Middle class rising against the Taliban
LAHORE // Khalid Mahmood, 38, is a graduate of Northwestern University in the US and runs a successful marketing consultancy firm in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.
He speaks English with an American accent, leads a life full of parties and travel and regularly reads The New York Times on the internet.
Though Mr Mahmood is most at home on the bustling streets of Karachi, he is at heart a man of Swat: his grandfather was the army commander of the last Wali (ruler) of Swat and Mr Mahmood is one of many Pakistanis who have vowed to restore the “Switzerland of Pakistan” to its former glory and resist the tide of Talibanisation that is threatening to engulf the country.
“Swat is where my heart and soul is,” he said. “And I will do everything in my power to bring back the valley.”
Two weeks ago, Mr Mahmood joined thousands of people in Karachi, Lahore and elsewhere to protest against extremism, hoping that the multitude of voices – students, writers, actors, politicians – would be enough to propel the government into taking action against the Taliban’s march across the country.
Earlier this week, after months of standing by, the Pakistan military launched a ferocious attack on militants in Swat, where they had seized de facto control of the Malakand Division
Put simply, the Taliban, murderous as it is, is not the problem. The problem is the Pakistani military and the stubborn refusal of Washington to comprehend this basic reality. We need to remind ourselves that Pakistan is not a sovereign state with a military, but a sovereign military with a state at its disposal to use as it sees fit. And it has been that way almost from the beginning of Pakistan’s existence, despite an occasional short interlude of civilian rule. To maintain its undisputed dominance and its claims to a huge chunk of the national treasure, the military needed the specter of a powerful enemy and an ideology capable of mobilizing the largely illiterate masses behind its self-image as savior of the nation. It found the former in India, the latter in radical Islam.
Implacable hostility to India (and to civilian politicians suspected of seeking a modus vivendi with it) and a de facto alliance with radical Islam thus became the hallmarks of the Pakistani military ethos and its institutional self-interest. This led to active military involvement in the setting up of jihadist and terrorist groups to be used as proxies against India and Afghanistan, the creation of the Taliban, and the creeping Islamization of Pakistan under military auspices beginning in the late 1970s. One early outcome was the emergence of the extremist Deobandi school of Islam as the dominant Islamic idiom in the country, aided and abetted by a huge network of jihadist madrassas funded generously by Saudi Arabia. How far this process has progressed in the military itself is not known, but it is worth noting that several top generals and heads of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the military’s main organ for jihadist outreach, were revealed upon retirement to have been zealous Islamists. What is known is that the ISI aided and abetted Taliban anti-Indian terrorists in Kabul just a few months ago.
GOTA talk with the military and ISI.