Dr. Farhat Taj is Pashtun from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan. She is former Assistant Professor at the Kohat University of Science and Technology and former Assistant Director (Colleges), Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. She is researcher and author now based in Norway.
Farhat Taj is a unique voice in the analysis of the Taliban Movement(s). With first hand insight and crisp opinions, Taj forces us-to think carefully through the interface between the local, the national and the transnational, adding significantly to an already large body of literature on a phenomenon that is till poorly understood.
The Pashtun land across the colonial British-drawn Durand Line is beset by violent conflict for over three decades, devastating millions of lives in the region. No permanent solution is in sight and it apparently looks like the violence will go on. The Pakistani state is a major creator and sustainer of the violence supported by Saudi Arabia and the USA. This is all well documented.
Pashtun must now also look inwardly and reflect on their own weaknesses that might have been exploited by the state and nonstate external spoilers, Pakistan, US, Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaida or any others, in perpetuating the conflict. Pakistani media, educational curricula and the dominant public discourses have developed a culture of accepting conspiracy theories implicating external, often `infidel' sources as a means to explain causes behind instability and violence in Pakistan, including in the country's Pashtun areas. The book suggests the Pashtun to set aside the conspiracy theories and also become a little introspective.
I argue that there is a serious problem with Pashtunwali, especially with its key constituting parts, such as badal, tarboorwali, siali and ghairat (especially in terms of commodification and subordination of women). They have caged the Pashtun culture in wild male egotism that feeds on religious extremism, misogyny and pedophilia (especially against young boys). The external spoilers have exploited what is already embedded in part of the culture: religious extremism rooted in the Pashtun male egotism. They exploited, intensified, compounded, complicated and expanded but have not originally created the religious extremism on the Pashtun land. Parts of Pashtunwali and human civilization in the 21" Century are incompatible.
Key parts of Pastunwali have to be given up, if Pashtun culture must evolve naturally to nurture norms and values that concur with human values of our time and age. Otherwise, the death dance on the Pashtun land will go on. There will he ups and downs but it will continue indefinitely because there were and always will be external spoilers who will exploit Pastunwali for their vested interests. I do not like to admit—and I have written against it—but I have to accept that the Pashtun character of the Taliban is clearly marked. Like the Nazis, who arose in the German socio-cultural context and were part of the wider German society, the Taliban emerged in the Pashtun context and the Pashtun society could not disown them or exclusively blame Pakistan for the Taliban phenomenon. The Pashtun culture has in abundance all the necessary ingredients for making jihadis like the Taliban. Pakistan used and improved upon the ingredients to turn them into the 'finished product' the Pashtun jihadis for Kashmir Jihad in 1948, for Afghan Jihad (1979-1988) and Taliban of the post-Soviet period.
The only Pashtun force on the ground that has humiliated and defeated the Taliban—despite the Pakistani state's proactive and aggressive support to them—are the Pashtun Shias of Kurram. But the Shais are a minority and control only a small part, Kurram, of the Pashtun land. There is no Sunni Pashtun .force, armed resistance or peaceful socio-political movement, which seriously challenges the Taliban or Islamist (more precisely Deobandi-Wahhabi) ideology that motivates violent jihadis like the Taliban. 'This is because Sunni Pashtuns share too much of their Push/win/all with the Taliban, especially their Deobandi sect's affiliation and their popular tableeghi culture, which bolsters and indirectly rationalizes and normalizes the Taliban's savage ideology. True, the Taliban has mercilessly killed thousands of Pashtun Sunnis, but the Taliban do not pose as an existential threat to Sunnis, as they do to the Shias. As long as the mainstream Sunni Pashtun society has not confronted the Taliban and their ideology openly—just as like the Kurram Shias did—there is little hope durable peace would dawn on the Pashtun land.
The Pakistani state has criminally breached its national and international rights obligations—and has threatened regional security by nurturing religious extremism in the male egoistic Pashtun culture.
The obligations bind the state to eliminate, not exploit, any cultural practices and traditions that are contrary to human rights. Pakistan dealt with the Pashtun culture contrary to its pursuit of its strategic goals in Afghanistan and India. There is little hope this state will mend its ways.
ANP (Awami National Party) the only Sunni Pashtun dominated force on the ground—that should have been an antithesis of the Taliban ideology—is too co-opted by the Pakistani state, and unwilling to denounce the aspects of Pasbtunwah, including Deobandi extremism that keep the Taliban world view rooted in the Pashtun culture. The Pashtun Shias show the way forward about how to deal with the Taliban: violent confrontation until dignified death to the anti-Taliban or humiliating defeat to the Taliban. The ANP has not exhibited the Shia-like anti Taliban determination ideologically or in the form of armed resistance. It is dependent on the state that is thriving on Taliban and their ideology. As far as Bacha Khan's ideology of non-violence goes, unfortunately, it is not workable as a political ideology or methodology in context where the state is backing its proxy force that indiscriminately uses violence, like the Taliban do, and the state nurtures them to persist.
I write this book as an expression of my love for the Pashtun land and its people, even though it is critical of parts of the Pashtun culture. The criticism should be taken in good faith. In essence the book should be taken as a point of departure of an internal Pashtun debate about their own socio-cultural shortcomings that make it challenging, if not impossible, to end violence on this land.
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