While the increase in suicide bombings against innocent security personnel have increased, public antipathy towards the Taliban, the resurgence of hostilities in Kashmir and the victimisation of the Valley’s Muslims at the hands of Hindu nationalists are likely to muddy the ideological waters
Can Pakistanis oppose the Taliban and support Kashmiri freedom? This perplexing question has emerged in recent days with the re-ignition of protests and violence in Kashmir over the Amarnath Temple land grant and the killing of Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz.
To be clear, Taliban insurgents in the tribal areas and those fighting for the right to self-determination in occupied Kashmir do not belong to the same group, and to conflate them elides over important tribal, sectarian and political agendas espoused by each.
The Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan refers to the Taliban movement in Pakistan that coalesced in or around December 2007, under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan. The stated objectives of the TTP communicated through a number of demarches include: enforcing sharia; uniting against NATO forces in Afghanistan and performing “defensive” jihad against the Pakistan Army; react strongly if military operations are not stopped in Swat and North Waziristan; demand the abolition of all military checkpoints in FATA; demand the release of Lal Masjid cleric Imam Abdul Aziz; and to refuse to enter into future peace deals with the Government of Pakistan.
The specified central aim of imposing sharia law serves not the narrow nationalistic purpose of freeing the area from foreign invasion but carving out an area where they can showcase such a system as an example to the rest of the world. Simply put, the aims of the new generation of Taliban are global and far transcend nationalist aims.
The unabated campaign of suicide bombings against innocent civilians and unabashed burning of girls’ schools, public beheadings and destruction of property to intimidate and coerce is evidence enough of the extremes the TTP is willing to go to achieve their ends.
In contrast to the TTP, the aims of Kashmiri freedom fighters in occupied Kashmir continue to be stated in nationalist terms. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference is a conglomeration of twenty six different parties whose purpose according to its constitution is to wage a peaceful struggle to secure the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people and protest the fraudulent occupation of Kashmir by India. The presence and activities of Hindu nationalist groups like the BJP, who have a history of aggression against the Muslim minority in Jammu, have further hardened the stance of the Muslim groups.
The recent resurgence of hostilities in beleaguered occupied Kashmir over the Amaranth Temple land grant and the murder of Sheikh Abdul Aziz have seen the revival of these tensions. According to reports, the ongoing blockade of the Srinagar-Jammu highway by Hindu nationalist groups, which has been there for some time now, has caused serious shortages of food, medicine, petrol and other staples.
Hindu nationalist groups eager to gather support in the wake of upcoming elections are also bent on using the violent controversy to whet their constituencies towards further violence against Muslims. In the Jammu town of Kistwar, hundreds of Muslims have been injured due to the actions of unruly mobs which re-emerge every time the shoot-at-sight curfew is relaxed.
The simultaneous conflagrations on two sides of Pakistan’s borders represent more than simple strategic and security challenges. While analysts have successfully pointed out the emergence of both of these conflicts as iterations of a new episode of the Great Game between India and Pakistan with aggressions on either side as proxies for overt conflict, the ideological implications of the two-front war must also be analysed.
In recent years, many political analysts have pointed out the salience of amassing public support against Taliban-style Islamic extremism by reminding the populace that Pakistan was envisioned as an exemplary symbiosis of Islamic ethos and democratic principles: all to distinguish the country’s generating ideology from that of the Taliban.
This is all very well, and while the increase in suicide bombings against innocent security personnel have increased, public antipathy towards the Taliban, the resurgence of hostilities in Kashmir and the victimisation of the Valley’s Muslims at the hands of Hindu nationalists are likely to muddy the ideological waters.
Strategic and security imperatives aside, the transnational support for Kashmiri Muslims fighting for self-determination against Hindu nationalists necessitates garnering support around religious identity. This rallying around Muslim solidarity has been the ideological cornerstone of Pakistan’s national ethos into which every Pakistani school child is assiduously acculturated. The mantra is simple and familiar: as Pakistan’s Muslims we support the Kashmiri Muslims’ right to self-determination and their right to be free of persecution; our army being a Muslim army must aid Muslims facing persecution.
This same mantra that ideologically unifies Pakistanis in favour of the Kashmiris makes them helpless in the face of the Taliban. Distinguishing the Taliban’s global agenda, their perversion of religion to institute a medieval order requires nuance, which as all good rhetoricians know is inherently inimical to ideology.
Ideologies work when they are simple and self-evident: in this case the call to Muslim unity under the umbrella of the ummah and the mobilisation of Muslim charitable concerns to aid the plight of Muslims suffering in occupied Kashmir are all aspects of the transnational Muslim political agenda opposed to imperial incursions and international apathy over the suffering of Muslims.
Introducing into this simplistic tale, the real complications of how the struggle for Kashmiri self-determination represents a worthy and morally good version of Muslim solidarity and how the global plan of the Taliban represents a perversion and political manipulation of it may be true and apt but also too complicated an argument and too fine a distinction to gain the kind of popularity it requires to become politically expedient.
If these logistical and rhetorical challenges in the path of defining good and bad uses of Muslim solidarity as a means of political mobilisation can be surpassed, the tremendous power of faith-based anti-imperialism can be wrested from the draconian clutches of the Taliban and used for furthering the humanitarian, egalitarian and social justice aims which are the core principles of Islam. To do this, Pakistanis must understand that it is possible indeed to be pro-Kashmir and anti-Taliban.
Rafia Zakaria is an attorney living in the United States where she teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Daily Times, 16/8/2008