The recent military operations by Frontier Corps (FC) on the religious extremist groups around Peshawar led to a series of debates and discussion amongst the CMKP members regarding the position to be adopted on the question of Taliban and religious-extremists. The conclusion of the debate has been summarised by Ali Jan that is being presented as follows with minor editions:
1) First and foremost, we agreed upon the fact that religious extremism is an extremely retrograde force that has to be fought to DEATH. This means: MOBILIZING ALL THE RESOURCES AT OUR DISPOSAL TO MOUNT A RELENTLESS STRUGGLE ON ALL FRONTS – POLITICAL, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND MILITARY – TO END THIS MENACE. The process of the decline and eventual death of religious extremism will invariably lead to the creation of greater democratic spaces for democratic politics, and will create an even greater space for socialist politics if Communists are able to be at the forefront of this struggle. We should therefore wholeheartedly support the death of this doctrine of hate in complete unity.
2) THE MILITARY OPTION: Some commentators feel that the military option is a bad one IN GENERAL; such an opinion can only arise if one holds one or a combination of the following views:
a) THE VISION OF THE TALIBAN IS ANTI-IMPERIALIST AND WE SHOULD SUPPORT THEM INSTEAD: Such a position is a result of complete confusion over the meaning of Imperialism. Imperialism is in essence a set of fundamental economic relations between the ruling classes of the core capitalist countries and those of the periphery. I recommend the article by Samir Amin entitled ‘Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism’ (available at the Monthly Review website) for all those who believe that the Taliban represent an Anti-Imperialist force. In short, only a political culture based on the broad unity of the popular forces (especially the working masses) with the aim of breaking or at least mitigating the exploitative relations of Imperialist capitalism can be called Anti-Imperialist. The Taliban’s project of exclusion based on religion, their dismal treatment of women is absolutely antithetical to the forces needed muster an Anti-Imperialist Movement. They are opposed to modernity in all its forms and are stuck in primordial and medieval times. THEY ARE ANTI-WEST, ANTI-MODERN but NOT ANTI- IMPERIALISTS!
The TALIBAN have to stop being the TALIBAN for any alliance with them!
The confusion on this point is confusion between form and content: people feel that just because the Taliban are ‘Fighting’ the American and NATO forces, and since America and NATO represent Imperialism, on face value, anyone fighting it is Anti-Imperialist. By the same token, we can call German Fascism Anti-Imperialist since it fought British and French Imperialism, or why it did so and with what vision becomes immaterial. Likewise, the Taliban have only in mind a tribalist, anti-modern, medievalist and highly repressive STATE rather than a State that can fundamentally alter the subordinate relations between oppressor and oppressed nations, which is the essence of Imperialism.
b) WE ARE NOT CAPABLE OF FIGHTING THE TALIBAN: This amounts to complete capitulation and we might as well give up all hopes of democracy, let alone socialism and hand over control to the Taliban. The Taliban can go on wreaking havoc on the helpless citizens of NWFP and the Tribal areas, slitting throats and burning down schools and all we can say is that their should make peace deals. Of course, talks should be pursued, but only with those who recognize the democratically elected government of the country, do not go around breaking peace deals, disarm and resort to peaceful propagation of their ideas. Since the ideology of the Taliban does not recognize the state to be “Islamic” and calls for a JIHAD against them, we doubt that they would disarm and become peaceful, as they have proven time and again.
Therefore, the policy should be: PURSUING PEACE WITH THOSE WHO LAY DOWN THEIR ARMS & MILITARY ACTION AGAINST THOSE WHO BREAK PEACE DEALS.
Moreover, it must be clear to the government that no PEACE DEAL be made with any group engaged in violence; NOR should any peace deal be made that subordinates itself too to the interest of these religious-militant groups (I have in mind primarily the Taliban, but we know that there are a number of other groups, some even hostile to one another that are operating). This means that if the condition put forward by these groups is the implementation of ‘TALIBAN STYLE SHARIA’ then the government should reject such a peace outright. We already suffer from ‘Zia-style Islamization’ as it is, we can’t slip further. Also, part of the Awami National Party (ANP) vote is also for a more tolerant version of Islam, if not secularism, and the ANP should stick to desires of its constituency. The Taliban, who hold little popular support compared to the ANP, MUST NOT be allowed to force the government to capitulate through bullets and bomb jackets.
