Shaheryar Ali

It was a pleasant evening and I was conversing with a progressive intellectual of Pakistan who was a Marxist revolutionary during the revolutionary times and now is a billionaire who runs an empire of NGOs through out Pakistan.  After the collapse of Soviet Union it was quite easy for these “revolutionary” intellectuals who literarily had no roof over their heads to sell their skill and talent to the international donors, a slight twist of language which converted “bourgeoisie” into elites did the trick and now most of them are richer than fellows of traditional propertied classes who were once their main declared enemy.

My dear friend was deeply distressed over the latest developments in Pakistan. The epic drama of entrenching and hostage taking in the General Headquarters of Pakistan Army in the Garrison town of Rawalpindi had pushed him beyond the limit. Playing with his glass of red wine which he had brought from France where he went to attend a conference on “Poverty alleviation”, he said to me, “Your country will become Afghanistan, this conflict will continue for at least 20 more years”. “They entered the GHQ. Killed a brigadier and took men hostage remained there for 24 hours” he continued. “It’s the damn headquarter, the heart of our defense establishment, can any one imagine such an incompetence? Where were the mighty ISI and MI” he kept lamenting. “The state of our state has been exposed in front of the whole world, our guardian cannot guard themselves” he sipped his wine, which perhaps didn’t soothed him at all. “Did you hear that press conference by Nawaz Sharif?” he asked me.

Whats there to listen? I said “Lier Lier bloody lier , he is a damn bloody lier” he threw away the glass. His sculptured face though showed the shadow of age but held its old mystique. His cheeks were now the colour of wine he was drinking. I wanted to remind him of his empire’s support of Judicial movement and his praises of “progressive Shahbaz

Black Coats/Black Shirts

Black Coats/Black Shirts

Sharif” and his great administrative skills. These skills are clearly evident from Aata to Sugar crisis and attacks on Police Training center, which has become a ritual of the sort by the terrorists. I wanted to remind him about his praises of Sharif’s principle stand on “judiciary”. “Did you by any chance manage to read the decision of Lahore high court on the petition challenging the arrangement of leasing thousands of acres of land in Seriki southern Punjab to Saudi Arabia?” I asked him. “Yar is that the issue?” Southern Punjab is being talibanized , you know its become the den, I have just seen the mighty complex they are building in Bahawalpur.” He informed me. Yes I know, from Taank and DI khan, they enter Bakher and from there spread to whole Seriki wasiab, there are sleeper cells in Kabirwala , Mianchannu , Multan, they have been  piling up explosives for more than a year now. One depot of theirs exploded accidentally in Mianchannu demolishing the entitle village, I know whats going on in Bahawalpur, I also know why in certain mosques in this entire region study circles of university students are being conducted these days., I also know once again slogans of “Kaffir Kaffir Shia Khaffir” are being visible on the walls of this region” I said.

“And you still want to bash the judiciary instead of highlighting the real issue” he asked me. I thought about the state of distress my elder friend was in, the dream this generation saw of equality and change which shattered in front of them; they changed the course, compromising with western powers they took up the agenda of democracy, reformism and secularism, which too was failing in front of them. Taliban appeared as a ghost from their past to haunt them. “I am highlighting the real issue, though you may not acknowledge it” I commented. “You were also carried away by your dear friend Aitzaz Ahsan’s poetry—- Adel bina jamhoor na ga” I said sarcastically. “I am bashing judiciary but what Ali Ahmad Kurd is doing?” now the “azad manish judges are pharaohs eh? I took a sip from my glass and continued , “problem is my friend, you don’t have to attend namaz-e-janaza of murdered Bloch leaders, every second day in Quetta and face the angry eyes of Baloch nationalists who supported the judicial movement believing Ali Ahmad Kurd and Aitzaz Ahsan that it will result in rule of law” I said . “You don’t have to go through that ordeal every second day but Ali Ahmad Kurd

Honourable Chief Justice LHC

Honourable Chief Justice LHC

has too, he has to answer those in Quetta for those the murderous character of this state was not transformed into a Matriarchal one as Aitzaz Ahsan promised”. I went on. “and as for the dreams of Jinnah’s Pakistan and secular revolution you guys were bringing in imamat of Aitzaz Ahsan, General Hamid Gul and Qazi Hussein Ahmad, I just want to ask you why every sectarian monster incarcerated in Punjab has been released  in the past few months, the same monsters who are now entrenching in southern Punjab”. I asked him.

Judicial Revolution in Jinnah's Pakistan

Judicial Revolution in Jinnah's Pakistan

“One can’t accept an institution of a state to transcend the ideological boundaries of the state, they have a limited operative space Sherry” his face became redder. “ahan than what was the fuss all about my friend? What was the nonsense about revolutions and long marches, what was all that, last time I checked its called de-contextualization, you guys misled the public opinion exhausted the energy of the people to bring change and pushed them into disillusionment”. My voice raised a little and he winced. I helped myself to bar and put some orange juice in the glass and splashed a liberal amount of Vodka in it. I gave the glass to my friend; this will be soothing I told him. “The link between Punjabi sectarian organizations and Al Qaida has long been established. They were the first to join Al Qaida in Pakistan; they are the most advance tendency of extremism in Pakistan. They have demonstrated their ability by attacking Mumbai, GHQ and ISI instillations, why than they were being released by judiciary?”  I asked him. “You know Lahore High Court has made United Nation and Government of Pakistan ban on LeT practically ineffective. Now they have ordered the government to withdraw all cases against Hafiz Muhammed Saeed. Before that they released many people of other sectarian organizations , Supreme court of  Pakistan released Molana Aziz the monster of Lal Masid and he toured the whole southern Punjab with police escort instigating jihad. Only in Taunsa 300 burqa clad girls with strips of “Sharia or death” around their heads got their names registered with Aziz, this happened with the chants of “Jan Jan Taliban” now I was angry. “I hope Junaid Jumshaid and Aitzaz Ahsan will release a joint album of “Jaan Jaan Taliban and Riyasat ho gi maa ke jesi—adal bina jumhoor na ho ga” I taunted him.

“The judiciary in NWFP is giving similar concessions to Sufi Muhammed, his sons who were combatants in Swat were released what non sense is this? You people want more bloodshed in Swat? “Half a dozen or more poor human beings were burned alive in Gojra, the city PML-N chief, the police and these sectarian thugs burned people alive, our restored judiciary which was supported by NGOs and Human Rights brigade instead of acting on behalf of victims supported Blasphemy laws, the most honorable chief justice pledged to protect the Blasphemy law and to protect Pakistan from “conspiracies of Hindus and Jews” that according to the news paper reports” I told him. “Do you people have any decency left? Now you are crying over talibanization? You want me to curse Fazal-ul-reham and Zardari and mullahs, my dear friend you people are equally responsible. You brought back right wing partisans in judiciary and they have purged every liberal one” I continued.

Vodka had done the trick, my friend was now calm. “Ghulam Rasool!” he called his servant and clapped. “Yes Sir” he said. “Start the stereo”  “Janab what will you like to hear” he asked. My friend closed his eyes for few minutes and than said “Ub ke hum bichre tu shahid kabhi khabo mein millen— Sherry baba likes Ahmad Fraz” he told him and smiled. Servant knew well enough and soon the room was echoing with the voice of Hussain Hazervi.

“Wazirstan mein operation shuru ho gaya “the servant informed us. “Very good” he said. I had already read the International Crisis Group’s report on the expected failure of the operation and Army’s pact with two Taliban groups so was rather worried! “You havnt learned anything” I said. I took a big gulp from my glass and started listening to the wonderful ghazal

Nasha bherta he sharabe’n jub sharbo’n mein mile’n. But my nasha was already gone——-

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Subject: Cosmetic changes won’t resolve militancy

Lahore, July 21: While welcoming the return of the Malakand IDPs to their homes as a positive development, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has warned the government that no cosmetic shift in the security policies will solve the crisis of militancy and that efforts in a new dimension will be needed to achieve that end. Based on the conclusions of a quick fact-finding mission to the Frontier province, led by Ms Asma Jahangir, the HRCP statement issued on Tuesday said: “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is monitoring the gradual return of the IDPs from Malakand Division to their homes. This is a positive development and gives peace a chance. It also presents a brief window of opportunity for reversing the trend towards Talibanisation but this opportunity may be lost if a cohesive policy is not adopted and civilian infrastructure not put in place, an infrastructure that can sustain peace. It is important to recognise the collective role played by the humanitarian agencies as well as the civilian and military administration in making the early return of the IDPs possible. Even more crucial to this turn of events was the exemplary behaviour of the displaced people and their local hosts. The displaced people found their own way to safety under extremely tough conditions and are now making their way home on their own. They have little faith in the government and there is a serious deficit of trust between the local population and the military. In order to build trust as well as to sustain peace HRCP believes that the government must take a new direction. There was near unanimity amongst official and non-official interlocutors that met with HRCP during their missions to Pakhtoonkhwa (NWFP) that any cosmetic shift in the security policies of the government will not solve the crisis of militancy in Pakistan. HRCP believes: • It is crucial that the policy of “bleeding India” and maintaining a strategic depth in Afghanistan be reviewed. In short, the national security paradigm must shift to the need to keep pace with the political realities of the region. There are indications that this has so far not happened.The government must distance itself from the ideology of pan-Islamism. • The nucleus of the top militant leadership must be taken apart and their communication and financial infrastructure dismantled. There are no indications that this has happened either. On the contrary, there are well-founded suspicions that certain elements known for their pro-Taliban policies continue to protect a number of top militant leaders. • The operation in Malakand Division must not lose sight of the strong militant presence in FATA. Peace will not return to Swat unless militant networks in FATA are defeated. • Simultaneous action must also be carried out against all militant networks in other parts of the country, particularly the Punjab, where militants operate with impunity. • The civil and political administration must take command on the ground in Swat soon. There is a comprehensive plan of recruiting and equipping the police force in Pakhtoonkhwa. The number of police stations in the Malakand Division is to be doubled and the police force tripled. It appears that the civil administration is also preparing a comprehensive plan for better governance in the province. The resources provided to them will, however, be monitored by a serving army general on behalf of the Federation. The Awami National Party leaders plan to visit Swat on a regular basis now but almost all IDPs resented the bunkerisation of the political leadership while they faced all the risks and tragic deaths of their families. • Access for independent journalists and observers to the area must be ensured. So far, the military has only encouraged embedded journalism to an embarrassing extent. At times local journalists have openly raised slogans in support of the military. Foreign journalists have accused the authorities of misleading them by giving false names of the places they were taken to for reporting. There are several reports of reprisals against journalists by the militants as well as by the security forces. • Human rights violations should be closely monitored both during and post-conflict. HRCP was appalled at reports of extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces. Militant leader Maulvi Misbahuddin was apprehended by the security forces and later the bodies of Misbahuddin and his son were found in Bacha Bazar. The government claims that they were killed in an encounter while eyewitnesses hold that they were arrested by the police in Mardan. Amir Izzat, spokesperson of the Swat militants, was arrested from Amandara. Two days later the authorities claimed that Izzat was killed allegedly by militants trying to rescue him when they attacked the vehicle taking him to jail. Independent journalists claim that the targeted vehicle shown to them did not even have an engine. The most harrowing reports were of dead bodies strewn upside down by the military with notes attached to the bodies warning that anyone supporting the Taliban will meet the same fate. There must be a difference between the actions of agents of the State and those of fanatical non-state actors. Such tactics only terrorise and dehumanise society. HRCP urges the government to impart training to the security forces and familiarise them with human rights and humanitarian law. HRCP has also received credible reports of the security forces resorting to collective punishments, forcible occupation of orchards and the use of indiscriminate and excessive force. • All human rights violations during the conflict must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice. There are reports of reprisals which can only be discouraged if the State fulfills its obligation of providing justice through due process. • HRCP has received reports of children abandoned during the conflict being handed over to dubious NGOs. It is vital that the provincial government keep track of the adoption of every single child and ensure that children are reunited with their families or are looked after by well-intentioned groups.”

