Newspaper Articles

Confronting militancy: The Urban Taliban – by Raza Rumi

Confronting militancy
Monday, October 20, 2008
by Raza Rumi

It is time that the vocabulary introduced by the global imperial projects is changed in Pakistan. The infamous and rotten coinage – war on terror – needs to be trashed. It was constructed by an imbecile global leader, whose vision defies basic standards of human intelligence.

The gravity of the situation is however not shared by many. The rugged militants are artfully backed by the “urban Taliban.” There are political parties and their leaders who downplay the threat to Pakistan, and a few journalists and TV anchors brazenly eulogise the Taliban bravery and “sound” governance. Even some on the residual Left term this extremism as an anti-imperial struggle. We are being reminded that the destruction of private property and daylight murders of innocent civilians are nothing but a “reaction” to our policies and Western diktat.

The urban Taliban is now hell-bent on holding events outside Pakistan responsible for local insurgency. His natural supporter is the jingoistic strategic- depth-seeker analyst who blames the entire world for what ails Pakistan. The big brother neighbour, who has been given a clean chit by the head of the state as the least of the threats, is alluded to as the motivator of the suicide bombers. The argument that a Muslim cannot kill other Muslims is fallacious and not supported by history or the way the so-called Islamic societies have functioned.

The liberal prescription is equally messed up by throwing its weight behind army action and surgical strikes. This menace is not going to go away, let alone be successfully tackled through war. In the short term, reclaiming territory may be an imperative but even this effort has been stymied by conflictual signals and un-sequenced actions. This is why the Awami National Party’s leadership is now a hostage of a complex set of actors and processes.

To make matters worse, the identification of this government’s anti-terror mantra with Musharraf has amplified the perception that it is another stooge of the dwindling imperial power. To be fair to the PPP, its stance has always been clear: it is opposed to extremism and the hijacking of Islam by self-styled jihad-warriors. But the urban Taliban have strengthened this perception of the capitulation of the PPP at the hands of Amreeka. However, the incumbent government, notwithstanding a burdensome legacy, has been unable to demonstrate that it has the will or the capacity to handle the situation. The ordinary people, a bulk of whom viewed the PPP as “their” party, are distraught by galloping inflation and insecurity. The overwhelming sense of dejection and hopelessness arises from the way local investigation has progressed on the late Benazir Bhutto’s case.

Questions have also been raised as to how a truck loaded with a phenomenal amount of explosives freely roams on barricaded Islamabad streets; is allegedly prepared for action in Islamabad; and remains unnoticed until it explodes. And, reckless media theories [concocted by Ansar Abbasi, Mushtaq Minhas, Kashif Abbasi, Hamid Mir, Irfan Siddis and other spokespersons of terrorists] suggesting that this was a slick James Bond-type operation against the US intelligence operatives merely dilute the colossal tragedy for the poor security personnel, the drivers and the passers-by. There is not a single country where freedom of media allows for trashing the country’s national security issues the way it is done here.

Not a single soul questioned the Marriott hotel magnate about inadequate fire-fighting measures in the top-notch hotel? Instead, many media reports were extolling the kind-hearted individual acts of charity of the hotel owners, overlooking the sheer negligence that often accompanies profit-greed.

The bomb blasts in Lahore and elsewhere have also demonstrated that there are virtually no civil defence mechanisms in place. The government managed civil defence departments are historically under-funded, untrained and miles away from being minimally functional. Despite the escalation of violence and creeping of a war within the cities and towns, there has been little effort on this front. This is time when the public has to be prepared, motivated and taken along the efforts to counter the forces of violence.

However, nothing can be more urgent than the reclaiming of policy-making from the unelected power-elites to the civilian-elected decision makers. This is why the Parliament’s in-camera session has been such an important milestone. Pakistan’s troubled history teaches us this single lesson: there is no alternative to civilian ascendancy over national security. This will not be achieved overnight but has to be earned overtime.

Five issues therefore become paramount: first, the articulation of a refined policy and a homegrown agenda with bipartisan consensus (the troublemakers can compose their cacophonous tunes but the PML-N is vital to this agreement); second, a clear demonstration of the government’s writ by expediting and completing a local inquiry into Benazir’s assassination; third, developing a strategy to confront the few media zealots and urban Taliban who are splitting the public opinion through a discounted ideological framework. Fourth, bolstering the civil defence systems, to ensure that the public is a proactive partner; and, last, an immediate attention to issues of social protection, so that the citizens are shielded from the vagaries of economic exploitation. (The News)

The writer blogs at and edits cyberzines Pak Tea House and Lahore Nama. Email: