The future of Taliban – by Abbas Zaidi

The future of the Taliban is bright in Pakistan. They will not take over Islamabad from where they can deal with the world. No. This will not suit them


The very abbreviation TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) and the concept behind it are bogus. The concept is that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. The good Taliban are supposed to be pro-Pakistan, but there is no definition about who the bad ones are. It can be argued that the bad Taliban are ones who are not controlled by Pakistan. But are the good Taliban pro-Pakistan? Where is the evidence?

Leaving aside the false binary of good-bad Taliban, one must understand the inter-textuality of the Taliban and their supporters. One cannot understand the Taliban phenomenon in 2013 without understanding that they are financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE, apart from the Pakistani diaspora in various countries. In turn, one cannot discount the significance of these four factors in the economic survival of Pakistan. And one cannot underestimate the support for the Taliban within Pakistan itself.

You will be absolutely wrong if you thought that the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) are three different outfits, and not three incarnations of ‘Islamofascism’.

This brings us to Pakistan’s most powerful political party: PML-N, which is going to rule Pakistan for the next five years. For the Sharif brothers, the Taliban are “our brethren”. They want to negotiate with them. Next, we have Imran Khan and his educated, upper middle class elites. They too respect the Taliban and want to negotiate with them. The PTI-nominated chief minister for the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province (KPK) has clearly said that the PTI has no quarrel with the Taliban. The Jamaat-e-Islami, the PTI partner in KPK coalition, as well as Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI), the PML-N partner in Islamabad, are as pro-Taliban as anyone else.

The ANP and the PPP were bombed into silence by the Taliban so they could not even launch an election campaign. The MQM has got a bloody nose in Karachi and the day is not very far when the Taliban will openly take on it too.

Despite General Kiyani’s off-and-on vague statements which are sometimes interpreted as condemning the Taliban (on the ‘bad’ ones, by the way), the Army is known or perceived to be pro-Taliban as an institution. The judiciary filled with rightwing Punjabi judges is notoriously pro-Taliban, and has time and again released them.

The list can go on, but one should stop at the role of the media in strengthening the Taliban. The word “Taliban” or even “terrorist” is missing on daily talk shows. The only words used to describe the Taliban are “shidat pasand”. Now this is a vague and ridiculous pair. It means “those who like excesses”. Do you see the irony? This is how the media report the Taliban. Who is afraid of them or who is complicit in their crimes are different issues.

By now the question about the future of the Taliban in Pakistan should have become clear. But there are a few factors which need to be accounted for. The first and foremost one is the sovereignty of Pakistan. The sovereignty of a country is not in the hands of or exercised by its judiciary or the military. It is the legislator, the executive, which is the custodian of national sovereignty. In Pakistan, the judiciary and the military are very strong. But their strength is not legal. They are known to be strong because they are above the law. The Registrar of the Supreme Court can refuse to submit financial details to the parliamentary committee on public accounts, and not even the prime minister dare say a word. The Chief Justice of Pakistan on public forums announces that the parliament is not supreme and that it is the judiciary which will decide what is legal and what is not. The military is above every parliamentary or civilian law. Its finances cannot be regulated by a civilian authority even if it is legally entitled to do so (e.g., the Auditor General of Pakistan).

This leaves the legislator/executive powerless. In the past few years, Pakistan’s parliament has not functioned as a sovereign body at all. The present legislators were elected mainly because the Taliban openly supported them by giving protection to their rallies and the likes of the PPP and the ANP could not act more than holding small and mostly ‘spontaneous’ corner meetings (as opposed to huge rallies by the PML-N and the PTI). This is a good indicator to show who wields the real power. There are vast tracts of land all over Pakistan where Pakistan where the Taliban rule and even collect taxes. FATA is controlled by the Taliban; outside Quetta, it is the Taliban who make decisions; in South Punjab, the local administrations co-opt Taliban in various administrative affairs. Despite the blackout by the media, people of Karachi know that in most of the Pashtun areas it is the Taliban who rule. Thus, it is only a matter of time when Pakistan will become a stateless society. The very fact that the government of Pakistan will soon be initiating a dialogue with the Taliban on the basis of parity is evidence of the fast withering away of the national sovereignty. With the military and the judiciary functioning as ‘safe, secure and protected’ mafias, there is no other power in Pakistan other than the Taliban which can fill in the void left by the failure of the legislator as a sovereign body.

The future of the Taliban is bright in Pakistan. They will not take over Islamabad from where they can deal with the world. No. This will not suit them. Nor will their supports in the Middle East or in Pakistan be comfortable with such a scenario. With time, they will gain more and more power and clout. The ‘elected’ government of the time will look up to them for guidance and will beg for their mercy around Christmas and Muharram, so bloodshed is avoided. The minorities such as the Shias, the Ahmadis, the Christians, and the Hindus will continue to live in fear; their finest brains will either migrate or be killed or converted. There is only one scenario which will see the end of the Taliban tyranny in Pakistan: Democracy is allowed to function and elections are held without any interference from the military or judiciary. Through the social media (Facebook, twitter, blogs), Pakistani liberals must continue to try to convince the people of Pakistan that their solution lies in democracy, social justice, economic well being, and human rights, and not in the Talibanic obscurantist ideology which will take them to the dark ages. Pakistani liberals should also take up various issues on international forums such as the United Nations, various courts of justice and, above all, various academic institutions internationally. Pakistan has been going through a night journey, and this journey may grow darker. But the unceasing efforts of liberal intellectuals will succeed in the end. The night will certainly be replaced by the light of morning. But this is possible only if the liberals remain patient, persistent, and steadfast. The likes of Viewpoint, Roshni, and Let US Build Pakistan have been doing a great job educating the people of Pakistan. Activists on Facebook and Twitter are working very hard to educate people. There is a great need to expand this good work in local languages too. The good news for Pakistan’s liberals and minorities is that evil is self-destructive. This is possible only when good keeps up its work despite all odds. We can defeat the Taliban by strengthening and enlightening the people of Pakistan. Strengthening democracy and other forms of public representation is the fundamental condition for it.

Abbas Zaidi is the author of Two and half words and other stories, published by Savvy Press, New York, and Language shift; Sociolinguistics lives of two Punjabi generations in Brunei Darussalam, published by Classic Books Lahore



Latest Comments
  1. Taj
  2. Bashy Quraishy
    • antidote
  3. Bashy Quraishy