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.

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Shaheryar Ali

I like to offer my red salute to communist Aitzaz Ahsan and great secular feminist Tahira Abdulla [who in her usual hysteric fiery oratory saluted Jamate Islami for fighting for free judiciary, in the fits of passion she obviously forgot the raped Bengali women, who were molested by her favorite Jamate Islami goons in 71, at the recent SPO conference held in Lahore] for granting us the free judiciary and realizing the maternal instinct of our state.[Riyasat ho gi maa’n ki jesi] Our mother like state soon after the great “Black Revolution” [This is one of the greatest revolutions of the history, last time black colored clothes were linked to a revolutionary movement, it was “Black shirts” of Mussolini The notorious march on Rome by the Black Shirts, snuffed out the week

March on Rome

March on Rome

Liberal government and brought Mussolini to power “constitutionally” in accordance with “Statuto Albertino”. This was from where we first got the word “Fascist”. Now considered an abuse and a pejorative term “Fascist” was the official name of one of the most proud nationalist movement which shook the most advance of human civilization, Europe] killed three of her sons in Balochistan. Not satisfied by her act of maternal mercy, euthanasia is an act of mercy after all; our mother state mutilated their bodies.

Now because our mother state was born a “muslim” with the slogans of La Illaha Illallah and her ancestors included the great Islamic empires, mutilating dead bodies is her family custom. You don’t believe me, of course, Jamate Islami’s text books which most of you have read don’t tell these things, the Naseem Hijazi’s novels you have read also paint a great picture of our mother state’s ancestors. Let’s not forget the PTV plays which fill us with Jihadi passion. Like let’s take one on the great great grandfather of our mother state Muhammed bin Qasim , cute Babar Ali with long hair and mild manners was not shown killing infidel Sindhis was he? Chach Nama speaks of those heinous crimes. Institute of Sindhiology has published it. After the regime change in Damascus , great hero ancestor of ours , Muhammed bin Qasim captured from Sindh [?Multan] , he was sewed in Cow’s hide and sent to Damascus, now you can all imagine what would have reached there.

Banu Qurayza Messacre

Banu Qurayza Messacre

Before our mother state was born, her uncle, great poet Iqbal saw a dream and than gave a prophecy to people in grounds of Allahabad. Uncle Iqbal doubted the genealogy of our mother state. He thought that the empires were not the true ancestors of ours. State of Madina and the rightly guided Caliphs, companions and their disciples were our true ancestors. When I was in school is got my hands on Watt’s account of Bannu Qurayza’s massacre which took place after battle of trench.; One of the most heinous acts of genocide in history. The Jewish tribe was annihilated. The crime was high treason, without making any distinction between culprits, all males were killed, women and children were enslaved Trenches were dug in Medina and men [600-900] were brought tied like goats and slaughtered. For the sake of precision trousers were removed of the growing children and those who had pubic hair were slaughtered too.

Younger children were sold as slaves and women ended up as sexual slaves [Londi]. We feel concerned why Taliban cut people throats and flog women?

I remember the chilly Friday of North Staffordshire’s summer when I had to accompany an Indian friend to the main sunni mosque of the town. After the prayer we met a group of young local lads distributing leaflets to the people coming out of mosque. I still remember the sharp and cold dagger of fear which I felt ripping my spine apart. The leaflet described the Banu Qurayza massacre in detail and urged Muslims to follow the prophet in act of slaughter of the Kaffirs. Most of these lads were the local kids I knew, saw them occasionally in Hope Street on weekend drinking and pursuing some local blond. Now they were in Hizb-ul-Tehrir , reminding muslims of deed of prophets which had been erased from collective consciousness by modern muslim reformists. I