Couldnt resist the temptation, i have been long writing that Pakistan’s Army’s operation in Swat is just a PR exercise to improve their standing Amongst the people of Pakistan. Dr Samina Ahmad of International Crisis Group had also repeatedly warned people about this. She warned people against beating Army’s drum and the need to limit Army’s role in humanitarian activities in Swat. After killing innocent people and displacing 2.5 million people, creating ethnic hatred in Sindh between Pashtuns and Sindhis and providing safe escape to Taliban and spreading them all over Pakistan, in guise of operation: The notorious Taliban leader Mullah Fazalullah today contacted BBC. Yet another monster Muslim Khan the spokesman of Taliban also talked to the BBC. Not only they are well but they are running their Sharia Justice. They have “pardoned” 5 politicians and threatened others. The legendary Taliban radio was also heard in Swat again according to reports The secular clowns who were beating Army’s drum and cursing anyone who tried to point out that Army is main supporter of Taliban. Even  if thats not the case [suppose], these “patriots” [read establishment stooges] should worry about the professional capabilities of Pak Army who could kill a single Taliban top leader and couldnt block a FM radio Now keep cursing India, Gandhi and ANP. Welcome to Reality l FACT:  During the  Swat operation  , one of the most glorified military operation of Pakistan Army, Not a single Top Taliban leader was either arrested or killed. the estimated number of Taliban in region was approx 6000. 2.5 to 3 million people were displaced whose life has been ruined. Long Live “Jinnah’s” Pakistan

Dr Ahmad is a brilliant Pakistani academic trained in Australian National University and Kennedy School of Governance. She heads the South Asia chapter of International Crisis Group. She is a keen observer of Pakistani establishment and had repeatedly warned the world about Army’s support to the Islamic extremists. She brought General Musharraf’s double game to world’s attention. She repeatedly warned about the continuous support to Taliban and Al-Qaida by Pakistani establishment. She has focused on the “education policy” and “religious madrassas” as key contributors to spread of extremism. In 2005 at the height of General Musharraf’s golden rule of “enlightened moderation” she wrote in Washington Post an article which was named “Pakistan still schooling the extremists” in collaboration with Andrew Stroehlein. In that article she wrote something which now appear prophetic. She wrote:

“Musharraf’s promises came to nothing. His military government never implemented any program to register the madrasas, follow their financing or control their curricula. Although there are a few “model madrasas” for Western media consumption, the extremist ones account for perhaps as many as 15 percent of the religious schools in Pakistan and are free to churn out their radicalized graduates.

Whether or not it turns out to have been part of the London bombing story, Lashkar-i-Taiba is an excellent example of how Musharraf’s government has failed to curb extremist religious militants. Formed by Arab-influenced veterans of the Afghan jihad in 1988, the group enjoyed the military’s patronage in its jihad against India in Kashmir. Though formally banned in 2002, Lashkar-i-Taiba simply renamed itself Jamaat ul-Dawa and continued its activities, including the promotion of jihad in Kashmir, where it has openly claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks.

The organization’s leader, Hafiz Sayeed, was temporarily detained, but only under Pakistan’s Maintenance of Public Order legislation, not its much more stringent Anti-Terrorism Act, and he was soon released. Prominent figures from this and other formally banned groups such as Sipah-i-Sahaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed appear to enjoy virtual immunity from the law”

This was 2005. What has changed? The same LeT and Hafiz Saeed later attacked Mumbai. There was yet another banning and yet another temporary imprisonment . Lahore High Court released the monster to a Hero’s welcome. Today in Lahore , these people the same groups which Dr Ahmad has named have killed Mufti Dr Sarfaraz Naimi, the grand Sunni Mufti who was opposed to Taliban.

Now Dr Ahmad has spoken to France 24 and have pointed out an important fact, how Army can use Swat operation to increase its popularity. She has also boldly told the truth that Army still is controlling the political institutions. She says:

Of course, a significant part of the problem is that the army’s current operation is simply coming too late.

Rather than resolutely confronting the Taliban earlier, both military and civilian governments chose a worst-of-all-worlds policy, alternating the use of haphazard force with short-sighted appeasement deals with militants. This only strengthened the Taliban, making today’s fight many times more difficult than it would have been a few years ago.

The army’s use of heavy force, its failure to address the full cost to civilians and its refusal to allow effective humanitarian access to conflict zones have already been counter-productive.

Another danger is that the military will exploit any success on the battlefield and in its own relief efforts to try to dominate reconstruction to win public support and bolster its standing in the country.

Despite Pakistan’s transition to civilian rule in February 2008, the military continues to dominate key institutions, and it will take some time to tame its ambitions fully.

If Pakistan is going to emerge from this crisis a more stable country and a stronger democracy, all assistance efforts – relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction – have to be civilian-led. They must be responsive to the needs of local people and empower their communities. Beating radical Islamist groups and “the army” in the aid game is a key to winning this war”

The whole text of saving Pakistan can be reached here

Listen to Samina Ahmad , stop beating Army’s drum or else it will be too late

Shaheryar Ali

Did I expect anything from Lahore High Court: especially since restoration and appointment of the current chief justice by direct intervention of Chief

Lahore High Court

Lahore High Court

Justice of Pakistan? I was expecting exactly what has happened. I have a very bad record with Lahore High Court. I expect worse from it. Historical compulsions and socio-political alignments for last 100 years have made it one of the most reactionary state institutions. From judicial murder of Shaheed Bhagat Singh to judicial murder of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, this court has always done the deeds of establishment. Now its Shaif Raj in Punjab and Mansoora is controlling the courts. One Sharif is policing Art and culture in Punjab and other Sharif is banning singers.

The fruits of the “black revolution” are slowly becoming evident, first monster of lal masjid Molana Aziz was released by Supreme Court of Pakistan and now the master mind of Mumbai attacks and head of the Lashker-e-Toiba, the monster of Murikay Hafiz Saeed has been released by Lahore High Court. This should be kept in mind that this move comes at a time when PPP-ANP coalition shifted the tide of public opinion against the Taliban by playing a dangerous gamble of signing the controversial “Nizam-e-Adel” regulations. By taking a U-turn against their ideological orientation ANP-PPP exposed the right wing PML-N and JI in front of the public and they had to abandon their Taliban sympathies. The people of Pakistan were outraged by the lecture on Islam given by the blue eyed boy of ISI and Pakistani right, Molana Sufi Muhammed. ANP out maneuvered not only PML-N, JI, JUI-F but also Pakistani Armed Forces who had to start a military operation in Swat.

From the day 1, army was not serious about fighting the Taliban; grave mistakes were done during the start of Rah-e-Rast. People of Swat were forcibly evicted from the area [State machinery announced in Swat , those who will remain will be considered Taliban and will be shot!] Millions of people were displaced without any documentation or registration; this was done to provide “safe cover” to the escaping Taliban which are considered strategic asset by Pakistan Army. Innocent people are being butchered in Swat, not a single top Taliban commander has been caught or killed yet. Disillusioned Swati youth which had joined Taliban mostly for sake of adventure have been killed by Army while the hard core cadre has actually been protected by the Army. Mr Arshed Khan, member center executive committee of Awami National Party was murdered in cold blood in his home in Swat by Pakistan Army. [Today, they have very kindly announced an inquiry] This is the reality of “Operation Rah-e-Rast”.

Pakistan IndiaThe establishment was forced to enter into Swat by a mix of international pressure and the brilliant but nevertheless risky politics by ANP. Army played back by creating the IDP crisis and making sure it bleeds ANP to death this time. MQM and PMl-N closed Punjab and Sindh to IDPs. With all the tears, and sweet words coming from PML-N about opening the doors of Punjab, the reality is that Punjab government has refused to open any camp for the IDPs in Punjab. Police has conducted operations against IDPs in southern Punjab. All this is being done to create hatred in Pashtun population against ANP which against the popular sentiment took a federal line on Pashtun nationalism. On top of it, an SMS campaign is going on in Punjab which speaks of how “Taliban are Hindus!” Banking on the phallic obsession of muslim men the text messages says that 90% of those caught and killed in Swat are not muslims because they are not circumcised!!!. The section of opinion makers which historically has been considered “loyalists” by Pakistani establishment has been constantly propagating these insights into Taliban insurgencies. It gets usual nod of approval from retired army officers and ISPR. Now to remind our secular elite, that this politics of penises is not a new one in Pakistan. When our great Army entered Bengal in 70 , the usual practice was to gather all the Bengali men and boys , their dhoti [Loin cloth] was snatched .Comments were passed on their penises and they were butchered. In West Pakistan our patriots told every one with horror that how Mukti Bahni are actually Hindus because they have uncut penises! The initial phase of Bengali Genocide focused on Bengali Hindus and communists, later muslim Bengalies were also being killed. In our Army eyes they too remained “un-cut”. The family of Sarahadi Gandhi [Wali Khan , Asfan Yar Khan] always remained “Hindu” in eyes of Army, Muslim League, Right wing press [Nawa-e-waqat use to publish article every week or so in Hindu practices of Khan family, yet another interesting news item which appears after every 15 days or so is that RAW has entered dozen or so beautiful women into Pakistan to woo sate secrets from lusty macho men of Pakistan]. Late GM Syed also remained “hindu” in eyes of these people, every time his photo was published; it was the same photo with “tilek” thanks to our media artists!!!] Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was also Hindu, Jasarat [the Jamate Islami’s news paper] and other mainstream papers published numerous articles on Hindu nature of Bhutto family, and it included a “Hindu name” for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Such was the strength of this propaganda that when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on orders of Lahore High Court, after his death his trouser was removed to see if Bhutto had a “un-cut” penis to prove his “hinduness”, it was photographed and filmed for state record [BBC] This whole project is being conducted to end war against Islamism. By bringing penises into politics what our establishment is doing amounts to “de-contextulization” of Islamist problem. Creating mania and hysteria against India and Hindus will save Taliban and Islamism. India is a Hindu majority secular nation state with a sizeable muslim minority, India can never support any radical muslim insurgency, its absolutely non sense.

Release of Hafiz Saeed must be looked in this context. In eyes of Pakistan’s security establishment, the liberal patriots and state institutions, the man is “Fateh-e-Mumbai”. The free judiciary has released the conqueror of Mumbai

Happy Jihadies

Happy Jihadies

despite the pleadings of Latif Khosa, Attorney General of Pakistan. Mr Khosa gave an in camera briefing to the honorable court. Mr Khossa told the court that government of Pakistan has evidence that LeT is allied to Al-Qaida. One must also note that the highest international law making body the United Nation Security council had considered evidence and banned LeT and its frontal organization but Pakistan’s free judiciary failed to see any evidence against Hafiz Saeed. This release comes a day after the monstrous suicide attack on Lahore. When Punjab is in midst of suicide attacks, the head of Punjabi Taliban is a free man. All thanks to our great civil society and champions of Jinnah’s Pakistan. With release of Hafiz Saeed one thing is now clear, that Pakistani state is now going to unleash a wave of terror in Southern Punjab and possibly Gilgat and Baltistan . In the last few days courts have bailed a number of sectarian monsters all over southern Punjab who were incarcerated for a long time. Warm up sectarian killing have already started in Gilgat and surrounding areas.