As for the view that we are incapable of fighting the Taliban, well, ITS NOT TRUE because our establishment has helped create these monsters and knows how they think. The speed with which Mangal Bagh resumed talks with the government after the operation showed that our Army knows how to fight this war. It is true that the government MAY not want to completely eliminate these elements, since they have always acted as ‘dogs on a leash’, nurtured by the government and mobilized against progressive forces. However, since 9/11 a split occurred between these groups and U.S. Imperialism. The Pakistani client state, under pressure from US Imperialism, reluctantly decided to act against the monsters it had created in unison with Imperialism. In that situation, the manner in which the operations in the tribal areas and Swat was carried out was problematic; all the Taliban got away and innocent people were massacred, many innocent people were picked up and sold to the Americans as Taliban. We even mentioned that close to 900000 people have been displaced from SWAT alone.
However, this was to point out precisely the conduct of the war hitherto fought and not a call to stop military option altogether. It was to show that the Musharraf government was unable to eliminate the Taliban due to sheer incompetence and also due to the presence of religious extremists inside the Military Intelligence and Establishment who want to keep the Taliban alive; As a result, Musharraf simply went on to score cheap points with the Americans by attacking this or that village, capturing many innocent people and selling them to the Americans and the entire exercise became a grotesque ‘numbers game’. This is the reason why the Pakistani forces, initially viewed as liberators by the local population, quickly became enemies and it even led to increase in support for the Taliban, who found useful recruits in the hapless victims of the Army’s excesses.
This is why when we talk of MILITARY ACTION we do not mean F-16s, drone attacks, or heavy firing on villages, we mean precisely a low- intensity warfare that the government is currently engaged in; using locally recruited Frontier Corp (FC) units aiming to isolate the Taliban from the local population and eliminating them. The DIALECTIC of attacks on the population and support for the Taliban can only be resolved by ensuring local popular participation and the use of the FC troops is a welcome sign. This must be couples with a political, social, and cultural assault on the Taliban’s ideas. The seminaries that produce such extreme views must be reformed, their funding should be monitored, and a long-term process of incorporating the Tribal areas into the mainstream political culture should be initiated.
The legitimate question is, will the same government that helped create the Taliban be willing to do all those things?
We have already mentioned that there are two trends in the Establishment right now: Those with the Taliban and those who want to eliminate them. While the government has been nurturing these elements in the past, they elements now seem to be aggressive enough to warrant an attack from the government itself, albeit reluctantly. The People’s Party of Pakistan (PPP) has already given a detailed program of Madrassah (religious seminaries) reform, disarming of these groups, and incorporation of FATA into the mainstream political process, as well as heavy investment in infrastructural development in those areas. WE CONCEED THAT THE GOVERNMENT will not be able to complete all these tasks to the end, given its class nature. However, given that A CONTRADICTION HAS ARISEN BETWEEN THE EXTREMISTS, OUR STATE
AND IMPERIALISM AND CERTAIN SECTIONS OF THIS STATE DO WANT TO ELIMINATE THESE GROUPS, what progressives need to do is to mobilize people on the basis of holding the government to its words of eliminating religious extremism through struggles on all fronts. IF WE MANAGE TO MOBILIZE POPULAR SUPPORT FOR THE PPP’s program, they will be forced to carry the struggle without reluctance but if we simply hide behind the idea that the government WON’T ELIMINATE THEM IF THEY DO NOT WANT TO. THEY WILL, IF WE FORCE THEM TO DO SO!
2) THIS IS AMERICA’S WAR: Well, YES and NO. The Americans were once part of the nexus that nurtured these elements but now there is a contradiction. Also, its not just Imperialism’s war, it is now our own. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT WHILE IMPERIALISM is conducting this war for its own interests such as oil, gas and a neo-liberal (read: neo-colonial) regime by conducting indiscriminate bombings and massacres, we must do it on our own terms and our own tactics as explained above. WE MUST REJECT ALL AGGRESSIVE MANUEVERS BY IMPERIALISM such as the threat to attack our regions, and clarify to the people that Imperialism created this monster and it will only increase it if it stays. Again, the response should not be to fold our arms and say, “Well, It is Imperialism’s war and we can’t support it”. SADLY, IT
HAS BECOME OUR WAR NOW AND WE CAN ONLY WIN IT IF WE MOBILIZE PEOPLE BOTH AGAINST IMPERIALISM AND RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM. IT CANNOT BE ONE BY HIDING BEHIND THE LABEL OF ‘AMERICA’S WAR’
IN SHORT, THE ABOVE IS A CALL FOR A COMPLETE REJECTION OF RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM AND ACTIVELY HOLDING THE GOVERNMENT TO ITS WORD OF ELIMINATING EXTREMISM BY A STRUGGLE ON ALL FRONTS, WITH ITS SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM GOALS IN MIND.
NO MORE TALK OF SUPPORTING THE TALIBAN AS ANTI-IMPERIALISTS!
SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT IN PROTECTING THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF CITIZENS AND OPENING DEMOCRATIC SPACES!
LET’S BUILD A PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT AGAINST RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM AND THE CULTURES OF CRUELTY & HATE!