Talibanization of 'Switzerland of Pakistan'

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"With high mountains, green meadows, and clear lakes, Swat Valley is a place of great natural beauty that used to be popular with tourists as the Switzerland of Pakistan". It's even called as "Switzerland of East" because of it's attractive geography. "It's pristine beauty,snow capped mountains, rivers and rare Buddhist archaeological sites are known all over the world." It was an important tourist destination and major socio cultural center before it was captured by Taliban. Today, "Switzerland of Pakistan" is Taliban's battle ground for Islamic fundamentalists. The roots of Talibanization in Swat Valley can be traced to cold war politics.

The Cold War saw periods of heightened tensions and the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989) was one of them. Soviet Union forces were supporting the Marxist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) government against the Mujahideen resistance. Mujahideens in Afghanistan were actively supported by United States and Pakistan extended all possible support to help Mujahideens win over Soviet forces. Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency program to arm the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Operation Cyclone is one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken. United states engaged general Zia-ul-Huq to fight a US-aided war by proxy in Afghanistan against the Soviets.  Zia now found himself in a position to demand billions of dollars in aid for the Mujahideen from the Western states. Ronald Reagan's government met all his expectations. Pakistan continued to fight proxy war which in no way benefited it's people. "The war left deep scars to the Pakistani society with the menace of Kalashnikov (AK-47 assault rifle) culture spreading all over the country.

Many Afghan Mujahideen later converted to new forms of Jihadist outfits in the shape of Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the early 1990s. The Pakistan and US trained Arab and Afghan fighters later in 2001 initiated a 'Jihad' against US. The links of the spectacular and deadly events of September 11 attack were deeply rooted in the Soviet-Afghan war. Osama bin Laden invested his inherited money into the Soviet-Afghan war to fight the 'infidel communist power' and was abetted by CIA, ISI, US and Pakistani military establishments for over 10 years.[wiki]"

Today, the children of Cold War politics have matured enough to threaten those who had nurtured them. Pakistan and it's friends refer those (strong) insurgency groups as "non-state actors". "According to USA, a plethora of non-state armed group have been engaged in violent struggle in Pakistan after the end of Cold War. Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Harkat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI), Harkat ul-Mujahidin (HuM), Harkat ul-Ansar, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-taiba (LeT), etc... are just to name few of them. The so called non-state actors, with the help of "elements" within the state structure, are as powerful and influential as the Pakistani state." The real state within the state of Pakistan is not the ISI but the jihadist network in Pakistan's hinterland. The power of jihadist in Pakistan is so pervasive that, despite the presence of 20,000 Pakistani troops in the valley, (so called) democratic leaders had to be on their knees to surrender Swat Valley, the "Switzerland of Pakistan". Undoubtedly, Talibanization of Swat Valley is going to be one of the defining moment in balancing the power equation in Pakistan.

Rules of Taliban in Swat Valley directly conflict with natural justice. Simply because, stricter interpretation of Islamic laws contradict the natural laws. Poverty, coupled with apathy towards modern education are fundamental reasons behind the current mess in Swat. This may sound rhetoric, unfortunately that's the ground reality. The only pragmatic way to overcome the mess in Pakistan is to bring the political stability through democratic institutions. Pakistan needs time to clean up the mess created by it's dictators in the past (more on this here and here). Passing the blame on Pakistani state is not going to do any good, the world must compassionately understand the situation and help Pakistan to realize it's political stability. Long term paths of eradicating poverty, modern education along side the religious education should be pursued with greater vigor and tenacity.

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.