What was ironic that in Lahore, our self righteous lawyers humiliated Latif Khossa in Punjab bar meeting where Chief Justice of Pakistan was sitting watching all this political drama in front of him where , highest law officer of Pakistan, who is a Baloch and a Seriaiki was humiliated in Lahore by Punjabi lawyers for “betraying the struggle for free judiciary” , the same free judiciary which is releasing Molana Aziz and Hafiz Saeed and banning singers, while Baloch leaders are being murdered in cold blood and our courts fail to act. While Sharif brothers are acquitted of all charges in a decision which can be called scandalous to say the least. Even Justice Wajih-ud-din Ahmed had to criticize the decision and proceedings while talking to BBC With Balochistan in grip of a separatist movement and Taliban on the rampage on rest of the country what good courts and lawers are doing to nation by releasing these monsters and humiliating the political government which is desperately trying to control insurgencies?. When Senator Latif Khossa was being humiliated in front of honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan, didn’t he remember that it was the same Latif Khossa whose head was smashed by Punjab police while he was leading the protest procession Lahore for his restoration. Or do they want Multan, DG Khan and Muzaffergerh bars to raise slogans “Assan qaidi takhet Lahore de”. Don’t they know that Seraiki nationalists are already talking about joining “Azad Balochistan”?. Mr Chief Justice, look at these issues, you have not targeted a single important issue which threat this nation. Political decisions will doom this nation, people want action against Molana Aziz and Hafiz Saeed. Not against Asif Ali Zardari and Latif Khossa.

picasso23

Shaheryar Ali

Martyr Shabana

Martyr Shabana

Shabana’s bullet ridden body was found slumped on ground in the centre of Mingora’s green square, strewn with money, CD recording of her performances and photographs from her albums. Shabana was a traditional singer and dancing girl from Swat. She was brutally murdered for defying the ban imposed by Taliban. A Taliban leader later appeared on the FM Radio [which our most professional Army with one of the best technical skills, failed to block and claimed it was impossible to do so and which resulted in satirical responses from rival Indian Army as well as from distinguished physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy] and claimed the responsibility for her murder and warned that the Taliban will not tolerate any “un Islamic vices”

This all started when, enlightened and progressive General Pervez Musharraf , who than enjoyed the support of Judiciary [Honourable Justice Iftikhar including], the “civil” society, liberal Imran Khan, gave the province of NWFP to Mullahs of MMA , who in return passed the 17 amendment and legalized Musharraf’s coup. The conscientious judges followed suit.  Molana Fazul-ur Rehman and Qazi Hussein Ahmad enjoyed the fruits of governance for years and later became voices of democracy along with conscientious judges, civil society and of course Imran Khan! The 5 year rule of MMA in NWFP [Pakhtoonkhawa] resulted in banning of music, destruction of arts including the commercial Arts. The thugs of Jamate Islami blackened the feminine figures on the billboards in Peshawar. The traditional bazaars where music instruments were made and sold and where the artists and artisans lived were targeted by police and moral bigots who forced most of these people to flee the province. When MMA left, the province was in the hands of Taliban and Shabana got murdered.

A lot was written in foreign press, Shabana couldn’t finds even a two column10 space in our “free media”, just like that poor Pushto singer who was murdered in Peshawar a few days back. The girl was not even named! Only one who lamented Shabana was “buri auart”, that communist and Indian agent Kishwar Naheed. A representative of second wave feminism, who is now expressing the 3rd wave sensitivities, Naheed was part of the pro-communist Afro-Asian writers association with Faiz Ahmad Faiz. A living witness to the progressive movement and the tradition of resistance literature and Art, Naheed’s response to the times of Jihad has been a collection of poetry which has been titled Wehshat aur barrod mein lipti hue shairi”. ‘Poetry wrapped in explosives and barbarism. The poetry is the expression of a true artist living in the age of Jihad and Crusade! The moral relativism demonstrated by most of newly emerged pro-imperialist liberals by their silence on crimes of United States imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Pashtunkhawa, is not to be seen in this work by a great progressive. Whilst the focus of the book remains the Islamist barbarism, one finds echoes of Guantanamo bay, Fallujah and Sarajevo as well. The book includes touching poems on lost comrades like Ahmad Fraz, Benazir Bhutto and Edward Said.

Buddha crying in Swat

Buddha crying in Swat

Hundreds of years old historic statues of Lord Buddha were also wrapped in explosives and were blown. This monstrous attack on Pashtun history and cultural identity also took place during General Pervez Musharff’s golden rule. September 2007, the giant Buddha in Swat dating from 2nd century BC, was attacked twice in 20 days. The Taliban worked in broad day light putting dynamite with help of drill machines. The BBC, Hindustand Times, Dawn and Daily Times reported and highlighted the issue, but nothing was done and Taliban, re attacked it after 20 days. There was hardly any news in Urdu press; no protests were seen in any city of Pakistan. The free media channels of Pakistan also showed a complete apathy. Now Taliban are blowing humans in Swat. The attack of Taliban on statues and silent collaboration of MMA government scarred the artists especially those who earned their living craving Buddha sculptures which were popular amongst tourists.

The Seriaki speaking Pashtun city, Dera Ismail Khan, also known as DI Khan, the fusion of seraiki and Pushto civilization gave the city a unique status. A cultural hub, it was once known as “Dera Phulla’n da Sehra” [Dera is garland of flowers!]. After destruction of Jhang , this city has seen the curse of Jihad! Hundreds of people have been murdered. For years now target killing of Shia population and progressive artists and intellectuals is going on. Silence is the criminal response of Pakistan. The facts are buried in media grand meta-narrative of “sectarian violence”. There is no sectarian violence in DI Khan, there is no rift or collusion between any two sects which are living together for hundreds of years. What’s going on is an Anti-Shia holocaust by Jihadis: Target killing of intellectuals, writers and artists.

Philosopher, poet and linguist, author of 22 books Jamshaid Nayab , was tortured and his bullet ridden body was thrown in front of his house in DI Khan. The Molana praised the act of killing Kaffirs like him in the Friday sermon. Mr Nayab was an intellectual par excellence, a refined poet who authored books of history of western philosophy, on languages and civilization. He belonged to progressive tradition of intellectuals. He was member of the Communist Party of Pakistan. The left wing intellectuals and political activists have been the main target of Jihadi/Taliban forces in Pakistan. More than 450 socialists/Marxist/nationalists political activists have been murdered in Swat and Pashtunkhawa Most activists of PPP and ANP who have been murdered in Pashtunkhawa were those who belonged to socialists/Marxist wings within these parties. It must be noted 98% of  attacks and murders of political activists by Taliban are on 3 parties PPP, ANP and CPP  [all left wing parties]Many of these activists were poets and artists as well or main organizers of art and cultural activities in their regions. Great Urdu poet Mohsin Naqvi also fell a victim to these Jihadi forces in the 90s. His crimes were multifold, being a poet [Koran explicitly condemns poets and poetry in Chapters of Poets], was Shia , was progressive and socialist and supported PPP. He also famously wrote a poem on Benazir Bhutto. The poem has acquired a mythical status “Ya Allah Ya Rasool—–Benazir Beqasoor”

Music is a inseparable part of Pakhtoon culture and tradition. Pakhtoons have never lived without music and dance! For the first time such a thing is happening. The shrine of greatest Pashtu poet and Sufi, Rehman Baba was blown up by the Taliban. Rehman Baba had played a central role in building Pashtun identity, language and tradition. A humanist his poetry teaches peace, love and tolerance. He was known as “Nightingale of Pashtunkawa”. Barbarism didn’t spare the most sacred place of the Pashtun Culture. Hundreds of music centers and shops have been destroyed. Years back , great revolutionary and Marxist academic Eqbal Ahmad vested Kandahar of Taliban. He saw a graveyard of Pashtun culture and tradition. The living Kandahar of coffee houses, story tellers and musicians was no where to be seen. He wrote his impressions in form an article which was titled “Land without Music”. Now Pakistan is becoming the Land without Music.

To be continued

Adam Paul speaks the rare truth, which Pakistani Liberals and “free media” want to hide. He ask simple question/. Why our great Army can’t defeat few thugs? Most of the information comes from the socialist activists [the region is very progressive, despite what our liberals think! No one supports Taliban there] in the region. A bold act for which we must salute Pakistani section of IMT who are raising Red Banner in Swat and Tribal Areas even in these circumstances

Sherry

With thanks : International Marxist Website

Pakistan: Malakand/Swat – a vale drenched in blood and misery, but whose war is it?

The media make out that the Taliban have genuine mass support in Pakistan, but in this article we see how they are actually promoted by forces within the state that see them as a useful instrument in terrorising the local people and as a means of maintaining their own corrupt rule. And we shouldn’t forget the role of US imperialism in promoting them in the first place!

Today fear and terror reign in the beautiful valleys of Swat and Malakand. After destroying the peaceful valley of Swat, now terror is creeping downwards at steady speed and has now engulfed all the nine districts of Malakand Division. Encouraged by the victories of vigilante hordes in the garb of the Taliban, the fundamentalist elements are harassing ordinary people in all parts of the region and beyond.

Malakand (in yellow) in the north western provinces of Pakistan. Map by Pahari Sahib.

Malakand (in yellow) in the north western provinces of Pakistan. Map by Pahari Sahib.

But who are the Taliban and what is the secret behind their success? The Taliban are actually the criminal elements of society joined together by the armed forces and secret agencies of Pakistan. With the complete support of the ISI and local administration they are marching forward without any real resistance.In Malakand if you ask a street hawker, a bus driver, a car mechanic or a college student “who are the Taliban?” He would first smile at your question and then would say that they are in fact nothing and that it is the agencies that are playing games here.

Why the one million-strong Pakistan army, equipped with the most sophisticated weapons, cannot lay hold of a few hundred miscreants is now an open secret in Malakand. They just do not want to capture them; rather they support them covertly.

In the army’s Operation Rah-i-Haq, heavy artillery and gunship helicopters were used but not to destroy the Taliban but rather to harass the local population which has fled in big numbers.

All this terror, bloodshed, curfews and civil war have brought upheaval to the people of Malakand, whose first real wish is for peace at any cost. In the last election, the people of Malakand rejected the Mullahs and voted for the PPP and the ANP (the Pushtoon nationalist party) in the name of peace and for a solution to their basic problems, but no solutions have been forthcoming. Meanwhile, the locally elected MPs never return to their hometowns and are living in luxury in Peshawar and Islamabad while the people suffer.

All this has become intolerable and the people of the Swat and Malakand areas came out in big numbers in mid-February to protest against this civil war. In small towns people came out in numbers of 10,000 to 15,000 and protested against the brutalities of the Taliban, the Pakistan Army and against imperialist aggression.

In Batkhela 15,000 people came out on the main road and demanded an end to all this brutality. In Swat and Shangla there were mass rallies during the curfew in which people rejected all the forces of black reaction. The Pakistani media, which is playing the most counter-revolutionary role, presented these rallies as being in support of the Taliban, which is a blatant lie.

The people of Batkhela reported to us that Jamat-i-Islami (JI), a neo-fascist Islamic fundamentalist party, tried to hijack these rallies as there was no leadership from either the PPP or the ANP present at that time, but in spite of this the people refused to follow them. The activists of the JI raised slogans of Jihad through their megaphones but not a single person in the rally of thousands answered them. The people present were fed up of the games being played out by the agencies at their expense and wanted to put an end to this madness and devastation but there was no leadership. These spontaneous mass rallies continued for several days, due to which the Pakistan Army and the ISI came under immense pressure.

On February 16, in order to provide a face-saving device to the Taliban and also to present these rallies to the wider public as pro-Taliban, a peace deal was brokered between the provincial government of Pushtoonkhwa and Sufi Muhammad, who is a leader of a banned outfit, Tehrik e Nifaz e Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM). Sufi Muhammad – who was living an isolated life in Amandra in his madrasah – was suddenly brought into the limelight and presented as some saviour of the world. He was given the responsibility to talk to the Taliban and “persuade” them to stop fighting.

The “drama” of the negotiations and the so-called “peace deal” thus unfolded and the media was used as a tool to promote it as the best way of solving the problems. However, due to the fear of the people’s resistance, a mock peace deal was finally brokered on the terms and conditions of the Taliban and the Pakistan Army and State capitulated. The Taliban came out of this appearing as all-powerful and victorious.

