OVER A COFFEE : Taliban and our conspiracy theorists — Dr Haider Shah
The various militant groups have no confusion about their strategic priorities and associations. Our political leaders, however, suffer from lack of clarity and vision
Eid-ul-Azha has been observed in the country with traditional fervour. A small but very impactful section of the Muslim community has, however, revived the ancient ritual of Aztec times when humans were butchered to please the imaginary gods of nature. The Law Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa became the latest victim of this lunacy practised under the banner of religion.
Being mortals, humans die in every part of the world for various reasons. But it is only in Pakistan that organised gangs of killers are revered by leaders of many political parties. Only in Pakistan we see complete strategic chaos in dealing with terrorists. For instance, the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa wasted no time in declaring those who had been blasting school buses and killing law enforcement officers as sons of the soil. After killing of two MPAs in the recent past, even now when a cabinet member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government has been murdered in a suicide attack, the PTI chief has not condemned Taliban or other militant groups while issuing his public statement. When the Dera Ismail Khan jail was broken the local police was blamed. Now the federal government has been blamed for not surrendering to the arrogant leaders of militant outfits through negotiations. Imran Khan is hardly doing any service to this besieged nation by assuming the role of a devil’s advocate and thereby adding confusion to the national discourse on terrorism.
Like Agha Waqar’s water-propelled car, the apologists of militants keep inventing one conspiracy theory after another. A little careful scrutiny of these theories, however, reveals their hollowness and self-contradiction. One is even more surprised at the stubbornness of these conspiracy theorists to cling on to their world of paranoia. To begin with, let us examine the most often heard theory of foreign hand. The theory has many variations. In its most pure form it states that the Taliban are our heroes who are struggling for glory of Islam against enemies of Islam aka yahood-o-nasara (Jews and Christians). The bomb blasts are the work of these despicable enemies to bring a bad name to the peace loving soldiers of Islam. This theory is smashed by Taliban themselves by claiming responsibility for such attacks. In many instances they issue videos of attacks to media and, as well as put them on their websites. In some video and audio presentations they explain in detail why they consider killing of civilians justified as per their interpretation of tenets of faith.
The next variation of the theory is that some militant groups are agents of the US and are working on its directives. This sounds a little more plausible than the first one. But as Taliban are fighting against the US such groups would then become traitors to the jihadi cause. Taliban should have, therefore, first dealt with these traitors. But Taliban, instead, have officially declared them their faith brothers. So this either disproves the theory or makes Taliban US agent as well. Some conspiracy theorists, in fact, do find refuge in this theory. These theorists kept selling the theory that Saddam Hussain was a CIA agent and the Iraq war was a part of his grand plan. After Hussain’s execution they no longer talked vociferously about that theory. They then began accusing Osama bin Laden to be a CIA agent. After his killing in Abbottabad, they moved to Gaddafi as the new CIA agent and when he also went out of business the theorists continued finding new names. If Taliban as a whole are American agents then why are they fighting Pakistan that is supporting the US-led war on terror? Why are their havens consistently attacked by drones and why do they keep attacking and killing US soldiers?
Another variation of the theory is that there are good Taliban who are fighting against US-led forces in Afghanistan and there are bad Taliban who are fighting against the law-enforcement forces in Pakistan. This view comes closer to the one traditionally held by the military establishment. The theory, however, overlooks the close bonds between Taliban outfits in both countries. If the Pakistani Taliban were working against the interests of Afghan Taliban, then they would have been in a state of conflict. They both live and operate from the Pakistani tribal area. Without having strong relations of common faith, one would have decimated the other. We have seen how Taliban have mercilessly wiped out opposing seats of power such as the Maliks and groups like Ansar ul Islam. Reality is that both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban owe allegiance to Mullah Umar and share a common strategy of establishment of an Islamic emirate in the tribal areas combining Afghanistan with Pakistan.
A more recent theory singles out the Swat fugitive Maulvi Fazlullah, who is operating from the Afghan province of Kunar. This group is claimed to be working on behest of the Afghan regime. The problem with this theory is that if Fazlullah is a stooge of the Afghan government then he is taking orders from the US. As the Afghan Taliban are fighting against the American presence, it is inconceivable that they would allow the border area of Afghanistan used by a group that is operating under US orders. Activities carried out by that group have regularly been owned and defended by TTP leaders.
To summarise it all, the various militant groups have no confusion about their strategic priorities and associations. Our political leaders, however, suffer from lack of clarity and vision.
The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org