Black flag of Islamic fascism

Black flag of Islamic fascism

remember the night of the same day when I was sitting in a cozy room with my favorite can of lager in hand, when I was introduced to a strikingly handsome local lad who was so polite and handsome that I found my self increasingly distracted by his green eyes, loosing the track of conversation and forgetting to sip my drink. I am a pharmacist, he was telling me. Today I told them that I will not dispense contraceptives and abortion medications. It’s against Islam. I said arnt you glad that we live in a pluralistic society where you can refuse to do things which are against your conscience. A shade of red , made his already pretty face prettier and his voice had a tinge of passionate anger when he spoke of the system of kuffer we are living in , because we have become Eunuchs , these white fags are cowards , we just need to stand up and this country will be ours. These white blond girls can be our slave as Allah has blessed us with these luxuries. He again repeated the incident of Banu Qurayza to shake me out of my defeatist pacifism. This was a lad who a community hero, kind and polite considered an angel at his work place. In those days I had recently written a critical paper on Hannah Arendt’s “Banality of Evil”, I made a note in my mind to retract it as I was looking at a living proof of the validity of the concept. I remember yet another Friday when he took me to the mosque in his NHS hospital. The hospital had converted the Chapel into mosque and one medical consultant was speaking, it was the Friday sermon. “Prophet said “I am the prophet of slaughter”, those who don’t support Jihad in Iraq, those who vote in this system of Kuffer are infidels, and they must have the same fate. Sheik Osama is the lord of ages—-Pluralism and multi-cultureism went terribly wrong.

Othaman and Ali were both married to Muhammed’s daughters and considered most righteous of caliphs. Founder of sunni fascist party Syed Abul Ala Maudaudi has written the detail of Othaman’s style of government, his massive corruption, what was doing to companions like Abu Dhar , Abdullah Bin Masood etc. After his murder, a section of companions revolted against Ali, Muhammed bin Abu Bakar , son of Abu Bakar , first Caliph of Sunnis was governor of Egypt from Ali’s side. Amr bin Aas, yet another companion invaded Egypt and conquered it. Muhammed bin Abu Baker was sewed in donkey’s hide and burned alive on his orders. Now these were the people who learned Islam directly from Muhammed and we are upset why Taliban are hanging people?

Yet another “Black Revolution”, which comes into my mind, is that of the Abbasids. The conquered Persians, slaves of the Arab feudals joined them in flocks; they raised “Black Flags” and stood up. The Umayyad authority was eroding rapidly due to dawa , the crowds cried listening to the stories of Kerbala. The black flags were to mourn the house of Muhammed , to avenge Hussein and Zaid , the Rose , who was crucified and whose body was not allowed to be removed from the cross. Than the day came, black flags entered the city, every Umayyad was murdered and all graves of Umayyad were dug and the remains crucified. People ask why Taliban crucified the body of Pir in Swat. Don’t they know it’s again a family tradition of our Islamic state?

I remember I once read a paper which spoke of evolution of Law in United Kingdom. The priests who spoke latin and wore black robes had monopoly on Law. After reformation, priests had to go and secular priests emerged with the same black robes who called each other “brothers”. Some say black robes to mourn the King became their symbol;

Islam and Secularism MIB

Islam and Secularism MIB

other says it helped them hide daggers in their dresses easily as the times were rough. The lawyers are the priests of the secular world. Rigid and obsessed with abstract texts like their predecessors. I once heard a line in my cultural studies class “Lawyers are the high priests of America”. Last time lawyers had our fate in their hands we ended with partition and one of the worse genocide in histories, 3 lawyers Jinnah , Gandhi and Nehru kept fighting on principles as the lawyers are trained to be and we entered into holocaust which now has a nuclear aspect.

Taliban in Long March

Taliban in Long March

Our great secular, democratic and progressive lawyers started a movement to make us enter into the utopia of modernism by boycotting the general election. “Justice”, “Justice” and “Justice” they cried, and made “Justice” the main issue of our national agenda. The prophets of democracy and constitution boycotted the parliament and refused to accept a constitutional amendment to solve the “justice” crisis. The stalwarts of legacy of Muhammed Ali Jinnah , started a long march with dherna [sit in] , the former was legacy of Communism and later was the tactic of Gandhi. Muhammed Ali Jinnah whom these people converted into an idol for their struggle never did a long march or dherna against the British, he preferred to deliver speeches in parliament and argue cases in courts. He never refused to plead a case in colonial courts saying “these courts are illegitimate”. That’s what Bhagat Singh [communist] and congressites use to do. Our lawyers were following him boycotting parliaments and courts. It was Gandhi which did a long march against the British, the famous “salt march” as it has become immortalized in history.

