The media make out that the Taliban have genuine mass support in
Pakistan, but in this article we see how they are actually promoted by
forces within the state that see them as a useful instrument in
terrorising the local people and as a means of maintaining their own
corrupt rule. And we shouldn’t forget the role of US imperialism in
promoting them in the first place!
Today fear and terror reign in the beautiful valleys of Swat and
Malakand. After destroying the peaceful valley of Swat, now terror is
creeping downwards at steady speed and has now engulfed all the nine
districts of Malakand Division. Encouraged by the victories of
vigilante hordes in the garb of the Taliban, the fundamentalist
elements are harassing ordinary people in all parts of the region and
who are the Taliban and what is the secret behind their success? The
Taliban are actually the criminal elements of society joined together
by the armed forces and secret agencies of Pakistan. With the complete
support of the ISI and local administration they are marching forward
without any real resistance.
In Malakand if you ask a street hawker, a bus driver, a car mechanic
or a college student “who are the Taliban?” He would first smile at
your question and then would say that they are in fact nothing and that
it is the agencies that are playing games here.
Why the one million-strong Pakistan army, equipped with the most
sophisticated weapons, cannot lay hold of a few hundred miscreants is
now an open secret in Malakand. They just do not want to capture them;
rather they support them covertly.
In the army’s Operation Rah-i-Haq, heavy artillery and gunship
helicopters were used but not to destroy the Taliban but rather to
harass the local population which has fled in big numbers.
All this terror, bloodshed, curfews and civil war have brought
upheaval to the people of Malakand, whose first real wish is for peace
at any cost. In the last election, the people of Malakand rejected the
Mullahs and voted for the PPP and the ANP (the Pushtoon nationalist
party) in the name of peace and for a solution to their basic problems,
but no solutions have been forthcoming. Meanwhile, the locally elected
MPs never return to their hometowns and are living in luxury in
Peshawar and Islamabad while the people suffer.
All this has become intolerable and the people of the Swat and
Malakand areas came out in big numbers in mid-February to protest
against this civil war. In small towns people came out in numbers of
10,000 to 15,000 and protested against the brutalities of the Taliban,
the Pakistan Army and against imperialist aggression.
In Batkhela 15,000 people came out on the main road and demanded an
end to all this brutality. In Swat and Shangla there were mass rallies
during the curfew in which people rejected all the forces of black
reaction. The Pakistani media, which is playing the most
counter-revolutionary role, presented these rallies as being in support
of the Taliban, which is a blatant lie.
The people of Batkhela reported to us that Jamat-i-Islami (JI), a
neo-fascist Islamic fundamentalist party, tried to hijack these rallies
as there was no leadership from either the PPP or the ANP present at
that time, but in spite of this the people refused to follow them. The
activists of the JI raised slogans of Jihad through their megaphones
but not a single person in the rally of thousands answered them. The
people present were fed up of the games being played out by the
agencies at their expense and wanted to put an end to this madness and
devastation but there was no leadership. These spontaneous mass rallies
continued for several days, due to which the Pakistan Army and the ISI
came under immense pressure.
On February 16, in order to provide a face-saving device to the
Taliban and also to present these rallies to the wider public as
pro-Taliban, a peace deal was brokered between the provincial
government of Pushtoonkhwa and Sufi Muhammad, who is a leader of a
banned outfit, Tehrik e Nifaz e Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM). Sufi Muhammad
– who was living an isolated life in Amandra in his madrasah – was
suddenly brought into the limelight and presented as some saviour of
the world. He was given the responsibility to talk to the Taliban and
“persuade” them to stop fighting.
The “drama” of the negotiations and the so-called “peace deal” thus
unfolded and the media was used as a tool to promote it as the best way
of solving the problems. However, due to the fear of the people’s
resistance, a mock peace deal was finally brokered on the terms and
conditions of the Taliban and the Pakistan Army and State capitulated.
The Taliban came out of this appearing as all-powerful and victorious.
The National Assembly in a hastily gathered session approved this
deal unanimously, which strengthened the false notion of this “power of
the Taliban”. President Zardari could do nothing but to sign that
agreement. But what is the result? Is there now peace in Malakand? No.