The National Assembly in a hastily gathered session approved this deal unanimously, which strengthened the false notion of this “power of the Taliban”. President Zardari could do nothing but to sign that agreement. But what is the result? Is there now peace in Malakand? No. Are the Taliban weaker than before? No they have regrouped and strengthened and moved on.

According to the deal the civil courts will be replaced by Qazi Courts. What are Qazi courts? Nobody knows what they are, neither the President, the Army nor Sufi Muhammad; nobody knows what they are except for the fact that the judge will be called a Qazi. Nobody knows and nowhere is it written how they will function. Actually similar deals were brokered in 1994 and 1999 and the same regulations were then imposed. Those regulations didn’t solve a single problem then and neither will they solve any now.

In the bourgeois media we see intellectuals and analysts discussing for long hours about the so-called differences between the regular courts and the Qazi courts and they are manufacturing a false conflict between the two, when in reality the Qazi Courts are essentially the same as the filthy and stinking corpse of the regular courts in Pakistan.

On Sunday, April 19, after the deal Sufi Muhammad held a public meeting in Grassy Ground in Swat which was attended by nearly 30,000 people. People came in such big numbers for two reasons. Firstly due to the terror methods they were forced to attend this meeting. Secondly, they were hoping that now that the deal has been struck Sufi would announce peace and lay down his arms. But he disappointed the people and said nothing about peace or laying down arms, but said that the fight would continue.

The speech was broadcast live on all TV channels and everywhere people keenly listened to it. However, it revealed the real face of an ignorant Mullah, the real face of fundamentalism to everyone. Cyril Almeida wrote in the Dawn on 24 April:

“With one speech Sufi has done more to galvanize public opinion against militancy than a hundred suicide bombings and beheadings.

“Suddenly, people have woken up to the fact that the great soldier of Islam is a dangerous kook. ‘He thinks we’re what?’ ‘He wants to do what?’ Yes, he thinks the rest of us are sick and what we really need is a dose of Sufi’s medicine.”

In his speech he declared Parliament, the Supreme Courts and High Courts as un-Islamic and also that democracy was un-Islamic. He went on to say that everything is un-Islamic except for himself and his sect.

This exposed the reality of the “Islamic System” which the fundamentalists have been harping on about for the last 60 years. They say that the Islamic System should be imposed on all Pakistani society, but they never actually what that is in practice. Zia ul Haq, the most brutal dictator of Pakistan who ruthlessly ruled for 11 years, was never able to chalk out a detailed plan for such an Islamic System. All the previous attempts to impose one have done nothing but change the names of a few posts and offices and the rest remains a capitalist system and a bourgeois state. All attempts to chalk out anything outside the bourgeois state have failed.

Now once again they stand exposed. Various fundamentalist parties and right wing politicians such as Nawaz Sharif scoffed at Sufi meekly and defended the bourgeois state institutions.It was said that after the restoration of the judiciary all the problems under the sun would be solved. Price hikes, unemployment, the civil wars in Pushtoonkhwa and Balochistan, and all the other problems would be solved The person who led the movement of Restoration of the judiciary is trying hard to balance between the conflict over Qazi courts and regular courts. .

In reality, nothing has been solved and the judicial system of Pakistan also stands completely exposed in the eyes of the public. In actual fact, the judiciary as a state institution has always supported reactionary forces to terrorise the working class. Ayesha Siddiqa a strong supporter of the lawyers’ movement wrote in the Dawn on April 4:

“The judiciary must show more resolve than it did after the introduction of Zia’s draconian Nizam-e-Islam regulations. Then, barring a few judges… the majority happily applied laws that trampled on all norms of justice and human rights. And let’s not forget that the legal community in general did not really resist Zia’s laws. None of the bar councils protested against laws that ultimately resulted in an increase in homicide and injustice.

“As the county confronts an expansion of the Taliban, the legal community seems unable to muster the courage to launch a movement against what has happened in Swat. It is surprising that some lawyers place a higher value on the restoration of judges than on questioning the Malakand agreement which poses a greater threat to the state.”

Efforts, albeit only in words, are being made to rescue the disintegrating state structures, but the rapidly deteriorating economic situation leave no ground for this rescue operation to succeed.

Meanwhile, the ISI and Pakistan Army are using the Taliban threat to terrorise the people of Pakistan and to continue their plunder. After the “peace deal” the Taliban have emerged strengthened and now they face no resistance before them. And the local administration on the instruction of the ISI is giving them complete support.

Tha administrative head of Malakand has strong links to Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah. Photo by salimswati.

Tha administrative head of Malakand has strong links to Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah. Photo by salimswati.

The main link in this game is the commissioner of Malakand, Syed Muhammad Javed Shah. He is the administrative head of all nine districts of the Malakand division. In 2005 during the Mullah’s (MMA) government in the province he was appointed as the administrative head (DCO) of Swat but the leadership of the ANP in Swat approached the then chief minister and requested his transfer. They complained about his close ties with Maulana Fazlullah and said that he is actually living in his Madrasah. Fazlullah, also known as “mullah radio” is the head of the Taliban in Swat. Ironically, now that the ANP is in power in the centre and province, this man has been reappointed as commissioner. The recent intrusion of the Taliban in Buner was actually due to his help. Buner is a strategically important district of Malakand. It is on the border of Swabi and Mardan and is also nearer to Attock Bridge, the bridge that separates the Punjab from Pushtoonkhwa. This district is also close to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route from China to Pakistan.

The people of Buner had formed a militia to counter the Taliban attack and were up in arms. Commissioner Syed Javed went to the people who had gathered in Kanda, on the border of Buner and Swat, and said, “It is my responsibility to stop the Taliban. You people go and rest in your homes.” After persuading the squad to dismantle he imposed a curfew and then during the night invited the Taliban to capture all key positions in Buner. In this way the Taliban achieved another victory without firing a single bullet.

On April 17, the Friday prayers in Fazlullah’s Mosque in Swat were attended by the DIG (the Chief of Police), the DCO (the district administrative head) and the Brigadier who is in charge of the Army in Swat. All these people came in the car of Commissioner Syed Javed. The spokesperson of the Army has denied this news.

On April 3, Commissioner Syed Javed came to the Anti-Terrorism Court in Batkhela where a few Taliban were to appear for trial. before the “honourable court” “He ordered the police to unlock their handcuffs and took them with him  without any procedure or signatures.

All this shows how the ISI dominates the state institutions, Parliament and the provincial and federal government. He has now brought a new banned outfit, Lashkar-e-Tayyba to Malakand, where they have opened a new madrasah in Khar near Jolagram in the Malakand District. This fundamentalist organisation was formerly mostly present only in the Punjab and Kashmir.

Through the “peace deal” they have once again dashed the hopes of the people for peace. The Taliban, which is actually a gang of criminals, are now on a looting spree. Various mafia organisations related to smuggling of emeralds and rubies from the Swat mines, the timber mafia, gangs of kidnappers, drug smugglers and other criminal fugitives are using the Taliban militias for their protection. Abductions for ransoms have increased manifold since the so-called “peace deal”.

The Taliban have now increased their influence in Batkhela and other important cities and towns. At night they march through the streets in proper formation in groups of 60 to 70 with the most sophisticated weapons ever seen in the area. Their faces are covered and they can enter any home or beat anyone and sometimes abduct innocent people just for the purpose of terrorising the local population.

The complete support of the Army and State for these criminal gangs has left the people helpless in front of these beasts. The people are living a life of hell. With price hikes on the rise and unemployment and poverty increasing they cannot raise their voice for demands such as healthcare, education, food, clothing and shelter.

The recent release of Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Red Mosque in Islamabad clearly shows what the State and Army want. They want to spread this terror to the whole country. Already criminal gangs in the garb of the Taliban are grouping in the Punjab. In Lahore they have sent openly threatening letters to the Kinnaird College which is a top ranking girls’ college. In letters they have said that girls should not wear pants and they must obey the Islamic code otherwise they will spray acid on their faces. In Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab they have pasted posters inside police lines stating that that they will take revenge against the police if it takes any action against them.

Many new groups are emerging and more will emerge as the state structures are collapsing day by day. But who is organizing and financing them and is holding them united so that they do not fight among themselves? It is the same drug cartels and mafia groups set up by the CIA during the imperialist sponsored insurgency against the left-wing government in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Americans abandoned the region after the withdrawal of the Soviets but the hefty business of drugs and arms has continued.

In an appearance before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on April 24, Hillary Clinton for the first time publicly confessed that the Taliban were created by the US. She explained how the militancy in Pakistan was linked to the US-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. She said the following:

“But the problems we face now to some extent we have to take responsibility for, having contributed to it. We also have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan,

“Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago… and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union.

“They invaded Afghanistan… and we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work… and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said you know what it sounds like a pretty good idea… let’s deal with the ISI and the Pakistan military and let’s go recruit these mujahideen.

“And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.

“And guess what… they (Soviets) retreated… they lost billions of dollars and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“So there is a very strong argument which is… it wasn’t a bad investment in terms of Soviet Union but let’s be careful with what we sow… because we will harvest.”

Gen. Hamid Gul, the former head of the ISI, created the Taliban out of the madrasahs in Pakistan with the collaboration of the American CIA. He is still one of their chief patrons.

The US imperialists are raising a hue and cry about the relations between the Pakistani state and the Talibans but there is little that they can do about it. Photo by Eric Draper.Although there is currently a conflict between the two agencies, they agree on one thing: that these fundamentalist outfits should be kept in some form in order to use them as reactionary forces in situations of revolutionary upheaval, so that they can use them for their own vested interests. The ISI wants them in order to continue with its own loot and plunder and America wants them as an excuse to continue their so-called “war on terror” and maintain the profits of the Military Industrial Complex in the USA.

The US imperialists are raising a hue and cry about the complicity of the ISI with the Taliban insurgents but they cannot do much about it and have to finance the Pakistan army in this war of attrition. They have no choices left. In this shadowy war friends may be foes and foes may be friends and sometimes both friend and foe at the same time.

The corrupt regime in Pakistan is weak and already admitting the “deal” has been a failure. The army chief has called it an “operational pause” and has vowed to take on the militants once again. This is mainly due to the outrage against the introduction of the ferocious Sharia laws, supported by the liberal, democratic and secular leaders of the PPP and the ANP. It is also to appease the Americans who are in a hypocritical conflict with the Taliban. But the army chiefs know all too well that they in no position to resolve the internal conflicts within the army and the state. Hence they are hoping against hope. This conflict between black and “white” capital will continue to pulverize the region and spill more innocent blood of the oppressed peasants and workers, as long as the rule of capitalism remains.

However, the people of Malakand and Pakistan as a whole will not surrender without a fight. They have risen before and will rise again to counter these black forces. Their leadership has betrayed them once again. The PPP-led government has imposed a deal which even Zia could never have done. But this has exposed the true character of the leadership.

The masses are looking for an alternative leadership; they are open to ideas and seeking answers to their hundreds of questions. Nothing within the limits of this capitalist system can satisfy their needs. They have concluded one thing: that capitalism is horror without end. All the institutions of the capitalist system now stand exposed before the masses.

The comrades of the IMT in Swat and Malakand are patiently explaining the ideas of a socialist change to the masses and are beginning to get a response from the youth. They are working in extremely dangerous conditions, receiving death threats, but they have refused to yield and the struggle for revolutionary socialism continues even in these atrocious conditions of war and bloodshed.

The masses cannot afford food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education under this exploitative system where poverty and deprivation are rising by the hour due to this war. Without a socialist transformation not a single issue of the masses can be solved. Here barbarism is presently brutalizing society. Socialism or barbarism are immediate options, not ones for the future. This is the message of the revolutionary forces which are building their base in Malakand and throughout the whole of Pakistan. They pose this message at great risk to their own lives, especially in Malakand, Swat and Waziristan. The masses will inevitably rise once again as they did in the revolution of 1968-69 even in these areas, and the path they will follow will be none other than that of revolution. A genuine Marxist leadership can lead them to a socialist victory.