They wanted the court and justice of their liking and they got it by power. The prophets of constitutionalism actually got the “principle of power” approved they encouraged civil disobedience and snuffed out the illusion of state’s power. The dawn of justice came with the shameful collaboration with ISI , CIA and General Kiyani. One of the greatest ironies of history will be that a movement which was called nationalist and democratic resulted in re-establishing the principle of Army intervention in civil-political matters and encouragement of direct foreign involvement in Pakistani internal affairs.

a_nation_will_come-fromeastJustice is what Sufi Muhammed cries, he also wants his own justice, his own courts, his own law just as our lawyers wanted. Our lawyers forced the government by power of Army and civil disobedience of Punjabi bureaucracy. Sufi Muhammed has forced ANP with guns and inactivity and failure of Pak Army in Swat.

It’s the same principle at work here which our secular progressives established. The principle of power. Black is the color of flags of Sufi Muhammed and Black is the colour of his turban. For 2 years lawyers in the black robes dictated the national agenda. When the greatest looming threat to Pakistan was Islamic Fascism, Benazir Bhutto had fallen a victim to state agencies and its collaborators Islamic fascists, these secular priests created a smoke screen that greatest issue infront of Pakistan was restoration of Justice Iftikhar. They played in hands of Jamate Islami and PML-N who on their  shoulders demolished the Anti-Taliban agenda. These secular priests became the spoke persons of Ajmal Kasab and re-rehabilitated Pakistan Army and ISI and re-established their authority over democratic regime. Once they completely destroyed the credibility of the two parties who could fight Islamic fascism and Army, they started lamenting their concessions to victors.

They havnt said a single word against Army-ISI establishment who failed to fight the menace in Swat. All their guns are towards ANP and PPP. One wonders if PPP and ANP are such a great supporters of Islamic fascism why these two parties are the only parties being murdered by Taliban?. Why even after Nizam e Adal , ANP people are being murdered? Why Islamic fascism havnt striked Aitzaz Ahsan? Or Iftikhar Chaudhry or our English speaking bloggers whose only job is to defend ISI and condemn PPP and ANP?

Women in Black

Women in Black

They have cut the roots of the tree and now lament the lack of fruit. Before putting shame on PPP and ANP why don’t they say shame on the Army who couldnt block the FM station of Sufi or why General Shuja Pasha personally met Sufi in jail and brought him out? Why our glorious Army failed to defeat militants?

So, what tanks ANP has to fight? Hundreds of ANP activists have been murdered in Pakhtoonkhawa , when ANP was desperately giving SOS signals our secular priests were marching with PML-N and Jamate Islami who were telling the people Taliban are Patriots. So now enjoy the fruits of patriotism. The free judiciary released Evil of Red Mosque, yet another evil in black robes, The black Burqa . The great Supreme Court also re-affirmed the death penalty for Blasphemy, I once again salute Aitzaz Ahsan and Tahira Abdulla who restored democracy and justice through stick of General Kiyani and also restored our national sovereignty through Hillary Clinton and ambassador Holbrooke. My friend Raza Rumi called it “night bitten dawn”, so as Abbas Ather but this dawn is black. Black is this Dawn, or should I say Mirza Baidil Dehlvi is more appropriate who said “The night has passed but Dawn has not come”. Viva La Revolution, the Black Revolution———

Notes:

Illustration 1: The massacre of the Banu Qurayza. Detail from miniature painting The Prophet, Ali, and the Companions at the Massacre of the Prisoners of the Jewish Tribe of Beni Qurayzah, illustration of a 19th century text by Muhammad Rafi Bazil. Manuscript (17 folio 108b) now housed in the British Library. [With thanks Wiki]

Iluustration 2: Saying of Prophet Muhammed which forms the basis of alliance between Pakistan Army and Anti-India section of Islamic fascism . Translation : narrated by Hazrat Abdullah bin Masood (RA) that Prophet (SAW) said: “A Nation will come from the east with black flags and they will ask for some “Khair” (because of them being needy) but the people will not give them, then, they will fight and win over those people (who did not give them what they asked). Now the people will give them what they asked for but they will not accept it until they will hand it over to a person from my progeny who will fill this earth with justice just as it was previously filled with oppression and tyranny. So if anyone of you finds this nation (i.e. from the east with black flags) then you must join them even if you have to crawl over ice. This along with others is cited as evidence for alleged “Gizwa-e-Hind”. Islamic fascists of all creeds have therefor used Black Flags. Sufi Muhammed entered Swat with Black flags

3. Two verses form the inspiration for this post by great communist poet Zaheer Kashmiri which means “ Neither prophet hood nor the book has come from the sky , only thing which has come from sky is darkness—“ Second is by famous socialist poet Ahmad Faraz

Sub rasoolo’n ki kitaben taaq pur rakh du Faraz

Nafrato’n ke ye sahefe, ummer bhar dekhe ga kon

[Put all the scriptures of these prophets in the closet, who will read these texts of hate all his life]

This is according to BBC Urdu’s New York’s correspondent Mr Hassan Mujtaba , that the spokesman of United Nation’s secretary general in his press briefing expressed “great concern” on the recent killing of the 3 Baloch leaders. United Nations demanded from the government of Pakistan that an impartial inquiry be conducted into these murders.  It should be noted that Chief minister of Balochistan Mir Aslam Khan Raisani has already ordered a judicial investigation.

090410073444_baloch_protest_283Today the 3 day mourning period started in Balochistan. A complete general strike was observed in the provinces. All the educational institutions were closed and traffic on the roads was minimal.

What is happening in Balochistan the Pakistani corporate media is maintaining its usual silence. Largest Urdu news paper Daily Jang censored the press conference by Mir Hasil Bazinjo an act of complete professional dishonesty. It was ironic to read the statement of Pakistan Army’s spokesman denying the charges but “charges” being denied were no where to be seen. Once again Pakistanis are forced to listen to BBC like old times to get news.

Please watch this chilling video from BBC Urdu on the events in Balochistan. The video contains the clips from Mir Hasil Bezinjo’s press conference demanding registering the FIR against chiefs of Pakistani agencies. You can also watch the scenes from Karachi where slogans of Azadi are being chanted [This is not Indian occupied Kashmir, its Balochis demanding freedom in front of Karachi Press Club]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/multimedia/2009/04/090409_baloch_protest.shtml

Use the link to watch the Video. Please copy paste the link in your browser and watch the video.  Most of the “news” about Balochistan was censored by Pakistani free media.   Many educated middle class Pakistanis must be wondering [it can be yet another of my wishful thinking they still retain this ability] that what has happened since our great leader  Nawaz Sharif, our great intellectuals, and ofcourse our great Leftists Aitzaz Ahsan and Ali Ahmad Kurd etc proclaimed “revolution”. The claim of Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan was that after the restoration “state” of our beloved “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” will assume the character of a loving mother. [Riyasat ho gi maa’n ki jesi].

He was not their but his comrade-in-arms Ali Ahmad Kurd was present in the ceremonial and symbolic last rites of this case of “infanticide” by our mother state. I wished any one could have asked Mr Kurd about “free judiciary” will the free judiciary order the registration of FIR against Intellegence chiefs??