Are the Taliban weaker than before? No they have regrouped and
strengthened and moved on.
According to the deal the civil courts will be replaced by Qazi
Courts. What are Qazi courts? Nobody knows what they are, neither the
President, the Army nor Sufi Muhammad; nobody knows what they are
except for the fact that the judge will be called a Qazi. Nobody knows
and nowhere is it written how they will function. Actually similar
deals were brokered in 1994 and 1999 and the same regulations were then
imposed. Those regulations didn’t solve a single problem then and
neither will they solve any now.
In the bourgeois media we see intellectuals and analysts discussing
for long hours about the so-called differences between the regular
courts and the Qazi courts and they are manufacturing a false conflict
between the two, when in reality the Qazi Courts are essentially the
same as the filthy and stinking corpse of the regular courts in
On Sunday, April 19, after the deal Sufi Muhammad held a public
meeting in Grassy Ground in Swat which was attended by nearly 30,000
people. People came in such big numbers for two reasons. Firstly due to
the terror methods they were forced to attend this meeting. Secondly,
they were hoping that now that the deal has been struck Sufi would
announce peace and lay down his arms. But he disappointed the people
and said nothing about peace or laying down arms, but said that the
fight would continue.
The speech was broadcast live on all TV channels and everywhere
people keenly listened to it. However, it revealed the real face of an
ignorant Mullah, the real face of fundamentalism to everyone. Cyril
Almeida wrote in the Dawn on 24 April:
“With one speech Sufi has done more to galvanize public opinion
against militancy than a hundred suicide bombings and beheadings.
“Suddenly, people have woken up to the fact that the great soldier
of Islam is a dangerous kook. ‘He thinks we’re what?’ ‘He wants to do
what?’ Yes, he thinks the rest of us are sick and what we really need
is a dose of Sufi’s medicine.”
In his speech he declared Parliament, the Supreme Courts and High
Courts as un-Islamic and also that democracy was un-Islamic. He went on
to say that everything is un-Islamic except for himself and his sect.
This exposed the reality of the “Islamic System” which the
fundamentalists have been harping on about for the last 60 years. They
say that the Islamic System should be imposed on all Pakistani society,
but they never actually what that is in practice. Zia ul Haq, the most
brutal dictator of Pakistan who ruthlessly ruled for 11 years, was
never able to chalk out a detailed plan for such an Islamic System. All
the previous attempts to impose one have done nothing but change the
names of a few posts and offices and the rest remains a capitalist
system and a bourgeois state. All attempts to chalk out anything
outside the bourgeois state have failed.
Now once again they stand exposed. Various fundamentalist parties
and right wing politicians such as Nawaz Sharif scoffed at Sufi meekly
and defended the bourgeois state institutions. The person who led the
movement of Restoration of the judiciary is trying hard to balance
between the conflict over Qazi courts and regular courts. It was said
that after the restoration of the judiciary all the problems under the
sun would be solved. Price hikes, unemployment, the civil wars in
Pushtoonkhwa and Balochistan, and all the other problems would be
In reality, nothing has been solved and the judicial system of
Pakistan also stands completely exposed in the eyes of the public. In
actual fact, the judiciary as a state institution has always supported
reactionary forces to terrorise the working class. Ayesha Siddiqa a
strong supporter of the lawyers’ movement wrote in the Dawn on April 4:
“The judiciary must show more resolve than it did after the
introduction of Zia’s draconian Nizam-e-Islam regulations. Then,
barring a few judges… the majority happily applied laws that trampled
on all norms of justice and human rights. And let’s not forget that the
legal community in general did not really resist Zia’s laws. None of
the bar councils protested against laws that ultimately resulted in an
increase in homicide and injustice.
“As the county confronts an expansion of the Taliban, the legal
community seems unable to muster the courage to launch a movement
against what has happened in Swat. It is surprising that some lawyers
place a higher value on the restoration of judges than on questioning
the Malakand agreement which poses a greater threat to the state.”
Efforts, albeit only in words, are being made to rescue the
disintegrating state structures, but the rapidly deteriorating economic
situation leave no ground for this rescue operation to succeed.
