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Dharna Dude and Pakhtun Resistance

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Dharna Dude – From Islamabad: Loves X-box, facials, and PTI.

Pathan – From Peshawar: Father died in a bomb blast, brother abducted by the Taliban.

Dharna Dude: Hey Mr. Pathan man! What kind of a Pathan are you? Don’t you know that Waziristan is under attack? Why didn’t you come for the dharna?

Pathan: Well, I can’t understand one thing, why don’t you guys do one against the Taliban? I mean, against all the suicide bombings and stuff?

Dharna Dude: Oh my God! What is wrong with you man? Taliban is a reaction! They are doing all of this because of the big devil dude. Tell me were there any suicide bombings before the Americans came into Afghanistan? Taliban is Pakhtun resistance, PAKHTUN RESISTANCE! NASWAR POWER! wake up khocha! They are fighting for you!

Pathan: err, Taliban kill Pakhtun children and lash Pakhtun girls in public, what exactly are you on about? If the Taliban is “Pakhtun” Resistance than why do they mostly kill Pakhtuns? Can you even count the number of times Peshawar got attacked during the last few years?

Dharna Dude: Haha, well don’t mind my friend, but my daddy says that the real Pathan are the tribal ones, from the mountains. KP etc are not real Pathans you know. FATA are the real Pathans, wait what was that name? oh yes, the Faqir of Iffy

Pathan: You mean the Faqir of Ipi?

Dharna Dude: Yes, him, that dude wasn’t from Peshawar was he?

Pathan: Okay, so when you said Pakhtun Resistance, you actually meant “Tribal Pakhtun Resistance”, because we from KP also call ourselves Pakhtuns.

Dharna Dude: Yeah, whatever man, Taliban are the Tribal Pakhtun Resistance, and they will teach the Americans a lesson, they taught the British a lesson and the Russ…

Pathan: Have you ever heard of the Turis?

Dharna Dude: The what?

Pathan: The Turis, they are a tribe from FATA; Kurram Agency to be exact.

Dharna Dude: Okay, what about them?

Pathan: They are shias…

Dharna Dude: Shia, Sunni, whatever man! We are Muslims you know, all of us, and we have to be united you know, all the Christians are so united, but we Muslims…

Pathan: Hundreds of Turis have died while fighting against the Taliban.

Dharna Dude: Well whatever man, I am just saying that America has attacked Afghanistan and…

Pathan: Which means, that all tribal Pakhtuns from FATA are not part of this “Tribal Pakhtun Resistance”

Dharna Dude: Yeah so?

Pathan: So you said it was Tribal Pakhtun Resistance, the Turis are tribal Pakhtuns and they are anti Taliban.

Dharna Dude: Well whatever man…

Pathan: So its not a Tribal Pakhtun Resistance. Perhaps one could call it a “Sunni Tribal Pakhtun Resistance”?

Dharna Dude: Okay dude, whatever rocks your boat man, they are going to kick America out of Afghanistan and…

Pathan: Ever heard of Ansar ul Islam?

Dharna Dude: The what?

Pathan: It’s a militia of Barelvi Sunni Tribal Pakhtuns, based in Khyber Agency.

Dharna Dude: Like what the hell is a Barelvi?

Pathan: A type of Sunni, who goes to shrines… as in Daata Darbar?

Dharna Dude: Oh I know Daata Darbar, isn’t that where Pappu Saeen lives? He rocks man!… Once he…

Pathan: They are against the Taliban’s version of Islam.

Dharna Dude: Who? Pappu Saeen?

Pathan: Yes, Pappu Saeen, his grand mother, and the Ansaar ul Islam.

Dharna Dude: Dude, why do you hate the Taliban so much man? They are only reacting dude… and they are going to kick America out of Afghanistan… and they…

Pathan: Just saying, that the Taliban can’t even be labeled as Sunni Tribal Pakhtun Resistance, because it’s not all Sunni either. So we can further restrict it to “Wahabi/Deobandi Tribal Pakhtun Resistance.”

Dharna Dude: Haha! Its resistance my friend, I am just saying we need to kick some gora ass man!

Pathan: Ever heard of the Punjabi Taliban?