For more than a year these criminals, these ISI sponsered stooges created the most effective smoke screen of our times to discredit the democratic transition, paralysing them to stop their initiative against ISI , Islamic fascism and Balochistan. PPP and ANP themselves are responsible for their reckless compromises with their existential enemies USA and Pakistani establishment. There refusal to take stand on their own issues has resulted in this day. Its time to resign and take the battle to the streets or everything will end. Asif Ali Zardari will have to break his jail of presidential palace , he has to fit in shoes of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

Chief of Sarawan , Mir Aslam Raisani is a great man , he is son of a great man, time has come that he realizes that the puppet regime he is chairing in Quetta has become a threat to the prestige of whole of Sarawan. We dont want to remember him as a traitor. When its certain that PPP has no power. Its time to resign .

How bad the situation really is in Balochistan. As most of the middle class was in grip of the ISI sponsered rotten radicalism of “free” media and “free” judiciary , they couldnt know the facts. One such fact was today exoposed by Ansar Abbasi , a journalist who himself his suspected of strong links with the “islamist” section of Pakistani eastablishment who today “confirmed” how General Kiyani called our great democrat Aitzaz Ahsan and informed him about restoration of Chief Justice. What we always were saying that it was Army doing all this. I can only say Aitzaz Ahsan shame on you. These poor Balochs cant pay your fee so they cant buy justice from this “free-as-a-farce” judiciary of yours.

The following video is of 2008 and its shows activists putting flag of free Balochistan on a busy square of Balochistan. Now it is 2009—– Riyasat Ho Gi Maa’n ki jesi—-Adal bina jamhoor na ho ga——-.


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

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Fingers point towards the armed forces for the murder of journalist Musa Khankhel

The world was reminded of the tragic paradoxes that take place daily in Pakistan, when a young journalist was kidnapped and executed last month while covering a march for peace. Mr. Musa Khankhel, journalist and correspondent of Geo Television disappeared on February 18, while covering a procession led by Maulana Sufi Mohammad, a religious leader in Swat, in the NWF province. The procession was to celebrate a peace agreement with the government which would see Islamic Sharia laws implemented in the valley. He was 28 years old and had been threatened several times by government security forces for his steadfast independent reporting. He had also been kidnapped and tortured twice before by security forces. As a journalist he was not popular among militant groups either, including the Taliban and the group lead by Maulana Soofi Mohammad, Tehrik Nifa-1Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM).

After his body had turned up in the Matta sub district, the government, TNSM and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) announced the formation of probe committees into his death. No one laid claim to the murder. The government assigned the Inspector General of police in the province to investigate the incident, but neither he nor Maulana’s committee has reported any findings so far. Only the probe committee of PFUJ appears to have started a concrete investigation, and Mr. Mohammad Riaz, the chief of the PFUJ committee, has visited the area. He reports that the atmosphere there is tense and few civilians are willing to discuss Khankhel’s death; they are scared of harassment from both the sides, the militants and the security forces. The latter are known to brutally and often arbitrarily mete out punishment in the more remote parts of the country, and disappearances here are not uncommon. There are also no police in the area. Without committed government intervention – a high judicial commission – to probe the killings, Riaz says, it will not be possible to unearth the ‘truth’. Information gathered by the AHRC points, increasingly, at Pakistan’s wayward security forces for the murder.

On the day he was murdered, friends and relatives say that Khankhel mentioned hearing that ‘today one journalist may be killed’, through sources in the security agencies stationed in the war zone. Because of this he told prominent senior journalist and anchor person, Mr. Hamid Mir, to be extremely careful, should he choose to visit the area. Mir remembers Khankel telling him: ‘you will watch the scenes of destruction in civilian residential areas of Kabal. You will show live destroyed homes and mosques, and people will equate your coverage with the bombing of Gaza by Israelis. You will become a security risk and they will kill you in the name of national interest. And the blame will be placed at Taliban’s door.’ Tragically, Khankel had not realised that he was the journalist in question.

