The ongoing Taliban/Al Qaeda saga in Pakistan

Last updated on Jun 12, 2009

Posted on Jun 12, 2009

Things before the Pakistan Army attack on Taliban in Swat et al were pretty bad.  There was no resistance to Taliban/Al Qaeda combine and there was a strong probability of Taliban taking over a substantial part of Pakistan.  If there were any doubts about that, the resistance that Pak Army (4th largest army in the world) has been met with – and the almost rampant and at will attacks on high value targets by suicide bombers – quickly underscores the strength and tenacity of Taliban/Al Qaeda combine as well as provide a window into their resolve.

After the Pak Army initiative and the displacing of hundreds of thousands of people (IDP – Internally Displaced People), it now seems to have made things worse than before.

There was a need to use a scalpel and be selective on how Taliban/Al Qaeda was weeded out of the society and their head quarters and strongholds be systematically neutralized.  However, what happened was use of a “hatchet” and more than attacking the “weed”, the Army hit at the garden itself.  Now, there are so many IDPs thrown out for no fault of theirs.  In fact, I personally talked to a friend from Lahore on phone (the person is into journalism) and had information (credible according to that person) that some of the dead bodies being categorized as Taliban fighters were actually locals.  There were pictures which were received from people on the ground in Swat in possession of my friend.  So, there are doubts that Pak Army indeed has hit at the Taliban when it says it has.

Controversies aside, even believing that Taliban has been hit and bad, it is still a bad situation.  The IDPs in the camps are ready material for the Jehadists to be recruited.  Khalid Aziz, chairman of the Peshawar-based thinktank Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training and adviser to Pak President Zardari on NWFP and FATA now says: [1]

“Now the IDP camps, could become Taliban recruiting centres”.

The Taliban and their friends – specially Pashtuns – have entered Karachi in big numbers.  The already tense city – due to ethnic and religious differences and violence – is on a strain. [2]

According to the 1981 Census (the only reliable figures available on the ethnic composition of Karachi as the census due for 1991 was delayed till 1998 because of the chronic instability in the city and even the 1998 Census could only be done with the direct involvement of the army in exercise) Muhajirs composed 61%, Sindhis 7.1%, Punjabis 15.8%, Pashtuns 11% and Baluchis 5.3% of the population of Karachi (Kennedy, 1991: 940). Moreover, the population of Karachi rose from around 400,000 in 1947 to approximately 15 million today. Between 1985 and 1998, ethnic conflict alone caused just in Karachi 9000 deaths, and peaked in 1994-1995 when 2000 were killed (Samad, 2007: 166-67).

How is Taliban’s and specifically Pashtun entry in growing numbers going to affect the dynamics of Karachi?  Aziz puts it like this:

Also remember, says Aziz, Deobandi madrassas like the Binori mosque are always there to add to the fundamentalist mix. “In fact, the growing violence within the city could even freeze up the Karachi port.” Such an eventuality will be disastrous for Pakistan’s internal dynamics as well as the fact that the US transports almost 75% of its military supplies for Afghanistan through Karachi. As Aziz sees it, that’s a disaster waiting to happen.

In the end, could just killing Taliban commanders be enough to eliminate the Taliban from Pakistan?  Or does the nation need a more deeper introspection?  Introspection that can eliminate the intolerance that Taliban, Al Qaeda etc represent?

Reference Links:

1. Taliban may strike, choke Karachi: Pak expert
2.  Thematic Chronology of Mass Violence in Pakistan, 1947-2007

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