Meanwhile, the ISI and Pakistan Army are using the Taliban threat to
terrorise the people of Pakistan and to continue their plunder. After
the “peace deal” the Taliban have emerged strengthened and now they
face no resistance before them. And the local administration on the
instruction of the ISI is giving them complete support.
main link in this game is the commissioner of Malakand, Syed Muhammad
Javed Shah. He is the administrative head of all nine districts of the
Malakand division. In 2005 during the Mullah’s (MMA) government in the
province he was appointed as the administrative head (DCO) of Swat but
the leadership of the ANP in Swat approached the then chief minister
and requested his transfer. They complained about his close ties with
Maulana Fazlullah and said that he is actually living in his Madrasah.
Fazlullah, also known as “mullah radio” is the head of the Taliban in
Ironically, now that the ANP is in power in the centre and province,
this man has been reappointed as commissioner. The recent intrusion of
the Taliban in Buner was actually due to his help. Buner is a
strategically important district of Malakand. It is on the border of
Swabi and Mardan and is also nearer to Attock Bridge, the bridge that
separates the Punjab from Pushtoonkhwa.
This district is also close to
the Silk Road, the ancient trade route from China to Pakistan.
The people of Buner had formed a militia to counter the Taliban
attack and were up in arms. Commissioner Syed Javed went to the people
who had gathered in Kanda, on the border of Buner and Swat, and said,
“It is my responsibility to stop the Taliban. You people go and rest in
your homes.” After persuading the squad to dismantle he imposed a
curfew and then during the night invited the Taliban to capture all key
positions in Buner. In this way the Taliban achieved another victory
without firing a single bullet.
On April 17, the Friday prayers in Fazlullah’s Mosque in Swat were
attended by the DIG (the Chief of Police), the DCO (the district
administrative head) and the Brigadier who is in charge of the Army in
Swat. All these people came in the car of Commissioner Syed Javed. The
spokesperson of the Army has denied this news.
On April 3, Commissioner Syed Javed came to the Anti-Terrorism Court
in Batkhela where a few Taliban were to appear for trial. He ordered
the police to unlock their handcuffs and took them with him before the
“honourable” court without any procedure or signatures.
All this shows how the ISI dominates the state institutions,
Parliament and the provincial and federal government. He has now
brought a new banned outfit, Lashkar-e-Tayyba to Malakand, where they
have opened a new madrasah in Khar near Jolagram in the Malakand
District. This fundamentalist organisation was formerly mostly present
only in the Punjab and Kashmir.
Through the “peace deal” they have once again dashed the hopes of
the people for peace. The Taliban, which is actually a gang of
criminals, are now on a looting spree. Various mafia organisations
related to smuggling of emeralds and rubies from the Swat mines, the
timber mafia, gangs of kidnappers, drug smugglers and other criminal
fugitives are using the Taliban militias for their protection.
Abductions for ransoms have increased manifold since the so-called
The Taliban have now increased their influence in Batkhela and other
important cities and towns. At night they march through the streets in
proper formation in groups of 60 to 70 with the most sophisticated
weapons ever seen in the area. Their faces are covered and they can
enter any home or beat anyone and sometimes abduct innocent people just
for the purpose of terrorising the local population.
The complete support of the Army and State for these criminal gangs
has left the people helpless in front of these beasts. The people are
living a life of hell. With price hikes on the rise and unemployment
and poverty increasing they cannot raise their voice for demands such
as healthcare, education, food, clothing and shelter.
The recent release of Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Red Mosque in
Islamabad clearly shows what the State and Army want. They want to
spread this terror to the whole country. Already criminal gangs in the
garb of the Taliban are grouping in the Punjab. In Lahore they have
sent openly threatening letters to the Kinnaird College which is a top
ranking girls’ college. In letters they have said that girls should not
wear pants and they must obey the Islamic code otherwise they will
spray acid on their faces. In Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab they
have pasted posters inside police lines stating that that they will
take revenge against the police if it takes any action against them.
Many new groups are emerging and more will emerge as the state
structures are collapsing day by day. But who is organizing and
financing them and is holding them united so that they do not fight
among themselves? It is the same drug cartels and mafia groups set up
by the CIA during the imperialist sponsored insurgency against the
left-wing government in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and 1980s. The
Americans abandoned the region after the withdrawal of the Soviets but
the hefty business of drugs and arms has continued.
