Our ruling elites kept crying ‘Wolf!’ for decades to scare the West into supporting their tenures. And now, as the NWFP government prepares to promulgate sharia law in Swat and Malakand, the proverbial wolf has finally arrived. President Zardari’s statement regarding Taliban designs to take over Pakistan should have read: “The Taliban have already captured parts of Pakistan and they are on their way to grab the rest.”
Given the narrow vision of the governing elite, the prevailing anarchy in the country and absence of any alternative movement of resistance, the Taliban takeover of Pakistan or large parts of it seems a very real possibility now.
Up until the recent past, many of us believed that, beyond the tribal belt and its adjoining areas, the Taliban’s appeal could never be translated into a theocratic state. The underlying theoretical belief had been that backward ideologies cannot take over or overrun economically and socially more advanced societies. This belief has been shaken because of the state’s failure to stop the Taliban’s continuous penetration into settled areas.
Looking at the ruins of Harappa and Mohenjodarao, two sites of the great Indus civilization, one feels in awe of the level of advancement those societies had achieved. These ruins indicate that these cities had better civic planning than many contemporary cities of the subcontinent. But they could not defend themselves from less advanced invaders and perished. Although the destruction of the Indus civilisation may have been caused by natural forces as well, the way Vedic literature narrates the destruction and burning of enemy cities, it is clear that this great civilisation was invaded from without too.
Similarly, the Muslim invaders coming from West and Central Asia were not socially and economically more developed then the Indians. And it is puzzling how with a few thousand soldiers they defeated grand Indian armies of several hundred thousands, which were equipped with thousands of elephants as well. And it happened many times between the 10th and 16th centuries. Can it happen again?
Security agencies have reported to the government that about 18,000 Taliban are armed and organised. Furthermore, there is every indication that the Taliban are equipped with the most modern arms and accompanying technology. If their influence expands, as it happens with every successfully advancing force, Taliban numbers are going to swell because many opportunistic influential families will start joining them. Moreover, the Taliban already have a very well configured network in Punjab, which makes itself visible every time militant commanders want to display their strength to the Pakistani state.
Many knowledgeable observers had noted these militants’ organisation and force — especially those based in Muridke — when they attacked the Mall in Lahore to express their rage against Dutch cartoonists. A senior political figure opined that, based on the organisation of these groups, including the Laskhar-e Tayba, one can say with certainty that the militants can take over Lahore whenever they want. This may be an exaggerated projection but the larger point is valid.
And one should not forget that almost all of the Mumbai attackers belonged to the Punjab. Therefore, the Taliban have already sunk their tentacles in the Punjab and the rest of the country. Their advance can hardly be stalled because of the narrow mindedness of the ruling elites, petty thinking of the economically rich sections of society and the apathy of the general public.
As a matter of fact, contemporary Pakistan is an ideal example to solve the historical puzzles of the past where retrogressive forces ruined much advanced societies. The rulers in Islamabad are only minding the interests of their feudal clique; the rich do not want to share their wealth with society and fulfil their civic duty; the people are consumed by their daily socio-economic agonies; and the intellectuals are absorbed by political correctness and anti-US rhetoric. No section of society is prepared to recognise the imminent threat.
Rulers averse to an independent judiciary and an equitable socio-economic order; an economic upper class hostile to paying its fair share in taxes; self-obsessed intellectuals and media persons; and a poverty-stricken population — this presents the perfect mix for the forces of destruction.
The armed institutions of such societies have no will to fight the real enemies, not to mention a section of these institutions may be inviting this destruction in post-Ranjeet Singh Darbar style when they invited the British to destroy the Khalsa army.
The stage is therefore set for Northern invaders overrunning Punjab and Sindh. And, unfortunately, such dangers are never recognised until it is too late.
Well, let us continue playing Nero’s flute because “hanooz Dilli dur ast” (‘Delhi is still far away’).
So the rulers obsessed with control will have their wish fulfilled, though the mullahs will be in control. The rich will rejoice if they can do without their parties. And the intellectuals will have to start practicing to write and speak for their ‘independent’ theocratic state.
The people, used to suffering for centuries, will hardly notice any change. And, most of all, the clean-shaven supporters of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar will get a real taste of living under the system of their beloved heroes. The dream of making Pakistan a real ideological state may come true after all.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reproduced by permission of Daily Times