Dharna Dude: Dude, c mon, lets get over this whole Punjabi Pathan thing man, we are Pakistanis my dear Khocha! And anyway I needed to talk to you about something else…

Pathan: The Punjabi Taliban are also part of this resistance

Dharna Dude: Well good for them man, like America is causing global warming and stuff and they need to leave Afghanistan…. But listen I applied….

Pathan: So what that means, is that this resistance, is not exclusively “Tribal Pakhtun”, it has Punjabis, and also, Uzbeks, Chechens etc as well.

Dharna Dude: yeah so?

Pathan: So it’s basically a Wahabi/Deobandi Resistance, not Wahabi/Deobandi Tribal Pakhtun or Sunni Tribal Pakhtun or Tribal Pakhtun, or simply Pakhtun Resistance.

Dharna Dude: Dude! Haha! You got a lot of time on your hand man, I gotta go home and play the new Call of Duty… its like pure awesomeness… but listen I needed your help…

Pathan: so, I hope we agree that it’s a Wahabi/Deobandi Resistance, and NOT a Pakhtun Resistance.

Dharna Dude: okay okay, now listen to me, I sent you my application essay for that Fulbright thingy, do check it out man, gotta get this thing nailed this time… then its Ca-lee-fornia baby!

Pathan: err…. You do know that the Fulbright scholarship is funded by the USAID?

Dharna Dude: Yeah man, lets kick the yankee out of Afghanistan! Pakhtun Resistance rocks dude!

Appeared in Express Tribune blogs under the title Pathan explains a thing or two to Dharna Dude, on the 1st of October, 2011.


Written by Imran Khan

October 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

Elitist Misconceptions

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With a mix of horror and disbelief I watched the footage from Matanai where a school van was ambushed by militants. Even for senses numbed by scores of bombings every year, this came as a shock because the victims were children (aged between 8 to 14 years), and were deliberately targeted. One would think that even the most shameless of villains would not be low enough to own these killings, but within hours the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan (TTP) proudly claimed full responsibility. Bravo!

The footage of the aftermath showed faces smitten with fear, a little girl, hardly six or seven lay in a state of shock; her blank expression and her blood soaked shirt spoke volumes about the horrors that she went through. Some of the survivors did speak to the media and the noticeable thing about their interviews was that they were either in Pashtu or in heavily accented Urdu.

It is important to highlight the accents and thus ethnicity of these children because the same are often ignored by those who perceive Taliban violence as a Pashtun backlash. Take the Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek I Insaaf (PTI) for instance; in one of his sermons on YouTube titled “Imran Khan Explains War of Terror and Pakistani Taliban”, he declares the Taliban to be a “Pashtun Resistance”. But, how exactly does a Pashtun Resistance claim mostly Pashtun victims is something that Mr. Khan didn’t elaborate upon.

To prove this argument, references are often made to episodes of Pashtun resistance from the past. But the difference between Taliban leadership and historical figures such as Faqir of Ipi becomes very obvious if one considers their respective target selection. Mullah Powindah, Pir Roshan and Faqir of Ipi were not known for targeting Pashtuns, as all of them had a strong nationalistic bias; i.e. a Pashtun bias. The Taliban however, do not have any of that as proven by the fact that their victims are predominantly Pashtun. It should be obvious that when an insurgency fights in the name of an ethnicity then it does NOT target that ethnicity; the ETA is not known for killing Basques and neither was the Tamil Tigers known for killing Tamils. For this reason, it is downright disrespectful to term Taliban violence as a “Pashtun backlash”, because the Pashtuns themselves are its biggest victims.

While one feels disappointed with the former cricketer, one is absolutely horrified when the same logic is echoed by a group of Pakistan’s “Foreign Policy Elites” (FPE). A recent report by the Jinnah Institute (JI) and the US Institute for Peace (USIP), titled “Pakistan, the United States and the end game in Afghanistan” builds its case on the very same assumption. While the FPE rightly point out that a settlement in Afghanistan should not result in “negative spillovers” or cause “resentment” among Pakistani Pashtuns, their recommendation for ensuring that is quite perplexing, as they want inclusion of the Haqqani Network and the Quetta Shura in any post US setups in Afghanistan.

