Some may recall that I had pointed out Atiya Khan’s critique of my piece in the Nation some while ago. I had wanted to not turn it into some silly blog tiff, and sent in a letter to the editor, who graciously published it in Platypus Review, issue # 20. You can read it on-line here, but let me highlight a footnote (which liberally uses wonderdust):
The groups now collectively labeled the “Taliban in Pakistan” are in fact an amalgamation of various groups—from states’ rights advocates in Swat to tribal warlords in Waziristan to trained militia (against India in Kashmir) in southern Punjab. More than a few are now allied with domestic anti-statist organizations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba or the international ones like al-Qaeda, and some of the local warlords now have national aspirations. Collectively, they are responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in the cities of Pakistan. To effectively counter the threat they pose, we have to disaggregate them into their constituent parts, and deal with them accordingly. Some groups will respond to political dialogue, while others can only be eliminated by force or by the civil justice system. Since they claim various political goals—and it is absolutely crucial to understand that these are “political” goals though they often change from venue to venue and from spokesman to spokesman—we have to engage them within the political realm. This is where U.S. endorsement of the rigged Afghan election, and the longer history of maintaining Karzai’s puppet regime, leave us with a significant political handicap. This also means that political legitimacy must be stripped from these groups. The lingering issues of states’ rights for Swat and Baluchistan require political solutions. The Pakistani military must remain under civilian political leadership and military solutions cannot be allowed to escalate into open-ended civil warfare.
The politics of the groups lumped together under the “Taliban” label is religious in its markers, its symbols, and its public face. This means that any counter-strategy must also include a public effort to “reclaim” the religious front. These groups are heavily armed and supplied in consequence of public donations, the illicit trades in heroin and electronic media, and direct funding that still comes from sources both internal (whether the continued involvement by Pakistani intelligence agencies or other social and civil groups) and external (diaspora communities as well as Saudi Arabia). The state of Pakistan must criminalize weapons possession and revoke licenses in order to start an effort to clean out the cities and stop the influx of smuggled weaponry. The recruits are overwhelmingly young, male, and illiterate. As such, they are strongly against the existing status quo, women, and education. The reform of primary and secondary education (including madrasas) should also be a priority. The state needs to enshrine the right to education within the Constitution.