Taliban’s guerilla war in Afghanistan is often labeled by some liberals and confused leftists as a National Liberation War. It is indeed their democratic right to say what they think is right. But the issue is most opinion-makers use political terminology without going into dispassionate objective analysis, which sends wrong messages to the people.
At the face of it is quite a populist statement used by our journalists and some analysts. They claim that Taliban are actually fighting to get the foreign forces of ISAF out of their country, hence it is a National Liberation War. Anything which is anti-American sounds good and erroneously considered anti-imperialist. They glamourise the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan, without going into the depth of the issue and forgetting a major point that these forces are there to help stablise an elected government and mot make Afghanistan a colony.
Any political scientist would first refresh his memory about the circumstances in which such a war has started. Second, ask a question where this so-called National Liberation would lead the country? Third, what does it promises to the people of the country, particularly the poor people? Fourth, who are these ‘liberators’ fighting? Fifth, how are they fighting? Sixth, are the majority of the people in the country supporting this war? And there can be a number of other minor questions, which we should not deal with here.
So first let’s look back into the recent history of Afghanistan. The 1978 April revolution was led by the communist parties of Afghanistan. Some of the early reforms they introduced were things like compulsory male and female education, abolition of “Walwar’ that is a tradition of buying a bride, reformation of oppressive private money lending system, women’s rights etc. There was nothing unIslamic in these reforms. But Pakistan decided to interfere in their internal affairs and created batches of so-called Islamic Mujahideens led by Gulbedin Hikmatyar — a long time ISI client. Then Ziaul Haq sucked in the American and Saudi government and increased incursions in Afghanistan. The Afghan government made a mistake and invited the Soviet Union forces in to defend them. The Soviets were wary of the US-led insurgency in their backyard and were tempted to send their forces. They paid a heavy price for this mistake. The communists also lost their ground because of infighting.
Once the Pakistan-US-Saudi sponsored counter-revolution was successful and the Soviet forces were pulled back, the inevitable happened. There was all out war between various Mujahideens’ group and Afghanistan was divided among various war lords, with Pakistani intelligence seeking to establish its proxy government in Kabul. Who suffered most in this game? The poor people of Afghanistan. It is important to remember this phase of Afghanistan history, because once the ISAF forces would be out without preparing the Afghan government to take effective control, the country would again drift into a civil war among tribal war lords.
Then came the Pakistan sponsored Taliban who managed to conquer almost 80% of the country and established their brand of Salafist Shari’ah. No doubt they brought peace to the area they controlled, but in bargain they established a government based on religious and ethnic fascism. Intolerance to other sects and religions was rampant. Should we forget that when the whole world was pleading they were destroying Buddha’s statues. They gave sanctuary to extremist anti-shia groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba, who went on rampage against the Shias in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their style of government gave Islam a bad name across the world. Men were forced to keep beards, women were wrapped from head to toe, their education was stopped, and economy was managed in a most primitive manner which further made life difficult for the people. Above all they agreed to provide shelter to Al Qaeda for training the Jihadists for a global Islamic revolution. The list is long and does not given credentials of national liberation front to Taliban.
The foreign forces which are now in Afghanistan did not come to colonise the country, they were sucked into this region thanks to the Taliban’s foolish policies. Pakistan and the world did give them enough time to move away from exporting terrorists to the world. The “Great Terrorist University’ created by Taliban and their worthy ‘Al Qaeda’ friends played havoc not only in western countries (who they consider infidel) but in Muslim countries also.
The present Afghan government cannot be brushed aside, like some analysts do, as just an American stooge. We have to again recall that in a high volatile and fragmented atmosphere there were elections in Afghanistan in which people from all the ethnic communities and areas participated. Many women were also elected, who were previously not allowed to go out of their house. The Afghans elected the present government.
These elections and the government is indeed far from what one would like it to be. But the fact is that the process of democratization has started no matter how ugly it looks at present and is definitely better than the dictatorship of Mullah Omar. The Taliban if they have any love for the people and respect for democracy should participate in the coming election in 2009. That is the only civilized politics in today’s world. Once Afghanistan would stabilise and develop its own forces for maintaining law and order, the whole world would support withdrawal of foreign forces.
Now the second question who are they fighting for? An important factor which is overlooked by our political commentators is the demographic composition of Afghanistan, which is as following: Pashtun: 42%, Tajik: 27%, Hazara: 9%, Uzbek: 9%, Aimak: 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2% and Other 4%.
This shows that 58% of the population is not Pushtun and even they are divided between Pushto and Dari speaking. The bulk of Taliban forces come from the Pushto speaking Afghans. So please do not paint the picture that they represent the aspirations of the majority of the Afghans. President Karzai comes from an important Pushton tribe Popalzai. His father was killed in Quetta by the Taliban which according to Karzai had ISI backing. (see Ahmed Rashid’s latest book on Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia ‘Descent into Chaos’). There are other Pushton tribes which are against Taliban.
It should also be kept in mind that the situation is not that bad in much of Afghanistan, because the Taliban support is mostly in Southern Afghanistan. Many other cities up in North and in the West have little Taliban’s support.
Third question: We have to see what Taliban are offering to the people if their ‘so-called National Liberation war is successful. The answer is no progress for uplifting Afghanistan from its abysmal position, but retrogression for sure. Now if we have the interest of the common Afghan people in mind, we should not glorify a reactionary movement. Our minds should not be clouded by our dislike and aversion for the US government mistakes.
The answer to the Afghan problem is that the elected government has to be stablised and we all know they cannot do it alone. They need international support. True, US-led forces presence in Afghanistan is not a good idea. Perhaps they should be replaced with the Muslim countries force under the UN umbrella. This umbrella is there already which has brought in ISAF forces. Initially some Muslim countries were invited but they shied away.
All said and done stability in Afghanistan is not important for the country but also for the world. The Taliban-cum-Al Qaeda terrorist university has to be closed, period. Pakistanis have been the worst sufferers of terrorism, after Afghanistan, because this Taliban’s war has spilled over into our country. Our establishment has nourished these people dreaming that one day they will help getting the Kashmir issue resolved and in installing a proxy government in Kabul.
The time is up for this old policy. The need is that we declare openly in the parliament that Pakistan has reviewed its policy which has thrown us in the eye of a storm and would not allow anybody to use our land for interference in our neighbour’s affairs. At the same time we would not tolerate their crossing the border at free will. Policy of traditional soft borders with Afghanistan has to be changed so that nobody can blame us for providing safe havens to Taliban and there are no more incursions into Pakistan from the Afghan side.
Similarly, all Jihadi organisations, which are still operating openly in the country, should be convinced and pressurized to close shop. They cannot be used as a pressure lobby in dealing with India any more, the geo-political situation has changed so let’s bury our old tools.
And to my liberal and leftist Taliban apologists I would say that please be careful and deal with anti-imperialist issues and religious fascism resurgence in the right perspective. (firstname.lastname@example.org)