If such an arrangement is considered necessary for appeasing Pakistani Pashtuns, then the FPE need to move beyond books of history & genealogy, and instead concentrate on recent news reports, electoral results, and opinion surveys. The Pashtuns of Pakistan have been categoric in rejecting the Taliban; in 2008’s general election, the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) voted overwhelmingly for anti Taliban parties i.e. the ANP and the PPP. The PEW research survey for 2010 predicts that only 7% of KP approve of the Taliban, while the same is 15% for Pakistan and 22% for Punjab. Furthermore, TTP’s targeting of elected leaders in KP as well as that of the tribal elders of FATA, clearly indicates that the Taliban feel threatened by those who represent Pashtun consensus. This anti Taliban sentiment should be expected, given the chaos and destruction that the TTP has brought upon Pashtun lands.

If our FPE think that the alliance between the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan can be taken care of through some strategic parlaying, then they are sadly mistaken. Whether it’s supporting the Uighars in China, or the refusal to handover Osama, the Afghani Taliban have proven that when it comes to the Global Jihadi fraternity, strategic concerns are not that important to them. Thus, it should be obvious that if the Taliban get strengthened in Afghanistan, then the strengthening of the Pakistani ones is inevitable.

Lest one forgets, this September had quite a few reminders of what that strengthening could entail. Besides the attack on the 13th in Matanai that killed 5, on the 16th a suicide bombing in Dir claimed 27 lives, on the 19th another 8 were killed in Karachi, and on the same day 6 died in an attack on CD shops in Peshawar, and if that was not enough, then on the 20th they lined up 26 Shias in Mastung and gunned them down; and then ambushed two more who were on their way to the scene of the massacre. A sum total of 74 Pakistanis killed in 7 days for the “crimes” of working for the Government, listening to music and being Shia.

The underlying motivation for this violence is ideological, and this ideology is not likely to change whether the United States leaves Afghanistan tomorrow or doesn’t in the next ten years. It is also an ideology that declares a majority of us Pakistanis i.e. the Barelvis and the Shias to be Wajib Ul Qatal (dead men walking), and legitimizes the destructions of schools, shrines, Imam Bargahs and mosques. With the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network espousing the same ideology, their strengthening in Afghanistan should raise alarm bells for anyone concerned about Pakistan’s security interests.

If the potential “resentment” of Pakistani Pashtuns weighed heavily on the minds of our FPE, then the safety of the same Pakistanis should have had an even bigger impact, an impact that is certainly not evident in the conclusions to this report. For this reason, the Foreign Policy Elites need to reconsider their definition of Pakistan’s national interest. It is recommended however that before doing so, this group puts itself in the shoes of the parents of Matanai, it is very likely that the word “pragmatism” might have a different meaning then.

A slightly edited version appeared in The News on the 30th of September, 2011.

Written by Imran Khan

September 30, 2011 at 4:51 am

Cant wait for Moharram?

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The Taliban strike again, while Peshawar and other cities in Pakhtunkhwa had been targeted frequently, this time they decided to hit the big cities, i.e. Karachi and Lahore. 11 people have died so far with more than 50 wounded.

An interesting thing to note is the statement of claim from the Taliban, here is how it has been reported by Express Tribune

“We claim responsibility for the suicide attack on police in Lahore,” said Azam Tariq, spokesman for the TTP, in a telephone call to AFP in Miranshah.

We regret the loss of civilian lives in the attack and warn people to keep away from security forces and government property,” he said.

“The attack was in retaliation for drone strikes and military operations in tribal areas. We have more than 3,000 trained suicide bombers,” he added.

The statement by Mr. Azam Tariq is something that would make the likes of Imran Khan (PTI) et al say; we told you so.

But a few points to ponder; why is it that for these two coordinated strikes, that were supposedly aimed at “security forces and government property”, the TTP chose the Chehlum of Imam Hussain? If they “regret” the loss of civilian lives then why didnt they just barge into one of the hundreds of police stations or army camps that dot Pakistan. Why a Shia procession specifically?

It is obvious that Mr. Tariq is lying, he by no means will ever “regret” the death of a Shia, so why do the drama then? Why not put an Alhumdulilah about killing Shia Kafirs?

In my opinion, statements such as these are to leverage the efforts of all of those who are presenting the Taliban as freedom fighters. This “regret” would probably be enough for many to declare this as a legitimate reaction to someone else’s war.

But, these attacks signify the inability of the Taliban to coexist with anyone who is theologically different from them. With Shias constituting around 20% of Pakistan’s population, this expression of hate should be enough to convince many about the necessity of containing the Taliban ideology.

