Hazrat Wali Kakar
Talibanisation is a totally alien concept to the doctrine of Pashtoonwali; the only thing that forms a link between the two is the pashtoo word Taliban, the plural of the Arabic word Talib, meaning “the student of a madrassa”. The word Taliban is often misunderstood as being synonymous with Pashtoon, which not only does a disservice to the peaceful and pluralistic culture of the Pashtoon, but also maligns the very fundamentals of Pashtoon culture.
Talibanisation, as a process and mindset, was engineered by the establishment of Pakistan, sponsored by the U.S and assisted by Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries to counter communism in Afghanistan. As part of the global agenda to contain communism, the waste of the Muslim world – criminals, killers and prisoners – were gathered, nurtured and trained on the territory of Pashtoons. Unfortunately they were given a free hand in the area, to interact with people and spread their views.
In this context it is very important to understand what Pashtoonwali is. It is an un-written code and an integral component of the Pashtoons’ social fabric. It exercises great influence on their actions and has been held sacrosanct by them, generation after generation. It imposes upon the members of Pashtoon society four chief obligations. Nanawatey (repentance) is the first obligation, which is to repent over past hostility or inimical attitudes and grant asylum. Teega (truce) is the second obligation, whereby a truce is declared by a Jirga to avoid bloodshed between two rival factions. Badal is the obligation to seek revenge by retaliation and fourthly, Melmastiya (open-hearted hospitality), which is one of the most noble features of Pashtoon character. In a broad sense, hospitality, chivalry, honesty, uprightness, patriotism, love and devotion for the country are the essential features of Pashtoonwali.
Pashtoons and Arabs interacted for the first time in the 1970s when the Arabs first settled in the region of FATA. A distorted version of ‘jihad’ was then introduced to the local people, with the generosity and openness of the Pashtoon being exploited to groom foot soldiers for countering communism in Afghanistan. This process had a negative influence on the age-old Pashtoon code of conduct, which was primarily based on humanity, self- esteem, dignity, respect and love.
It is thus very important not to view the Taliban movement as a ‘Pashtoon nationalist movement’; it borrows much more from Arabs than from Pashtoon history. The same Taliban also deliberately target many Pashtoon traditions, such as tribal councils and cultural folk. During Taliban control over the region, most Pashtoon practices were banned and even coercive measures were used to curb Pashtoonwali. According to a recent independent survey, there are 25,000 TTP (Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan) militants in FATA, and among them, Punjabis are at the top with 9,565, followed by Pashtoons, Uzbeks and Arabs. Unfortunately the problem of extremism in Punjab is viewed as a completely separate problem, and the very strong presence and role of Punjabis in FATA is often denied.
History speaks volumes about the Pashtoons as nationalist, secular, progressive and democratic in nature. Prior to 1979, most battles were fought on nationalist rather than religious grounds. The legends Shahabuddin Ghori, Ibrahim Lodhi, the great Sher Shah who laid the foundation of secularism and religious tolerance in the sub-continent, the reverend Ahmed Shah Abdali and the Anglo-Afghan wars testify to Pashtoon nationalism. This of course does not mean that Pashtoons are non- religious, rather they believe in coexistence and respect for other religions.
Nationalist movements are characterized by their desire to promote and protect national language, culture and identity through political expression, and to control their affairs and manage their economic resources without outside interference. They may strive for autonomy within a state in order to protect their identity, or in certain cases, strive for an independent state of their own. The Taliban meet none of these criteria in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and therefore cannot be considered a Pashtoon nationalist movement.
They have consciously, as a matter of policy, targeted various cultural traits of Pashtoons and are not concerned about the language; they promote mostly Arabic and interestingly, sometimes Urdu. They do not concern themselves with the economic resources of the area or with the political or administrative manifestation of Pashtoon identity. They have killed a large number of traditional Pashtoon elders in FATA and banned the Jirga as a means of dispute settlement in areas under their influence. In short, they have systematically been eliminating the Pashtoon way of life.
Undeniably Pashtoons are currently in a mess, passing through a very critical and cruel phase of their history. And this is evidenced by the number of Pahtoons that are killed on a daily basis in FATA, Quetta and Karachi. However, rooting out the menace of Talibanisation is a Herculean task that requires unshakable collective commitment. It is now the prime responsibility of educated Pashtoons to guide their brethren. The nationalists that have been sitting idle out of fear need to come out of hibernation and work for this cause – under these circumstances the role of elders, nationalist political parties, writers, poets and activists cannot be underestimated.
(The Writer is a member of youth parliament of Pakistan and hails from Zhob, Southern Pakhtunkhwa (Baluchistan).He is a young political activist with the Pakhtunkhwa Student Organization (PSO) Lahore chapter)
Published in The Laaltain – April 2013 Issue