In a lecture delivered in Karachi recently, Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, author of Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Afghanistan, and Central Asia, observed: "I no longer say that there's a creeping Talibanization in Pakistan; it's a galloping Talibanization."
The lecture was published by The Dawn Blog. at www.memri.org. The following are excerpts:(1)
The Taliban "Are Not an Extension of an External Threat; They Are Not Being Funded by Russia or India"
"The myths about the Taliban need to be clarified. They are not an extension of an external threat; they are not being funded by Russia or India. In the 1990s, the Taliban in Afghanistan were fighting the Northern Alliance, and thousands of Pashtuns went to fight as foot soldiers on behalf of the Taliban. In 2001, the Afghan Taliban fled to Pakistan. Pakistani Taliban, who previously had little clout, became hosts of the Afghan Taliban and earned much money for their assistance.
"From 2001 to 2004, the Pakistani Taliban grew in numbers and influence and became radicalized because of their proximity to the Afghan Taliban. They planned and mobilized to establish a Taliban 'emirate' or state in FATA [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas situated along the Afghan border] and the expansion of that idea of statehood is what we see happening today...."
"Groups Cultivated [by the Pakistani Army] to Fight in Kashmir Have Joined up with the Pakistani Taliban - And Include Punjabis with Organizations Such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkatul Mujahideen; Now, Some 40 Groups in Pakistan are Loosely Affiliated"
"The leadership of the Taliban is now in Pakistan, and they have stated their intention of overthrowing the government here. The Taliban are linking up with groups in Pakistan, and the Pakistani Taliban movement is turning into a multiethnic movement. Groups cultivated [by the Pakistani Army] to fight in Kashmir have joined up with the Pakistani Taliban, and include Punjabis, with organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkatul Mujahideen. Now, some 40 groups in Pakistan are loosely affiliated.... For that reason, Pakistan faces a more dangerous situation than Afghanistan, where Tajik and Uzbek fighters were not permitted to join the Afghan Taliban movement.
"Pakistan is also weaker because of a raging economic crisis, the ongoing insurgency in Baluchistan, and a political crisis...."
"Before 2008, the Musharraf government allowed the Taliban to resettle in Pakistan from Afghanistan. Musharraf wanted to maintain the jihadi nexus as a force against the Indians. Also, the emphasis then was on getting rid of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban were not seen as a major threat.
"After 2004/2005, when military operations did begin in FATA, the government pursued a stop-and-start policy, which involved several peace deals that did not hold. In the meantime, the Pakistan government and army failed to protect the people of the FATA and the traditional tribal hierarchies that were pro-Pakistan. About 300 maliks of tribes [tribal elders] were killed and by 2007, there were half a million refugees from FATA in Pakistan. Having lost the goodwill of the population in FATA, the government will find it hard to re-enter the area and rebuild traditional tribal structures...."
"U.S. President Barack Obama is now doing what Bush should have done in Afghanistan (troop surge, capacity building, securing the ground to ensure that presidential elections can take place this August). In Pakistan, however, American options are limited. There was a hope that after February 2008 elections, there would be a strong coalition government that could serve as a civilian partner for Obama to partner with. After all, the Pakistan] Army has proved unreliable ally (especially since it still thinks that India is the main enemy; army officials dislike Indian presence in Afghanistan; and army officials don't like Karzai and other Afghan leaders)...."
"India is Not Funding the Taliban; India Realizes That the Taliban will Be at Their Border Next And They have Nothing to Gain from Supporting the Militants"
"There is a tit-for-tat game between India and Pakistan whereby they support nationalist insurgencies in each other's countries (so while India may be giving funds in Baluchistan, Pakistan is helping out rebels in Assam). But India is not funding the Taliban. India realizes that the Taliban will be at their border next and they have nothing to gain from supporting the militants.
"Afghanistan is Not Only a Problem; It Becomes a Trigger for Regional Problem Solving"
"The new focus of Obama administration is regional policy - get Afghanistan's six neighbors involved and make them sort out regional stability and set a common agenda. But first, bilateral issues will have to be sorted: Indo-Pak will have to clear the air, Pakistan and Central Asian states will have to reach understandings, and Iran and the US will have to start negotiating. This way, Afghanistan is not only a problem; it becomes a trigger for regional problem solving. This is one of the most doable and productive aspects of the Obama policy for Af-Pak...."
"The Taliban have an Expansionist Agenda; They Make Deals in One Area So That They can Secure it And Then Move into Other Areas"
"The Taliban have an expansionist agenda. They make deals in one area so that they can secure it and then move into other areas. There has also been no cessation of their killing of ANP [Awami National Party, a secular ruling party] and other government officials and they have not agreed to lay down their arms. Instead of achieving anything, the Swat [Shari'a-for-peace] deal formalises a different form of law and governance for one part of Pakistan, thus weakening the government...."
(1) The Dawn Blog (dawn.com), Pakistan, May 4, 2009.