Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Taliban's Terror, Awami National Party and "Frontier Gandhi"

Crossposted at MyDD and at C40Democrats

Some recent attempts in liberal blogs like MyDD to sweeten Taliban's implementation of Shari'ah in Swat valley had perplexed me. I wrote this in a comment to Lotus Bloom's MyDD diary. It also allowed me to correct some of the mistakes that crept in the comment and expand it a bit. I never intended this to be a diary but the comment turned out to be a long ramble…

Lotus Bloom's Diary

Maulana Fazlullah and Sufi Muhammed belonged to Jamait-e-Ulema-e-Islami-Pakistan (JUIP) which was created and sponsored by Punjabi led Pakistan Govt. They were supported as a counterweight to the more secular Awami National Party, which is a Pushtoon nationalist party. Incidently JUIP supported the Islamist coalition Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. MMA's leader Faz-ul-Rahman had been a Benazir Bhutto(who incidently a Sindhi) supporter in the 90s. This same person was resoundly defeated in 2008 election. My reference is the book by Neomatollah Noujumi's Rise of Taliban In Afghanistan  (pp 119-120)

Now what happened in 2008? Despite massive terror created by Taliban outfits in support of MMA, ANP won all hands down in NWFP and MMA, and the Islamist coalition suffered major defeats in the election. Since 2007 the Talibans had created massive terror, especially in Swat valley where Radio Mullah (Fazlullah) created a parallel Govt. From 2008, it directly challenged Awami National Party's rule. They have publicly beheaded hundreds of policemen, killed and chased away ANP politicians, burnt scores of girl schools. Their insurgency had led to the fleeing of one-third of 1.5 million Swat valley population from the Valley itself.

What is going on is nothing but a massive power grab by Taliban and overturn of people's democratic wishes.

To quote from Jane Perlez's NYTimes article

In legislative elections a year ago, the people of Swat, a region that is about the size of Delaware and has 1.3 million residents, voted overwhelmingly for the secular Awami National Party. Since then, the Taliban have singled out elected politicians with suicide bomb attacks and chased virtually all of them from the valley. Several hundred thousand residents have also fled the fighting.

Also not everybody is elated like the person quoted in LB's diary.

Pakistani legal experts and other analysts warned that the decision by the authorities would embolden militants in other parts of the country. “This means you have surrendered to a handful of extremists,” said Athar Minallah, a leader of a lawyers' movement that has campaigned for an independent judiciary. “The state is under attack; instead of dealing with them as aggressors, the government has abdicated.” Shuja Nawaz, the author of “Crossed Swords,” a book on the Pakistani military, said that with the accord, “the government is ceding a great deal of space” to the militants.

 NYTimes Article

The decision by Pakistan's government appeared aimed at appeasing followers of a radical cleric, Maulana Qazi Fazlullah, who in late 2007 seized control of the scenic Swat Valley. For months, Faz- lullah's fighters have been terrorizing residents of Swat by beheading police officers and burning down girls schools, to which they object on religious grounds. Death threats are routinely handed down by the militants, who use illicit radio broadcasts to dictate Taliban-style social mores.

Los Angeles Times Article 


Monday's deal allows for the imposition of Islamic law in the former tourist resort of Swat and surrounding districts in exchange for an end to a brutal insurgency that has killed hundreds and sent up to 1/3 of its 1.5 million people fleeing. A similar deal in Swat last year collapsed in a few months and was blamed for giving insurgents time to regroup.

Even folks with Swat valley roots living in America are feeling the brunt of their terror as noted in this recent NYTimes article.

Pakistani immigrants from the Swat Valley, where the Taliban have been battling Pakistani security forces since 2007, say some of their families are being singled out for threats, kidnapping and even murder by Taliban forces, who view them as potential American collaborators and lucrative sources of ransom. Some immigrants also say they, too, have been threatened in the United States by the Taliban or its sympathizers, and some immigrants say they have been attacked or kidnapped when they have returned home.


Lastly the genesis of this conflict lies in the Pakistan's ruling political class and the Army which is dominated by Punjabi and Sindhi feudal gentry and a man named Ghaffar Khan or Frontier Gandhi. We hear a lot about how British were triumphed by Pashtuns who viciously defeated the British Indian Army. However that is not altogether true. British-Indian Army soundly defeated Afghans and virtually dictated the terms of Rawalpindi agreement in 1919.