Khankhel had survived two assassination attempts last year, both times, he said, by the security forces. In November he was kidnapped and tortured for two days in custody, and was told that should he continue his investigations, his family members would be killed. He later told Mir, his colleague, that ‘some elements in the security forces want to eliminate me physically, due to my reporting’. The journalist’s younger brother, Essa Khankhel, also a journalist, told the AHRC that his brother had managed to record a death threat from one security officer in the past.

The AHRC has learned that the day before his assassination, Khankhel was stopped and threatened by security persons at a press conference held by Mr. Bashir Bilour, the senior minister of the NWF Province. Bilour was giving a briefing on the peace pact between the provincial government and TNSM. One Major Farooq, of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), exchanged harsh words with Khankhel, and he was told to be careful when dealing with the armed forces.

Reports from eye witnesses in the area, particularly shopkeepers from Matta (the sub-district in Swat from where he was abducted) have pointed out that there were a good number of security personnel around when Khankhel was taken. In Matta, Musa had visited a few shops and proceeded to a spot along the route of the procession. He was trying to hail a taxi when three persons carried him forcefully away.

Provincial government ministers, including the spokespersons of Taliban Pakistan and TNSM, are all denying responsibility, and claiming that a ‘third force’ was involved. This ‘third force’, ministers concede quietly, means the armed forces. A top office bearer of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has observed that when the Taliban kills, they claim it openly. Hamid Mir has written several articles suggesting that his colleague was the target of the army.

In the past year four journalists have been reportedly killed by the security forces in the Swat, twenty over the last two year period. Journalists, particularly reporting in the war torn NWFP on its destroyed houses, schools and hospitals, observe that security forces are generally hostile toward them, and each reporter has experiencing problems during investigations, some receiving death threats. The motive, as explained by the journalists, is to keep the reporters out of the area. Journalist Mr. Hameedullah’s house was bombed on his return to his village on 5 January, 2009. They and other residents had been forced to evacuate the area on 28 December, when the army launched an offensive against the Taliban.

Although there are conflicting reports about Khankhel’s killing; most of the reports point in the same direction. After the ‘war on terror’, the impunity enjoyed by security agencies saw a dramatic rise in cases of torture, abduction, disappearance and the murder of government opponents. There are more than 4000 persons disappeared for their resistance to military operations in different part in the country, and the AHRC last year determined the existence of 52 clandestine detention centres. Still, ‘unknown’ actors are publicly blamed for many of the area’s most violent crimes.

To specify a ‘third force’ and name it only in private, pays no tribute to the memory of Musa Khankhel, and to his family. Investigations into the torture and deaths of other journalists have sputtered and failed. Courage and an iron political will is needed from the government to tackle this blight in Pakistan: a corrupt, wayward and arbitrarily violent security force that has only been encouraged, rather than reined in, over the years. A high powered judicial commission must be formed to probe the murder, uncover the truth about the involvement of security agencies in the death of journalists, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. It must be shown that no one in Pakistan is above the law, in any part of the country.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367

This Blog endorses Mr Haider Abbas Gardezi for Senate nomination and strongly appeals to Mr Asif Ali Zardari to nominate Mr Gardezi to represent Saraiki wasaib [South Punjab],working classes , women and minorities in upper house of Pakistani Parliment. This blog also appeals others to support this man of principles.

Shaheryar Ali

Dr Ahmad Arslan

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Some people have to be called saints despite their expressed iconoclasm. When Jean Paul Sartre wrote on Jean Genet, he called him Saint Genet. Helene Cixous’s commentary on Jacques Derrida is called “Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Jewish Saint”. The words Noam Chomsky chooses to describe his dear friend and comrade, Eqbal Ahmad were “Secular Sufi”. There is something about such creed of men which though may be Anarchists, Marxists or morally non-conformist writers with police records makes them saintly. Saints are strangers in the world of men, people who live in the material world but who shun all its relations. One such stranger in Pakistani politics is Haider Abbas Gardezi.. Kishwar Naheed in her column in Jang mentions him as the only intellectual who has applied for Senate. She has expressed her wish that the leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party makes the wise choice of putting the intelligent heir of Syed Qaswar Gardezi in Pakistan’s upper house of Parliament