When Taliban target a city, their usual first act is to throw leaflets in the Music and DVD shops ordering them to shut down these because music is obscene and is destroying the moral character of the “youth”. After than they threat the traders of suicide bombings. Next step is a ritualistic burning of CDs and DVDs.
When they take over an area, they ban music, on their check posts , they destroy the CD players of any car which comes by. They destroy all tapes and CDs.
They threaten and torture the local singers and artists who they call prostitutes [dancing girls].
In Swat they brutally murdered a famous singer Shabana because she was “destroying the moral fabric of the society”
Our great Whiskey drinking champion of secularism Aitzaz Ahsan and the corrupt manipulator of foreign aid [Which has resulted in NGO becoming richer and the poor, poorer] the Civil Society for the last two years sat in the lap of religious Right which included fascist Jamate Islami and center right PML-N and de-railed the Anti-Taliban agenda of the secular parties which are in a very week coalition in name of “restoration of judiciary” which according to them was the greatest tool to fight Taliban and all over crisis facing Pakistan.
Today our “free judiciary”, Lahore Hight Court banned 41

Nasebo Lal

Nasebo Lal

Albums of two singers Nasebo Lal and Noora’n Lal both of which belong to the poorest of the poor “Gypsy” tribes of Pakistan who live by singing on the streets. Their halmark is to use a special milk pot, known as “gadvi” as a music instrument. These singers are known for their explicit and erotic songs which have traditionally made them popular in lower classes. Nasebo and Nora’n were discovered by film Industry and made them into two of the most popular singers in Pakistan. Of course our English speaking elites find them “distasteful” and “vulgar”. They only listen to AC/DC and Punk Rock and other western pop/rock music which preaches Bible.
The PML-N govt which these pseudo secular goons have brought back with help of Army had previously banned dancing in Lahore as well and also held a “dvd burning” in Lahore.
Now, their obsession free Judiciary has banned these two singers bcz they were destroying the morals of our youth. The 80% dispossessed who listened to these erotic songs have been saved. Our Urban lads and our bloggers with their broadband connections and air conditioned homes have full access to tons of porn un regulated, and they keep writing on “Shanakth festival” thus de-contextualizing fascism.
Pakistan has become Eqbal Ahmad’s “Land Without Music” and i suggest that Aitzaz Ahsan and Civil society and our Army-ISI -Judiciary worshiping and Zardari hating secular community should dance on Aitzaz Ahsan’s poem with beats of Taliban’s bullets and rhythm of free judiciary

Adal Bina Jamhoor na ho ga—
A democracy with censorship. Congratulation , after releasing Molana Aziz of Red Mosque by free judiciary this is our 2nd step toward Lawyer-civil society’s Utopian society

The great fruits of Long March continue—

This was published in The New Yorker long time back in 2001. I remember reading it and forgetting it till I was reminded of it again by Rabia’s Grand Trunk Road. Takhalus has written a wonderful note which deals with cyclic history of Pakistani interference in Afghanistan. Most of the discourse emerging on Taliban and Pashtun issue from Pakistan unfortunately is plagued by the establishment’s smoke screen of “secular” vs “religious” divide. A position which was proxy of that of United States War on Terror: Bellum Justum to preserve the Post Enlightenment Western Civilization from barbarians. Neither United States nor Pakistani position is based on Truth; the result is multifold increase in terrorism since the start of War on Terror and increase in religious fanaticism since General Musharraf’s policy of Enlightened Moderation. The real cause of Taliban problem is Pakistan’s obsession with Strategic depth and her continuous interference in Afghanistan plus the dispossession and partition of Pashtuns by British imperialism and their heirs the Pakistani establishment. I am posting this old article because it gives a “historical perspective of Pashtun Issue” one which is lacking in most analysis which is coming forward. This article is a must read by all Pakistani , to know what they have been doing to the Pashtuns.  Unfortunately modern poison of biologism is present in this article and should be ignored.

Shaheryar Ali.

Letter from Pakistan: Pashtun Code

Isabel Hilton

I arrived in Pakistan on a warm afternoon in October, and several days later I set out by car, heading northwest, from the capital, Islamabad, toward the borderlands with Afghanistan and the land of the Pashtun. The American bombing raids had begun a few days before, and from Afghanistan came murky television images, along with messages of fear and despair from civilians and of defiance from the leaders of the Taliban, who were, unbeknownst to most of us at the time, entering a violent endgame. Here, along the border, another drama was being played out, in the passions and politics of the Pashtun people, men and women whose tortured loyalties reflected a mystical attachment to a land that they believed was theirs. Not every Pashtun is an Afghani—a citizen of Afghanistan—but every Pashtun considers himself an Afghan, and the Pashtun have always regarded themselves as the country’s natural rulers. Not only were they prepared to die in support of their claim but many were prepared to do so in the name of a brutal and repressive regime, that of the Taliban.

About sixty miles from Islamabad, I found myself on a bridge, on the Grand Trunk Road to Peshawar. Downstream was the Attock Fort, a spectacular structure with crenellated ochre walls, built in 1581 by the Moghuls, India’s Muslim dynasty, to fortify the Afghan frontier. Upstream was a confluence of two great rivers: the Kabul, which had travelled some two hundred and fifty miles from its source, in the mountains west of the Afghan capital; and the Indus, one of the legendary rivers of Asia, which begins high in the Tibetan Himalayas. The two rivers grudgingly accommodated each other. The Kabul was a sludgy burnt-sugar color, the Indus a brilliant blue-green, like a child’s painting of a mountain stream. Below the confluence, the two colors remained clearly visible, one river with two distinct streams, as though geography as well as history wished to make a point about this place and the boundary that it marks—between the land of the Pashtun and the Punjab, the heartland of Pakistan.

The Pashtun have never taken kindly to boundaries, and even less to boundaries imposed by others. Today, there are thought to be at least twenty million Pashtun, and their territory straddles the borders that the British drew, in the eighteen-nineties, through some of the wildest and least governable terrain on earth. For the British, this area—sometimes referred to as Pashtunistan—represented the extreme edge of the Raj, their greatest colonial territory. Beyond was the kingdom of Afghanistan, a mosaic of ethnic groups which, since 1747, had been ruled by Pashtun kings. As the British expanded their empire into northwest India, they clashed with, but never subjugated, the tribal Pashtun. Twice, they invaded Afghanistan, in 1839 and 1878. Both excursions ended in defeat. By 1893, the British had finally come to see that although they would never conquer the region, it could be made to serve as a convenient buffer between the Raj and the Russian empire.

The job of delineating a border was entrusted to Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the colonial government of India. Durand wrestled with the difficulties of marshalling the unconquerable and disorderly Pashtun on an orderly imperial map. His solution was to cut through their territories, dividing them between the Raj and the kingdom of Afghanistan, in the hope that the Pashtun on his side of the line would go along with the division and allow themselves to be absorbed into the Raj. They did not. In 1901, several uprisings later, the British again admitted defeat.

Their next solution was to treat the Pashtun lands as a second, inner frontier. If they could not be conquered, they could at least be a prickly hedge against intruders. The British sliced off a new province from the settled plains of the Punjab—which they named the North-West Frontier Province—and left the Pashtun tribal belt largely unaccounted for, a loosely administered territory where, all sides acknowledged, the colonial rulers would not attempt to impose their law. The tribal belt exists to this day and remains an ungoverned land. Formally part of Pakistan, in reality it is a spongy no-go area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a land of fierce and complicated tribal loyalties and equally ferocious tribal feuds, of gunrunning, drug dealing, and smuggling, where a nighttime traveller must move in armed convoy and where the only law that prevails is Pashtunwali—the code of the Pashtun. Although history, and outsiders, have tried to divide the Pashtun, they have failed to break the emotional, cultural, and social ties that bind Pashtun communities across this troubled frontier. Roughly half in Pakistan, half in Afghanistan, the Pashtun are as troublesome today to anyone in search of a neat political order as they were when the British contended with this last unsubdued corner of the empire. Their loyalties have never been more in doubt or more important. Are the Pashtun loyal to the Taliban? (The majority of the Taliban are Pashtun.) Are they loyal to Pakistan? Or are they loyal only to themselves? As the battle for Afghanistan makes its way into Pashtun territories, the Pashtun have begun to demand what they see as their historic role—the right to rule Afghanistan. How that demand is answered will help to determine not just the future of the country but the stability of the entire region.

Peshawar, until 1893 the winter capital of Afghanistan, is now a frontier outpost in Pakistan. No longer the small town that served for centuries as a gateway between Afghanistan and Southeast Asia, today it is a noisy, choking, overcrowded city of more than a million people. In its public face, it’s a city of men, heavily bearded and dressed in the loose overshirt and baggy trousers of the traditional shalwar kameez. Variations in color—pale blue, pale green, white, and occasionally light brown—do nothing to dispel the sense of uniformity. Men throng the potholed streets and lounge in doorways while boys hurry alongside the traffic, delivering glasses of green tea on brass trays. Bicycles and donkeys compete for space with tightly packed minibuses, whose last-minute passengers spill onto the roof or hang recklessly off the back. Women are anonymous to the point of invisibility—blue-robed ghosts, threading their way through the bazaar or crouched by the roadside, their children in their laps.

The Pashtun tribal lands around Peshawar are now out of bounds to foreigners. Getting into them has always required a permit, and none are being issued. “It is not safe,” a courteous but implacable Peshawar official told me. “And if we catch you trying to get in,” he added with a friendly smile, “you will be arrested.” The ban had been imposed in the name of security, when the bombing began: tribal emotions were running high, and a foreigner might be attacked on sight. But the controls to the south of Peshawar, I had heard, were not too effective, and I wanted to visit the village of Darra Adam Khel, which is notorious for the small workshops where, since the eighties, tribal gunsmiths have been turning out perfect copies of anything from an M16 to a rocket launcher.

Getting there was going to require a little subterfuge. I bought a woman’s version of the shalwar kameez and wound the wide scarf that comes with it around my head and shoulders, hiding my hair and the lower part of my face. The effect was to render me as anonymous as the women I passed on the street.

With a driver and a guide, I set off south. A few miles out of town, some trucks were stopped at a police post. “Keep your head covered,” the guide said, “and don’t look out of the window.” The police waved us through. We drove along a wide, barren valley, through a landscape dotted with square windowless forts—brick structures with defensive walls more than twenty feet high. They looked medieval, like ancient military towers, but they were family homes—a contemporary architecture of tribal violence. There were slogans painted on the walls. “Jihad is an obligation, like prayer,” one read. “Victory or martyrdom,” another said. “Telephone now for military training.” A number was provided.

At first sight, Darra Adam Khel seemed an unremarkable village—a string of ramshackle single-story houses and one-room shops on a main street. We drove along slowly, not stopping, for fear of my being detected. I scanned the shopwindows, and my guide pointed to small plastic bags containing a blackish substance. “Opium paste,” he said. Crammed into other storefronts was an astonishing range of military hardware—automatic weapons, rifles, shotguns, land mines, even a few rocket launchers. I counted thirty gun shops before my guide warned that I was attracting attention.

We pulled up beside an imposing fortified house—a watchtower was built in one corner—where we saw a young man sitting under a tree, chatting with an elder. My guide exchanged a few words with the man. I kept my face covered. Pashtun hospitality prevailed. He smiled and nodded and approached the car. Like many Pashtun, he had blue eyes and light-brown hair. His name was Wazir Afridi—a name that identified him as a member of the Afridi, one of the most powerful of the Pashtun tribes. He said he was “about thirty.” He was happy to talk about the skills of the local gunsmiths.