Wikipedia Link 

What happened afterwards is important and somehow neglected in the Western understanding of the Pashtuns. Pashtuns are almost caricatured as medieval Islamic tribesmen who live in caves. What is neglected in history is the rise of peaceful non-violent movement for independence led by Badshah Khan and his RedShirts (Khudai Khitmadgars), who were heavily influenced by Gandhi's non-violent movement. This non-violent mass movement triumphed the British oppression in the NWFP. At the genesis of Pakistan, Badshah Khan aligned with India and was very upset that Indian National Congress party left them in the lurch, virtually calling it a betrayal of Pashtun folks. The Punjabi Muslims who dominated the Pakistani Government, and the Army, never trusted Badshah Khan and his sons like Wali Khan. They were listed as traitors and Pashtuns are always treated as suspects by the ruling Pakistani

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who makes it clear he doesn’t view Khan as a Pakistani patriot (which Khan really was not, given his quasi-nationalistic ideal of a Pashtun homeland)

LATimes Review of A Gandhi Like Force for Peace

Their movement was banned and they were repeatedly jailed. Out of his 98 years of life, Ghaffar Khan (Badshah) had spent 52 of those in jail. ANP or the secular Awami National Party who are now the officially elected party traces back its origin to the Khans (ANP was founded by Gaffar Khan). No wonder, the Pakistani Govt was supporting the Talibans and their supporters amongst MMA to counterbalance the popularity of ANP amongst Pashtuns. The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, Pashtun refugees and Zbigniew Brzezinski's Grand Chessboard Game allowed the Pakistan Govt and Army then led by Zia-ul-Haq to directly expand their influence over Pashtuns and increase Pakistan's Strategic Depth to Afghanistan. The identity of Islam was used to triumph over nationalistic Pashtun identity or other tribal allegiences. Of course, the immediate urgency of the defeat of the near enemy, Soviet Russia, made it easier to unite under the banner of Islam. Thus the rise of fundamentalist Mujahids, Talibans and the rest is history. Wali Khan's wrote a very interesting book called “Facts are Facts” that I hope to find and read one day…

Wali Khan's Bio in Wikipedia

Obama's path to winning over Pashtuns lies not through Pakistani Govt or  Pakistani Army but by following the path trailblazed by Badshah Khan and his band of followers. Unfortunately most of American intelligentsia are enamored or suckered in by the Pakistan Government's version of history. Yesterday I was amazed how Dr. Rachel Maddow was taken up by the fools tale from Brzezinski. If nothing, I would recommend Obama's Afghan-Pakistan policy team to at least view this documentary by Terri McLuhan “The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan a Torch of Peace”.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana



  1. That’s a lot of information, which in one way is precisely the point.  This is exactly as much information as Rick Santorum fails to possess, leading him to lecture at a college today how “Muslims cannot have Democratic governments” because the Qu’ran is perfect and is always “written in Islamic” (he isn’t really an elected representative of our country, is he?).

    Solving the puzzle of Afghanistan and Pakistan requires our leadership to know a little more about the region than Bush, Santorum (and I) do.  It’s just a little bit more likely with geeks like Barack and Hillary on the job than George and Dick…

  2. One of the things that galls me so much about Islamophobia and sweeping terms like ‘Islamofascism’ is that they scoop up so many diverse histories, local identities and political struggles into a huge insulting generality.

    I thought this was particularly interesting:

    The identity of Islam was used to triumph over nationalistic Pashtun identity or other tribal allegiences. Of course, the immediate urgency of the defeat of the near enemy, Soviet Russia, made it easier to unite under the banner of Islam. Thus the rise of fundamentalist Mujahids, Talibans and the rest is history.

    And of course, it was a certain kind of Islamic ideology, associated with (if I remember correctly) both a Saudi Wahabi and a Pakistani Deobandi strand, that was used in a political struggle between different power centres.

    Pakistan and the North West Frontier have always been a tinder box in the region, a bit like the Balkans were in Europe, because of a complex quilt of ethnic and religious identities, combined with a three way border between competing geopolitical empires.

    Of course Islam has its own imperial military expansionist element (a bit like Christianity) but diaries like yours help point out the complexity of the reality on the ground. It might seem confusing, but these particularities are always a lot more pliable and open to negotiation than the simplistic black and white rhetoric of good and evil we’re often presented with.

    The Balkans would be a (relatively) optimistic lesson here.  We were told by some the wars of the 1990s were a result of centuries of ethnic hatred, and could never be overcome by intervention, diplomatic or military. The reality was different. There were historic resentments to be sure (like many many other regions of the world) but these were exploited by post communist nationalist movements in order to gain ground and support. Once those movements had been peeled away from popular support, and their leaders shown to be self interested and irrational, the war ended.

    Holbrooke was the main US player in the Balkans, and I’m hoping he’ll bring both the knowledge, ego, and sheer persistence he showed there to this tinderbox

  3. anna shane

    this one ranks highest.  Shows how weak the central government of Pakistan is, and how short sighted. Not that they have a lock on that kind of ‘leadership’ mind you, but yet anther sign of impotence and greed. This is not good news, not at all. There is no way to spin this into another other than more factionalism, more danger, more repression, more ‘legal’ abuse of women and children.

    What will happen next? Will the Pakistanis move out, and leave it to the Taliban, and then get bombed like Afghanistan?  Where will it spread, and what will be first?  

  4. Hollede

    Pakistan is in jeopardy of falling to a Taliban like insurgency? I not been following it as closely as I should but it is clear that the government is extremely weak.

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