Taliban movement may expand further in Pakistan
April 29, 2009
Q. Recent reports suggest that the Taliban movement in Swat is a revolt of the disenfranchised against the privileged, a sort of a class struggle. Do you foresee a similar pattern in Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan?

A. Well, social disparities do lead to violent movements, and they may have been a factor in Swat. But I don’t think a parallel can be created between tribal areas and relatively settled provinces in terms of the impact of Talibanization. One, the tribal areas located next to war-torn Afghanistan were traditionally semi-autonomous, and that is why the Mullah has so easily replaced the Maliks. In Punjab and elsewhere, however, the landed elite is well-entrenched in the power structure.

Secondly, if we trace the history of the Talibanized frontier, we discover nothing new. In the mountains of Buner, exactly the same thing was happening in early or mid-19th century—the only difference being that, two centuries ago, jihadi violence was being perpetrated by Wahhabi Ahle-Hadith extremists, today terrorism is being waged by Wahhabi-Deobandi Taliban.

Q. How do you compare the performance of the present civilian government and its leadership with the Musharraf-led regime in combating terrorism? After all, Musharraf also concluded peace deals with Taliban.

A. A civilian democratic government would always prefer dialogue over the use of force, which explains why peace deal was signed. Musharraf did the same, but for his own survival. Now that the deal has collapsed, the government, despite its democratic character, is doing what all governments do: fight against all those violating the writ of the state and committing terrorism against its citizens.