“In the bazaar, you can get copies of the most sophisticated weapons,” he said. “You can get copies of a Kalashnikov here—a gun that costs eighty thousand rupees—for twenty thousand,” or a little more than three hundred dollars. But the gunsmiths had stopped making really heavy weapons, he told me. “Five years ago, we decided not to make any more rocket launchers. Now there’s a five-hundred-thousand-rupee fine if anyone disobeys.”

Even before the present crisis, Pakistan’s President, General Pervez Musharraf, had been trying to rid the country of one of the dangerous legacies of the last Afghan war: the staggering quantities of military hardware left over in the tribal belt. The arrival of modern weaponry in the nineteen-eighties, when there was an abundance of American support for the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, had had an alarming effect on traditional Pashtun tribal feuds. Instead of attacking their local rivals with clubs or flintlock rifles, the Pashtun fought one another with automatic weapons. Carrying automatic weapons was now banned in Peshawar (although I saw dozens, mostly slung over the shoulders of bodyguards), and a strict practice of licensing had been implemented to discourage the manufacture of new ones. As a result, the gun trade in Darra Adam Khel was depressed.

“This is our business,” Wazir Afridi said. “No government has had any say here since 1901. This is a tribal area. We have our own traditions and laws. The business was flourishing until Musharraf imposed his ban.”

Wasn’t it dangerous, I asked, to have so many weapons? Wazir Afridi shook his head. “We have the lowest rate of gun-related deaths here. Now we negotiate disputes in the jirga—the ad-hoc Pashtun tribal council that operates on every social level, from the village to the nation.

In Peshawar, I had met a Pashtun tribal leader named Lateef Afridi, who told me that his father, two of his brothers, and two of his cousins had been killed in tribal disputes. “When the Pashtun have a family feud, they now blast each other with land mines,” Lateef Afridi said. (After his father died, Afridi discovered that he’d inherited some missiles—”Apparently, my father had bought them, but I’ve never bothered to pick them up.”) These disputes are part of Pashtun life, but they disappear in the face of an external threat. The Pashtun have a saying: “Me against my brother, my brother and me against our cousins, we and our cousins against the enemy.” It was a common enemy, I was told repeatedly, that accounted, in part, for the Pashtun support of the Taliban. The Pashtun had fought the Soviet Union when it occupied Afghanistan. They had fought for control among themselves and with warlords of other ethnic groups after the Soviet troops left. When the Taliban came to power, in the mid-nineties, the Pashtun acknowledged them as tribal brothers. And, now that the United States had attacked them, the Pashtun were rallying to their defense. I saw evidence of this everywhere in Peshawar: there were Pashtun roadside stalls for collecting money and blood for the Taliban, and I was regularly harangued in the street by Pashtun men who proclaimed themselves ready to join the jihad against the United States. According to Wazir Afridi, fifty thousand men from his district had said they were willing to fight. The whole area, he told me, is backing the Taliban, “their Pashtun and Muslim brothers.”

At the time—the bombing was in its seventh day—no one I spoke to in Peshawar could imagine that the Taliban would lose. The United States was seen as just another foreign aggressor, and, like the Soviet Union, it, too, would be chased off. Now, with the Taliban in collapse, tribal interests are again paramount. The Pashtun are determined to reëstablish their rule—in whatever form it may take.

Violence in Pashtun society, the American anthropologist Cherry Lindholm has argued, is learned in infancy. Lindholm spent nine months living in the female quarters of a Pashtun household in Swat, in northern Pakistan. Hers is a rare study of life behind a family compound’s walls, and her descriptions of the domestic culture, published in the collection “Frontier Perspectives,” are hair-raising. Pashtun family members, she writes, are engaged in a permanent and often violent struggle for power in which only two human types are recognized—the weak and the strong. “The strong survive, take power, and gain prestige,” Lindholm writes, because they learn from their earliest years the value of “aggression, egotism, pride, and fearlessness,” and must be “adept at the art of manipulation and intrigue, and above all trust no one.” Domestic violence is regarded as the main entertainment of village life, and women routinely display bruises and scars they have received at the hands of their husbands. (The term for a husband who does not beat his wife is “a man with no penis.”)

Adam Nayyar, a fifty-two-year-old former nuclear chemical engineer, who abandoned his career when Pakistan began trying to build the bomb, in the mid-seventies, is now an ethnomusicologist and an expert on Pashtun culture. I spoke with him at his apartment in Islamabad. “Pashto is the only language I know in which the word for ‘cousin’ is the same as the word for ‘enemy,’ “ he said. I had asked him to explain Pashtunwali—the code that has regulated Pashtun society for centuries and which, I had been told, was one of the components of the Taliban philosophy.

Pashtunwali, Nayyar said, is based on the absolute obligations of hospitality, sanctuary, and revenge. The Pashtun draw their identity from Islam—they believe they are direct descendants of Qais, a companion of Muhammad— but their interpretation of Islamic law arises out of their own tribal code. “Under Muslim law, for instance, girls can inherit,” Nayyar said. “But women never get anything from the Pashtun.” In tribal Pashtun society, he told me, three things are essential. “They all begin with ‘z’ in Pashto: zan, zar, and zamin—women, gold, and land. Possessing them is essential to Pashtunness—to doing Pashtun as opposed to being Pashtun. And if you lose them—if you lose your land, or your women are dishonored—you’re out. There is no caste system, so there is no reëntry further down the social scale. You are just out. You end up as a night watchman in Karachi or something.”

Nayyar recalled witnessing a marital dispute being settled by a local jirga in the early seventies. A soldier had discovered that his wife was having an affair with a tailor and had called for a tribal council to impose punishment for the injury to his honor. The jirga ordered that the tailor and the errant wife be tied to a tree and shot. Everyone went to watch. “I remarked afterward to a Pashtun friend that it had been horrible,” Nayyar recalled. “He agreed. It was a shame for the tree, he said.”

The Taliban took Pashtunwali to extremes far beyond the tribal norm. Culturally, they were Pashtun, but their ideology was more fundamentalist: they were uncompromising in their aim to return society to the purity of the seventh century, the era of Muhammad. Their approach to women was fanatically severe. Purdah was the traditional Pashtun practice, but the Taliban policy of publicly beating women who were deemed to walk too noisily was not.

Islam is, of course, fundamental to Pakistan’s identity. The Muslim faith was the reason that Pakistan came into being as a country, separate from India, with its Hindu majority, when the British left in 1947. Partition—the painful separation from India of its former province of Sind, along with the Muslim districts of Punjab and Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, and Baluchistan—precipitated savage communal violence on both sides of what was to become the border; millions of Muslims poured into Pakistan as Hindus fled in the other direction. It was a chaotic and unpromising beginning for a state that was already riven with social and ethnic divisions. Pakistan was not a state that most of the Pashtun wanted to join. Like the Baluchis and the Sindhis, they were fearful of losing their identity in this new country dominated by the Punjabis, who made up more than half the population. The Pashtun resisted, as they had resisted the British. The story of that resistance is one that successive Pakistani governments have tried to erase, but which, I discovered, has lived on in the Pashtun nationalism of the region.

Badsha Khan was a Pashtun leader in the twenties who promoted Pashtun nationalism. He doesn’t feature in many history books. I learned of him from photographs I saw in offices and homes around Peshawar. He founded a political movement, the Khudai Khidmatgars, to fight for independence from the British. The movement’s popular name—the Red Shirts—came from the members’ uniforms, which were dyed with red brick dust. Like Mahatma Gandhi, Badsha Khan believed that nonviolence was the most effective weapon against colonial rule, and although he was a devout Muslim, he mistrusted the political influence of the maulanas, or Islamic scholars. The reforms he promoted—education, sanitation, road building—were secular.

Despite the Pashtun propensity for violence, Badsha Khan’s message took hold. Thousands of followers joined his nonviolent movement, campaigning to get rid of the British and win autonomy for Pashtunistan within the Indian state. But, when the British left, an independent Pashtunistan was not on offer. In 1947, a referendum proposed a choice only between India and Pakistan. Badsha Khan called for a boycott, and just seven per cent of the population of the North-West Frontier Province voted. Nevertheless, the Pakistan option was deemed to have been approved. The Red Shirts were branded traitors, the movement was banned, and their long fight against the colonizers was all but eradicated from the public record.

One evening, I went to uncover the traces of the Red Shirts’ movement. In a mansion two hours’ drive from Peshawar, I sat on a deep veranda, as servants offered tea and cakes, and chatted with Begum Nasim Wali Khan, Badsha Khan’s daughter-in-law.

Badsha Khan and his son, Abdul Wali Khan, she told me, had paid a price for their resistance: they had spent many years in prison. But this did little to persuade them to abandon their Pashtun identity. As Wali Khan once put it, “I have been a Pashtun for six thousand years, a Muslim for thirteen hundred years, and a Pakistani for twenty-five.” When Badsha Khan died, in 1988, hostilities between the Soviets and the mujahideen in southern Afghanistan ceased for a day so that his funeral cortège could travel safely to Jalalabad. In the mid-eighties, Wali Khan had founded a political party, the Awami National Party, which campaigned for a secular democracy. Now he was an old man, too sick on the evening I called to meet with visitors. He was not too sick, though, to have enraged local religious leaders and their Pashtun warrior faithful by declaring his support for the United States’ war against the Taliban.

The people of the tribal belt, his wife told me, were sympathetic to their fellow-Afghans—their Pashtun brothers. But that did not necessarily mean that they supported the Taliban. There was, not surprisingly, a division within the Pashtun. There were those who, stirred by a small group of religious parties that were promoting hard-line Islamism, wished to fight alongside the Taliban and had denounced her husband as a traitor. And there were those who, like Wali Kahn, argued for the separation of politics and religion. It had been the same in the eighties, she said, when the Awami National Party had criticized the holy war against the Russians. The Party followers had seen it as a war between superpowers—between the Soviets and the Americans—and not as an Islamic cause. “We were called kafirs,” she said. “Nonbelievers. Indian agents, Russian agents.” She shrugged. “But this is the way we think.”

The military has ruled Pakistan for twenty-six of its fifty-four years, alternating power with a series of corrupt and inept civilian governments. It ruled the country during the war against the Soviets, in the rather sinister person of General Zia ul-Haq. And it rules the country now, in the person of General Musharraf. On a mundane level, Pakistan does not look like a militarized society: except when demonstrations are anticipated, you do not see soldiers on every corner. Nevertheless, the country is shaped and dominated by military concerns.

Chief among these concerns is a preoccupation with Kashmir. Pakistanis believe that Kashmir, a majority Muslim state, should have become part of their country at Partition. Pakistan and India have fought two inconclusive wars over Kashmir since then, and in the last decade, Pakistan claims, seventy thousand Kashmiris have died in rebellion against what they describe as an Indian occupation. It is an open secret that Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence wing—the Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.)—has sponsored armed groups in Kashmir to support the long-running popular resistance. It is also well established that the I.S.I. was a backer of the holy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. For Musharraf—who, after September 11th, aligned himself with the United States against the Taliban—the unwanted repercussions of the I.S.I.’s involvement in both regions derive directly from policies pursued by General Zia ul-Haq.

General Zia seized power in 1977 and soon thereafter the man he had overthrown, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was hanged. In April, 1979, during the Carter Presidency, the United States suspended economic and military aid to Pakistan and introduced a number of sanctions. Eight months later, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, in an attempt to save its tottering Communist regime. Zia now saw enemies on all sides: to the west, a militant Shiite revolution in Iran; to the south and east, India; and now, next door, in Afghanistan, India’s ally the Soviet Union. Pakistan needed to have a friendly government in Afghanistan, Zia decided. Islam was the flag he raised to rally resistance against the Soviets.