Whilst Kishwar Naheed is a master of words and a witness of the progressive movement and history in Pakistan, the names she mentions sound unfamiliar to young Pakistanis who have been taught a monolithic version of history, culture and politics of Pakistan. Mr Gardezi is son of Syed Hasan Raza Gardezi, the phenomenal Saraiki poet. A true bohemian, he was the founder of modern Saraiki poetry. A satirist par excellence and a social anarchist he was the soul of literary and cultural life of Multan. A whole generation of Multani intellectuals grew up under his wings with his memories still fresh in their minds. Famous progressive writer and academic Dr Anwar Ahmad has sketched him in his latest book which covers the personalities who left their imprint on culture of Multan. Hasan Raza Gardezi was a master poet of Urdu and Persian as well but he published only his Saraiki poetry. His book “Dhabay Dohray” is considered one of the most important modern saraiki text. With it he introduced not only modern poetic craft to Saraiki but also a modern consciousness which re-invents meaning of traditional saraiki mystic themes. This book has been translated into English as “Tenements on Sand”

Whilst Mr Haider Abbas Gardezi got love of literature, culture and liberty from his father. His political mentor and teacher was Syed Qaswar Gardezi. He later became his father in law. Mr Qaswar Gardezi holds a very important position in history of democratic and progressive movement in Pakistan. A member of feudal aristocracy which held religious and spiritual leadership due to its association with shrine of Shah Yousaf Gardez one of the patron saints of Multan who is one of the earlier mystics who arrived in Indian subcontinent, Qaswar Gardezi against his class interest joined the Communist movement of Pakistan. He had in front of him an easy way of rising to power by joining the establishment like his contemporaries from similar family backgrounds but he choose a very difficult path of progressive politics, A fast friend of Mian Iftikharuddin , he joined Azad Pakistan Party which later merged with other left wing forces of Pakistan to make “National Awami Party” Pakistan’s first popular social-democratic party. He worked closely with Mian Iftikaruddin and Molana Bhashani and worked as “vice-president” of the party under Molana Bhashani. Mr Qaswar Gardezi also served as secretary general of NAP. He accompanied Mian Iftikharuddin on his tour of USSR and Eastern Europe. On his return he was imprisoned by dictatorship. He was imprisoned many times during different martial laws as well as “democratic regimes”. After disintegration of NAP he worked with Wali Khan and Mir Bizenjo and remained active during the MRD. It was this ideological and principled politics which Haider Abbas Gardezi learned from people like Mian Iftikharuddin, Qaswar Gardezi, Molana Bhashani,Wali Khan and Mir Bizenjo. As a young boy he remembers attending meetings and protests with these great men. He worked in Socialist Party of Pakistan, NAP and PNP of Mir Bizenjo: Always standing with the working class, oppressed nationalities and democratic forces. During the reign of terror of General Zia ul Haq when people were being hanged, lashed and tortured, most of the feudal joined Zia ul haq but Mr Haider Abbas Gardezi stood firm in his opposition to fascist dictator. During the MRD he defied the Martial law and presented himself for arrest at Town Hall Multan in front of hundreds of of people boldly declaring General Zia as a traitor. When he was tried in the Martial Law tribunal, he refused to stand up in honour of the military officer who was trying him. In his statement to the court Mr Gardezi stated that he and others like him are not traitor but those who have abrogated the constitution and hanged the elected prime minister have committed high treason. People of Pakistan, the workers, students, minorities, artists writers all of them support progressive movement against Islamist dictatorship of Zia. He was charged with high treason sent to jail with orders of confiscation of his estate and property and public lashing. It was one of the harshest punishments awarded to any member of feudal classes. Due to public and intellectual uproar he was not lashed but was kept in jail for long time.

