occupation. Political leaders like Qazi Husain Ahmed and Imran Khan have no words of kindness for those who have suffered from Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved for the victims of predator drones, whether innocent or otherwise. By definition, for them terrorism is an act that only Americans can commit.

Why the Denial?

 

To understand Pakistan’s collective masochism, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have made this country so utterly different from what it was in earlier times. For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula.

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