Suddenly, Zia’s fortunes were transformed. Ronald Reagan was now in office, and the sanctions fell away. The Reagan Administration provided $3.2 billion in cash and arms, despite Zia’s nuclear program and human-rights abuses, and Peshawar became the hub of the anti-Soviet jihad, awash with money, spies, refugees, and arms.

In the recruiting grounds for the jihad—the Afghan refugee camps, which were rapidly spreading around Peshawar—young men whose tribal links had been ruptured became ready targets for a fundamentalist message. In that decade of easy money, hundreds of madrasahs—the all-male religious schools that teach a particularly severe and absolutist version of Islam—were set up in the North-West Frontier Province, offering Afghan refugees and Pakistani militants free education, food, and military training. The jihad also attracted thousands of international recruits—including young Saudi fighters such as Osama bin Laden—who moved to Peshawar and brought with them more men, more money, and an even more militant form of Islam, Wahabbism.

Asfundiyar Khan, the grandson of the Pashtun leader Badsha Khan, whom I met in Islamabad ten days after the United States began bombing, described to me what the time of the anti-Soviet jihad was like. Asfundiyar, who is fifty, is the president of the Awami National Party. He was first arrested at a political meeting when he was thirteen, and has been in and out of prison ever since.

“The Afghans have never accepted foreign domination,” Asfundiyar told me. “But their resistance had always been in the cause of nationalism. Zia changed that. Backed by the United States and its millions of dollars and its Stinger missiles, Zia based a war against Soviet intervention on religion.” There had been, until then, an acknowledged division between mosque and state, between the maulanas and political power. Civilian politicians paid homage to religious ideas, but there were so many versions of Islam that any attempt to elevate a single dogma to a prime political position led to conflict with rival followers of the Prophet. Politicians had learned to tread carefully. But, when Zia seized power, that changed. “Every Afghan refugee fleeing the war had to go to one of the fundamentalist groups for tents, food, weapons,” Asfundiyar said. “People were pushed into the arms of the fundamentalists.” The Awami National Party, he pointed out, is secular, liberal, and democratic. “You can’t imagine what we went through, trying to keep it going, as the United States was funding the jihad. I remember sitting with a cousin in a bank when a man came in to cash a check for twelve and a half million dollars. This was the kind of man you would never have shaken hands with. How could I fight that kind of money?”

He recalled how marginal figures were changed overnight into powerful politicians. “Like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,” he said. Hekmatyar was a radical Afghan Islamist who was picked by Zia’s I.S.I. agents, and the C.I.A., to help lead the new holy war. “When Hekmatyar was made a leader, he had scarcely one bicycle and one bedroom to his name,” Asfundiyar said. He mentioned Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, another mujahideen patronized by the I.S.I. “Sayyaf used to sell socks out of a basket in the bazaar. Suddenly, he and all these other leaders had Land Cruisers and Pajeros. None of them had a political organization inside Afghanistan. They had private armies, built in Peshawar with American dollars.”

Asfundiyar’s recollections reminded me of a question posed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser. “What was more important in the world view of history?” he asked. “The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

“We used to be a moderate Muslim society,” Sarfraz Khan, a Pashtun professor of Central Asian history, whom I met at the University of Peshawar, told me. “In 1978, when there were moves in Afghanistan toward land reform, literacy campaigns, the emancipation of women, some of the Pashtun here in Peshawar, in the intelligentsia, thought it a good thing. But others—who mattered—were afraid it might happen here, too.” He recalled a time when Afghani girls went to school, when women were seen without the veil, when television was a normal part of life. “Then the fundamentalists were promoted in every sphere. There was persecution—careers were blighted, businesses ruined, people were killed.” Many liberal Afghan exiles who opposed the jihad were murdered in Peshawar. He grimaced. “I was pushed out of my job in 1984,” he said. “People like me—who criticized the jihad, hundreds, thousands of us—were persecuted. You had to go into hiding. Our state was doing it, and you, the West, were pumping money in.”

Zia had hoped that his holy war would lead to a government in Afghanistan that was friendly to Pakistan. But he never saw the outcome: he died in a mysterious plane crash, on August 17, 1988. Six months later, the Russians conceded defeat and withdrew, and the Americans lost interest. The money stopped. And, with the Russian enemy gone, the mujahideen fought among themselves. By the following year, twenty-five thousand Afghanis had died, and the country sank into a civil war that lasted six years.

The Taliban movement came to prominence in the southern city of Kandahar, in 1994, when its members—former madrasah students—gained control of an important trade route that had been subject to interference from local bandits, warlords, and fighting tribes.the former mujahideen  A grateful Benazir Bhutto, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, abandoned and rewarded the Taliban with her support. The Taliban went on to conquer most of the country. Only in the north did the resistance prevail, under the leadership of a Tajik commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud. By 1996, most of the warlords were in exile. By then, Pakistan, too, was harboring its own radical Islamic movement—one that had flowered in the hothouse of the Afghan war.

Lieutenant General Hamid Gul was the most influential figure in the I.S.I. in the eighties, and for a time its director. He was responsible for the military doctrine that reinforced Zia’s policy toward Afghanistan. Called “strategic depth, the theory was that, in the event of an invasion by India, Pakistan would need Afghanistan as a military hinterland, a place of retreat and continued resistance. This doctrine may have been, as a former colleague of Gul’s put it, “hoax and humbug,” but that didn’t much matter: for Gul, it was enough to justify a decade’s worth of meddling and military intervention.

I met General Gul, who is now retired, in his house in a military district of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, where he lives in spacious comfort. I was shown into a reception room, and I sat on a sofa waiting for the General to appear. Beside me, on a low table, a piece of the Berlin Wall was on display—a gift, it seemed, from the West German foreign-intelligence service. The engraving read, “With deepest respect to Lt. General Hamid Gul who helped deliver the first blow.”

General Gul, I’d been told, believed that he had set in motion the events that destroyed the Soviet Union. He was, it appeared, not entirely alone in that view. He was a key proponent of the policy of fighting the Soviet invasion as a holy war, rather than as a national struggle. He had boasted of how he recruited radicals from all over the Muslim world—an Islamic international brigade, as he saw it—and had financed and encouraged the powerful Islamic militants who were now on the streets crying for Musharraf’s downfall.

The General bustled into the room. He is a small man with a neat gray mustache, and was dressed in a shalwar kameez. He spoke rapidly, in long rhetorical bursts, and was eager to describe his strategic vision. He appeared to have no regrets, or doubts, about the legacy of his encouragement of Islamist extremists. If things had recently taken a dangerous turn, he argued, it was because the United States had made a critical mistake by neglecting the Taliban in the nineties and by attacking them now.

“The nation that gifted you your superpower status today—that nation is being ravaged and destroyed once again,” he said. “I am very much a supporter of the Taliban, because they have brought to Afghanistan what it needed most—central authority, law and order, elimination of poppy cultivation, de-weaponization, all those things. It was like a miracle. I never thought they could do it in such a short time, but I saw it with my own eyes. Now you have destabilized a society that had stabilized. It’s a great tragedy. A great cruelty, I would say. A great inhuman act.”

The Taliban, he told me, had been pushed into a corner. If the United States had tried a different approach, things would have been different.

“And you could have got everything you wanted from the Taliban,” he said, with the exasperated manner of a schoolmaster explaining an obvious point to a particularly obtuse pupil. “They would have been eating out of your hands. But you never talked to them, because you thought that they were not honorable. You thought you could pick up bin Laden like you picked up Noriega from Panama. But Afghanistan is not Panama.”

General Gul resented the United States’ relationship with India and its lack of support for Pakistan over Kashmir. He resented, too, the military sanctions that were imposed after Pakistan exploded six nuclear devices, in 1998. For him, the United States’ decision to attack the Taliban and Al Qaeda was the beginning of the apocalypse. “The jihad call has been given,” he told me. “It will bring the Muslim masses out of their slumber. You cannot say that it’s not a war against Islam, that it’s a war against terrorism, nameless, faceless terrorism. Who are the terrorists? All the people who took part in this great tragedy are still hiding in America. I can’t believe that it’s just those nineteen people and they all got killed and that’s that. There must be a very elaborate command-and-communications system, a logistics system, people who provided the safe haven as well as the training. And it is simply not possible that someone got six months’ training flying the aircraft. You can’t fly a jumbo jet like that. It’s all bunkum. There had to be somebody manipulating the air traffic-control, somebody who switched off the warning system for the Pentagon. Somebody who asked the Air Force not to scramble for seventy-four minutes. Those people are still inside America.”

The September 11th attack was, he said, part of a much bigger conspiracy, an attempted coup against the White House. I asked him who was behind it, anticipating as I put the question the answer that would come.

“Ariel Sharon,” he replied. The Israeli Prime Minister, he said, had been enraged by George W. Bush’s being in the White House. Al Gore was the man who would have done Israel’s bidding. General Gul then listed what he claimed were Israel’s demands: the destruction of Pakistan’s nuclear program, the disarming of its Arab neighbors, the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s “headquarters,” and a definitive “no” to a Palestinian state. These, he concluded, were the real objectives of the September 11th attacks. “No wonder that Henry Kissinger and Shimon Peres and Netanyahu—all of them!—are saying, ‘America, you have the might! Do it now! Destroy them! Finish them off!’ It’s a crusade against the Cross and the Crescent, both. And the inspiration? The same people who inspired the medieval crusades. The Jews.”

The people of Pakistan, General Gul insisted, shared his view, except, he admitted, for what he called “a handful of intellectuals who occupy Islamabad. But what’s Islamabad?” he went on. “Only an island in the sea called Pakistan. And a storm rising out of Pakistan will submerge Islamabad. General Musharraf seems to think that this storm is a small thing, that we are a tiny minority. He says that it’s no more than ten or fifteen per cent of the people, without realizing that, even going by his figures—though they are not correct—ten per cent means fourteen million activists and fifteen per cent means twenty-one million. And these activists are the ready-to-die types. If they rise against the government, the government will not be able to stand up to them.” He added, “The Army has been known to join the people.”

General Gul’s version of events was widely shared. I encountered it among government officials and intellectuals, in newspapers, and, every Friday, in demonstrations in Islamabad and Peshawar. The demonstrations followed the Friday-afternoon prayers. As a woman, I was barred from the mosques, but I listened to the speeches of the maulanas relayed on tinny loudspeakers to the streets outside, and the religious leaders I spoke to reiterated the same themes.

On the day following my meeting with General Gul—a Friday, he predicted, that would see tens of thousands on the streets—I went to see what was expected to be a large rally near some government offices in Islamabad. Many of the demonstrators were young madrasah students who repeated the line they had been taught by the maulanas—the same one that General Gul had laid out for me. From a loudspeaker truck, a group of bearded maulanas was haranguing the crowd. Bored members of television crews were foraging for action, and there was a momentary lifting of their spirits when a group burned an American flag. A blow-up plastic alien dangled from a tree. “It’s President Bush,” a demonstrator explained.

But the demonstrators numbered barely a thousand—fewer, it seemed, than the riot police who were lined up with shields and batons. I had by then attended several demonstrations and found that most of them were small, lacklustre affairs. General Gul had articulated a vision of steadily growing protests that could tear Pakistan apart, but, despite the efforts of the maulanas, there was little sign of that yet. This seemed to bear out what I had been told about the true position of the radical religious parties in Pakistan. The Pakistani people showed them a certain respect but did not seem to want them in power. They had never succeeded in elections and would have remained on the political fringes had they not secured the patronage of the I.S.I. The influence of Islamic extremists was felt more in the armed forces and in key appointments in the civil service, which many of them now occupied—again, thanks in part to General Gul’s efforts. Musharraf was trying to dislodge these people. Several religious leaders had been put under house arrest, and Musharraf had reshuffled his Army command and the top echelon of the I.S.I. in order to rid them of fundamentalists who could form a covert opposition to his policies. Even so, there was a widespread feeling that the purge had not gone far enough. And it was possible that the maulanas preaching an inflammatory message in the mosques would eventually have a greater effect on their captive audience.