During the exile days of London Mr Haider Abbas Gardezi came in contact with Benazir Bhutto. A dialogue continued between them on political problems of Pakistan, national question, left wing insurgency and restoration of democracy, it continued in informal meetings, letters and drafts. After restoration of democracy when Bhutto’s government was dismissed Mr Gardezi sent her a dossier on reasons of this disaster. Benazir Bhutto who had a deep understanding of progressive politics greatly admired his thesis and asked him to Join PPP. Mr Gardezi who was long resisting these requests for the reason that he didn’t want to join a party which was in power joined PPP when it was in opposition. He was soon taken in Punjab Council and he enjoyed confidence of Benazir Bhutto who was a guest at his home when ever she visited Southern Punjab. A man of mild manners and ideological principles Mr Gardezi never engaged in the usual electoral politics. His deep insight into problems of Pakistan and his pro-people stance was acknowledged by Bhutto who elevated him to “Federal Council of PPP”. He was also put in the “Policy Planning Cell” where he closely worked with Benazir Bhutto, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Munno Bhai and others on important issues. Benazir Bhutto also entrusted him with drafting of her important speeches and policy papers in which Mr Gardezi contributed a lot. The exile and martyrdom of Benzir Bhutto affected him greatly, a misfit in power politics and politics of corruption he fondly talks about Benazir Bhutto as the “Nihati Larki” who all her life tried to light candles in hostile rainstorms.

He passionately wrote on her assassination and often speaks about her vision for Pakistan. He firmly believes that the result of recent elections should have been used to build a New Republic which should replace this oppressive post-colonial system. The democratic forces instead of limiting their agenda on small issues like “restoration of certain judges” and “independence of election commission” should have joined hands to bring about “Constitutional Reforms” which transforms Pakistan into a democratic republic: Solving the nationalist question, giving genuine provincial autonomy, ending discriminatory laws against minorities and women. Instead of a Ideological religious state Pakistan should be a voluntary democratic federation of nationalities: A new republic which should address the “economic-redistribution”, land reforms and Industrialization. He states that judiciary needs “reformation” not “restoration” because a restoration without reform will result in the judiciary which is historically a pro-establishment partisan which is inherently anti people. Same is the issue of “restoration of constitution”, restoration of a constitution which discriminates against women, minorities and nationalities. What purpose will it serve? The democratic forces should join hands for “Reforms” and not for “restoration” of old orders. A firm believer in “non capitalist mode of development” which is sustainable and environment friendly he is critical of capitalist globalization which threatened natives, their languages, cultures and heritage. An internationalist who admires Eqbal Ahmad and Arundhati Roy

This man could be an asset for PPP and Pakistan must be utilized, to quote veteran progressive writer Mr Haneed Akhtar who has also requested Mr Asif Ali Zardari to consider Mr Gardezi for Senate. We can only wish his appeal be heard.

[Dr Ahmad Arslan is doctor by profession and a political activist who associates himself with working class tradition of PPP. He is also a volunteer from PPP Punjab in NDI’s Youth Politics development programme]

Shaheryar Ali

My memories and understanding of  Taliban come from Eqbal Ahmad’s paper “Land Without Music” . Ahmad has truly captured the horror of post Taliban Kandahar. Taliban are forcing a culture which is totally alien to Pakhtoon tradition. A tradition which is rich in Art and Music. With War on Terror the misguided liberals and modernists who are nohthing but United State’s  drum beaters have spoken about “barbaric tribalism”, “backwardness” and “religios fanaticism of Pakhtoons. With this a new stereotype of Pakhtoon is being  built in Pakistan and in the world, a bearded suicide bomber who is a savage. Pakhtoons are fighting at two fronts. This lovely song in Pushto is one such act of people’s resistance.  A mix crowd of young Pakhtoon boys and girls singing and enjoying is defying the Talibani ban on Music and also exprssing the cultural side of Pakhtoons. I dont understand a single word of Pushto but i enjoyed this song immensely, it was like a breath of fresh air. The joy on the faces of the crowd , their participation , the interaction of boys and girls. The song is a treat to watch