In an appearance before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations
Committee on April 24, Hillary Clinton for the first time publicly
confessed that the Taliban were created by the US. She explained how
the militancy in Pakistan was linked to the US-backed proxy war against
the Soviets in Afghanistan. She said the following:
“But the problems we face now to some extent we have to take
responsibility for, having contributed to it. We also have a history of
kind of moving in and out of Pakistan,
“Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded
them twenty years ago… and we did it because we were locked in a
struggle with the Soviet Union.
“They invaded Afghanistan… and we did not want to see them control
Central Asia and we went to work… and it was President Reagan in
partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said you know what it
sounds like a pretty good idea… let’s deal with the ISI and the
Pakistan military and let’s go recruit these mujahideen.
“And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries,
importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet
“And guess what… they (Soviets) retreated… they lost billions of dollars and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“So there is a very strong argument which is… it wasn’t a bad
investment in terms of Soviet Union but let’s be careful with what we
sow… because we will harvest.”
Gen. Hamid Gul, the former head of the ISI, created the Taliban out
of the madrasahs in Pakistan with the collaboration of the American
CIA. He is still one of their chief patrons.
currently a conflict between the two agencies, they agree on one thing:
that these fundamentalist outfits should be kept in some form in order
to use them as reactionary forces in situations of revolutionary
upheaval, so that they can use them for their own vested interests. The
ISI wants them in order to continue with its own loot and plunder and
America wants them as an excuse to continue their so-called “war on
terror” and maintain the profits of the Military Industrial Complex in
The US imperialists are raising a hue and cry about the complicity
of the ISI with the Taliban insurgents but they cannot do much about it
and have to finance the Pakistan army in this war of attrition. They
have no choices left. In this shadowy war friends may be foes and foes
may be friends and sometimes both friend and foe at the same time.
The corrupt regime in Pakistan is weak and already admitting the
“deal” has been a failure. The army chief has called it an “operational
pause” and has vowed to take on the militants once again. This is
mainly due to the outrage against the introduction of the ferocious
Sharia laws, supported by the liberal, democratic and secular leaders
of the PPP and the ANP. It is also to appease the Americans who are in
a hypocritical conflict with the Taliban. But the army chiefs know all
too well that they in no position to resolve the internal conflicts
within the army and the state. Hence they are hoping against hope. This
conflict between black and “white” capital will continue to pulverize
the region and spill more innocent blood of the oppressed peasants and
workers, as long as the rule of capitalism remains.
However, the people of Malakand and Pakistan as a whole will not
surrender without a fight. They have risen before and will rise again
to counter these black forces. Their leadership has betrayed them once
again. The PPP-led government has imposed a deal which even Zia could
never have done. But this has exposed the true character of the
The masses are looking for an alternative leadership; they are open
to ideas and seeking answers to their hundreds of questions. Nothing
within the limits of this capitalist system can satisfy their needs.
They have concluded one thing: that capitalism is horror without end.
All the institutions of the capitalist system now stand exposed before
The comrades of the IMT in Swat and Malakand are patiently
explaining the ideas of a socialist change to the masses and are
beginning to get a response from the youth. They are working in
extremely dangerous conditions, receiving death threats, but they have
refused to yield and the struggle for revolutionary socialism continues
even in these atrocious conditions of war and bloodshed.
The masses cannot afford food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and
education under this exploitative system where poverty and deprivation
are rising by the hour due to this war. Without a socialist
transformation not a single issue of the masses can be solved. Here
barbarism is presently brutalizing society. Socialism or barbarism are
immediate options, not ones for the future. This is the message of the
revolutionary forces which are building their base in Malakand and
throughout the whole of Pakistan. They pose this message at great risk
to their own lives, especially in Malakand, Swat and Waziristan. The
masses will inevitably rise once again as they did in the revolution of
1968-69 even in these areas, and the path they will follow will be none
other than that of revolution. A genuine Marxist leadership can lead
them to a socialist victory.
Article first published in www.marxist.com on 29th April 2009. Click here to read more about Pakistan.