When the bombing began, Pakistan tried to close the border: thousands of Pashtun tribesmen had reportedly crossed into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban, and, in the other direction, thousands of refugees, destitute already after two years of drought, were fleeing the war. The government ruled that no refugees would be admitted, and that any who entered illegally would, if discovered, be arrested and deported. In fact, refugees did come, bribing their way across the border or crossing at night along wilder, more dangerous routes. Then they vanished. Those who had relatives stayed with them. Others were forced to find a place in existing camps. None of them could declare their presence without risk of deportation. Officially, there were, therefore, no refugees.

When the war began, there were forty-eight camps in the North-West Frontier Province, providing a temporary home to some two million people. According to Lateef Afridi, the Pashtun leader, there have been two million refugees in this part of the world for twenty-two years, and now the problem will only worsen. “Two million people without an education, without homes, the agonizing victims of war,” he said. “For these people, human rights and bloodshed have no meaning. Most of them are uneducated and addicted to fundamentalist ideas. Iran, Pakistan, the West—the world deserted them. They need a development package, infrastructure, they need a government.”

A visit to one of these camps entails a bureaucratic obstacle course: one requires stamped letters of permission and, depending on the state of tension, an armed escort. The most notorious camp, Jalozai, a squalid plastic city just outside Peshawar where only the most destitute go, remains off limits. Others, like Kacha Gari, one of the largest camps in the Peshawar area, can be visited if one secures permission.

Kacha Gari is a bleak place, built on a strip of desert on the outskirts of the city in 1980. Before September 11th, it housed around seventy thousand people; the numbers have increased since then. To get there, you bounce along a dirt road through a moonscape created by the excavation of clay soil to make bricks. As I drove by, bricks were stacked in the sun to dry, and tall chimneys belched foul black smoke, from old tires being burned as fuel. When I appeared on the edge of the camp, I was surrounded by children with open sores on their arms. A man on crutches tugged my sleeve and led me along a rough sandy track to his house, a single mud-brick room, where a group of relations had gathered—an uncle and his five children, newly arrived from Afghanistan. They had been farmers, the uncle explained. Fifteen days ago, they sold their last cow to raise the money to come here. Their possessions were stacked in plastic bags in the corner. “I have lost everything,” the old man said. “Here I am, a refugee.”

Zahir Khan, the welfare officer for this section of the camp, gestured hopelessly at the miserable accommodation: “These were people who had a good life in our own country.” Every day, he said, there are deaths, among the old and the children.

Finally, on November 7th, the Pakistani government agreed to open eleven new camps in the tribal areas. By then, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the newest group of refugees numbered about a hundred and thirty-five thousand.

In Islamabad, I met Sahar Shaba, a twenty-eight-year-old Afghan Pashtun, who is a member of the clandestine Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). A small woman, she was wearing a shalwar kameez, her scarf draped across her shoulders, and short dark hair loose around her face.

Shaba was born near Jalalabad, and, following Pashtun tradition, lived in an extended family of some thirty members. Had she stayed there, she said, she would have become a conventional Pashtun wife after an arranged marriage at fifteen. But her family fled to Pakistan as refugees from the Soviet Army. The camps, she confirmed, were dominated by fundamentalists. They banned music and television, as well as secondary education for girls, so when she heard of an underground girls’ school in Quetta she begged her father to send her there. The school was run by RAWA. The organization, which is dedicated to the liberation of Afghan women, has a number of schools for girls. (It was founded by a young Afghan called Meena, who was murdered in 1987, at the age of thirty. The assassins, her followers believe, were members of the Afghan secret service.)

Shaba arranged for me to visit a camp near Peshawar where RAWA operates. The name of the camp, she insisted, must be kept secret. At an appointed time, a young Afghan man appeared at my hotel. I noticed with a jolt that he was wearing jeans and a shirt. I had grown used to a country in which the women were all but invisible and the men were uniformly dressed in shalwar kameez. His name, he said, was Nazeem and he was seventeen. We climbed into an ambulance and set off.

“When I was young,” he said, “my father used to tell me that one day there would be peace and freedom. Now he is dead, and I am seventeen and there is still no peace. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar murdered my father because he was broad-minded, because he wanted democracy. I wish I had been born in any other poor miserable country except Afghanistan.”

The camp we were going to, he told me, held some six thousand people and had been set up in the eighties by a liberal Pashtun leader. The camp was, he felt, the way Afghanistan used to be. “We have jirgas,” he said, “and we all live together—Tajiks, Pashtun, Uzbeks. And you can wear what you like. In other camps, people throw stones at you if you dress like this.”

We were driving through a landscape of neat sugarcane fields. About twenty miles outside Peshawar, we turned onto a dirt road in another desert of brick fields. On the other side rose a mud-brick settlement. We stopped in front of a door, and I stepped into a courtyard shaded by young trees. I spent the evening and the night in the camp. This was the first time, in more than two weeks in Peshawar, that I had been in the company of unveiled Afghan women. Night fell, and, as I was led to small houses set in secluded courtyards, I felt as though I were visiting a peaceful rural village. Sitting cross-legged on thin rugs laid out on hard earth floors, the women told me their stories. Under the Russians, they said, women had been forced to abandon the veil. Under the jihadis, they had been forced to wear it again. Under the Taliban, they had been forced to wear the burka and were confined to their homes. And, even now, with the Taliban gone, most women had not abandoned their bur-kas. They were afraid of what was next.

Fatima, a tall, attractive woman from Kandahar, had fled to Pakistan with her four children three days earlier, after her husband was seized by the Taliban. He had once been a doctor and she a teacher, but under the Taliban she stayed at home and he sold vegetables.

She glared at me. “What will you do for us?” she asked. “The Americans are killing people. I have no food for my children, and I at least am lucky that I crossed the border. I hate the Taliban,” she continued. “I don’t hate them for obeying the laws of Islam. I hate them because of the poverty, the fact that there are no jobs, the fact that if a woman is sick she can’t go to the doctor.” Her youngest son, a fierce two-year-old, sat on the floor and began to eat a flower that was crushed in his fist. He grimaced and spat it out. His mother began to cry.

Another mother, surrounded by her six children, described how her husband, too, had been taken by the Taliban. A former teacher, he had run a shoe shop where he secretly taught his youngest son. Six days earlier, the child had come running home, the keys to the shop clutched in his hand. His father had been taken away. The woman fled with her children. “I have very little hope that my husband is alive,” she said. “People in Afghanistan have no tears left. We have seen our sons grow up and be shot.” She told me stories of the Taliban’s cruelty—the cutting off of hands and feet and the slitting of throats.

That night, I joined a group of RAWA activists for a meal of eggplant and meat served with rice. Two RAWA teachers talked about the children in their classes— the little girl haunted by the murder of twelve members of her family, the boy who wept when the bombing began, convinced that his remaining relatives would be killed. One day, they told me, there will be another Afghanistan, another government. “Then we can return to teach in our own country.”

Women like Sahar Shaba and her fellow-refugees are consumed by another battle raging in Pashtun society, a battle between tribal tradition and modernity. For them, a future Afghanistan must have a place for women outside the confines of purdah, free of the restrictions of both fundamentalism and Pashtun custom.

The next morning, I left the camp just after dawn and drove back to Peshawar, a city where the maulanas were preaching the message of holy war and the women were invisible under their blue burkas. At a traffic light, a woman with a baby in her arms came to the van’s window to beg. The camp, with its hopes of education for girls, of democracy and peace, its faded memories of a time in Afghanistan when teachers taught in schools and doctors attended to their patients, seemed like a dream. Nazeem shook my hand as we parted. “When we go back to Afghanistan,” he said, “I will invite you to the public hanging of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.”

In Peshawar, I witnessed the first attempt to rally broad support for convening a Loya Jirga in Afghanistan—the highest form of jirga, it would be a temporary national council that could decide on the country’s new political structure without resorting to violence. It was organized by Pir Sayeed Ahmed Gailani, a Pashtun religious leader who was being backed, I was told, by the Pakistani government—an affiliation that had probably doomed the meeting before it began. It was held in a modern conference center and attended by a thousand men from all the tribal areas and from Afghanistan, as well as by a number of familiar Peshawar faces.

Pir Gailani swept onto a platform, a magisterial figure in black robes and a white turban. He seemed to be already auditioning for the office of Afghan Prime Minister. Local reporters scanned the rows of bearded faces, looking for figures of authority who would indicate how serious this attempt at organizing a viable alternative to the Taliban would be. They were disappointed. As speaker after speaker called for the return of the king, Muhammad Zahir Shah, to convene the Loya Jirga, it was finally noted that the King had sent no representative. Nor was there any senior figure from the Northern Alliance.

Many of the Pashtun’s rivals in Afghanistan feel that a Loya Jirga would be simply a device to restore the Pashtun to power—an aim that traditional Pashtun certainly hope to achieve. Even among the Pashtun, though, authority has been eroded by twenty years of war and the rise of radical Islamism, which has become the focus for many in the refugee generations.

Some convoys have set off from the refugee camps, returning ragged families to what remains of their Afghan homes. But most refugees are holding back. They remember, Sahar Shaba, the RAWA activist told me, the last time that the Northern Alliance held power. “We would be deceiving ourselves,” she said, “if we thought this was a real peace.” What she sees, from her vantage point, is another version of a familiar story—warlords, in different guises, jockeying for positions of power. “The situation is getting worse day by day,” an aide to Pir Gailani told me, “and there is no sign either of the Loya Jirga or of the broad-based government we proposed a month ago. If the United Nations does not act, the warlords will simply seize territory.”

On November 15th, exiled mujahideen crossed the border from Peshawar and swept into Jalalabad to haggle with rival commanders for control of the city. In Kabul, Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance, who was President of Afghanistan before the Taliban took power, also returned, on November 17th, apparently, with the intention of resuming his old job. And in the Pashtun heartland many local figures have emerged, positioning themselves to claim their historic right to rule Afghanistan. But their ethnic solidarity does not disguise their lack of a united leadership or their conflicting positions. Some are willing to strike a deal with the deserting Taliban commanders. Others see them as an obstacle to the greater purpose: the reunion of the Pashtun under the tenuous authority of Afghanistan’s former king—a figure who carries no weight with the Northern Alliance. The political leadership of the Pashtun has been systematically undermined by the likes of Zia and General Gul, the I.S.I.’s veteran holy warrior, by the refugee camps and the madrasahs, by the maulanas in the mosques, and by Pakistan’s calculated effort to strip the Pashtun of their political identity. For many Pashtun, radical Islam is their new allegiance: that’s what this generation knows.

This allegiance was at the front of General Gul’s mind. “I asked myself why the Taliban waited so long to retreat,” he told me when I spoke to him several days after the Taliban had abandoned Kabul. “But now I understand. They held on to give themselves time to evacuate their Scud missiles and their anti-aircraft guns before they took to the hills. Withdrawal is the most difficult military operation. It requires command and control and meticulous planning. This they have achieved. Ask your intelligence where the Scud missiles are. They had two hundred and fifty of them.” There is now, the General said, a Russian-backed government in Kabul. “Putin has played a very clever card. But the Pashtun will resist, of course. And who will lead that resistance? The Taliban.” And their foot soldiers, he insisted, would be the Pashtun tribesmen. “They don’t like bombing,” General Gul added. “But a long-drawn-out conflict in the mountains—that’s the thing they enjoy the most.”

I found the General’s predictions dubious, and yet there was no denying that few parties are eagerly inviting the Pashtun to form a government. Once again, Afghanistan’s neighbors—India, Russia, and Iran—are entertaining alternatives. The Pashtun are not in a good position to bargain. For now, the only hope they have is to win, with force, enough territory to make them too strong to ignore, to become a power without which no peace can come to Afghanistan. If nothing comes of negotiation, they will fight

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