But the hindrance to this obvious consensus is provided by baseless explanations that declare these actions as mere reactions. The scary thing is that the Taliban has evolved to leverage these ridiculous explanations. An evolution which is exhibited by this new found “concern” about civilian causalities.

Its also not the case that sectarian violence is a post 9/11 phenomenon, which would magically vanish once the war in Afghanistan is over. In the period between 1989 to 2000, around 1000 Pakistanis died and around 2500 were injured due to sectarian violence. A report by the International Crisis Group, claims that 70% of the deaths related to sectarian violence since 1985, were of Shias.

This expression of  “regret” by the Taliban shouldn’t mean anything, but the way the whole debate around the Taliban issue is being carried out, to many out there this is yet another incident to blame on outsiders.

Written by Imran Khan

January 25, 2011 at 5:06 pm

The Shia Question

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The term “Jewish Question” has been used in a variety of ways, but its most common usage has been an anti Semitic one; where it refers to all the “problems” that have been created because of the mere existence of the Jews. It was the Nazis who proposed a “final solution” to this question, a solution that they carried out in the death camps of Nazi Germany.

If you are a Sunni in Pakistan, it is very often that you might hear of “problems” such as; the Shia domination of decision making in our country, as well as their “perversion” of Islam. The spectrum of reactions to our very own “Shia Question” perhaps varies as much in Pakistan as the reaction to the Jewish Question used to vary in Europe. There are those who are just uncomfortable with the importance of Shias in our society while there are others who suggest solutions that are no different from those of the Nazis.

The 9th and 10th of Moharram this year passed by relatively peacefully, apart from one grenade attack in Peshawar,  the main processions dispersed safely through out the country. But the run up to the final days was marked by violence as well as the spoiling of some major terrorist plans. On December 11th, 15 people were killed when a truck bomb hit an Imam Bargah in Hangu, while terrorist plans were spoiled in Karachi, DI Khan and Quetta, that could have resulted in similar carnages as past years.

Shias in Pakistan account for around 15 to 20% of our Muslim Population, and constitute the second largest concentration of Shias in the world, Iran being the largest. According to one source our Shia minority is estimated at 30 million and surpasses the number of Shias in Iraq.  If one is to look at the history of Pakistan; our most iconic leaders have belonged to the Shia community. The Founding Father of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a Shia and so is our most popular political dynasty, i.e. the Bhuttos. It is safe to say that the Shia beliefs of these icons of Pakistan’s political history never mattered to their overwhelmingly Sunni following.

However, things began to change during the 80s, resulting in a horrific increase in sectarian violence. According to the database at South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP); in 1989, 18 people were killed in sectarian violence, during 1999 that figure rose to 86, while this year we lost a staggering, 496 people.  A report by the International Crisis Group that came out in 2005, states that around 70% of those killed in sectarian violence since 1985, belonged to the Shia community, the report further noted that presently Shia militancy in Pakistan is mostly a reaction to Deobandi militancy.

So what happened? How did a Sunni Majority Pakistan that flocked to the cause of a Shia Quaid-I-Azam and a Shia Quaid-I-Awam fall into this hopeless spiral of senseless killings? The answer lies in the Afghan Jihad, and the form our decision makers chose to sponsor it in. The rigid Wahabi interpretation of Islam, that was the driving force behind the morale of the Mujahideen, also had a very serious anti-Shia bent to it. The fatwas declaring Shias as Kafir came out during the heydays of the Afghan Jihad, the cannon fodder that was prepared for the war in Afghanistan came back to seek new infidels and found them in the form of Shias. Saudi support for the propagation of this hate was crucial, as Pakistan became the battleground for the cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The recent increase in attacks on Shias is a reflection of the growing strength of the Taliban. Thinking purely in terms of Pakistan’s national and strategic interests; if the “good” Taliban are those who simply concentrate on Americans and Afghans, and pose no harm to Pakistanis, then according to this definition, there are no good Taliban, as they all consider these 30 million Shia Pakistanis as wajib-ul-qatal, i.e. dead men walking. Our Taliban apologists in the media as well as politics, who bend over their backs in explaining the Taliban position as that of reactionary freedom fighters, completely ignore the Taliban hatred of the Shias, which is an essential part of the Taliban belief system and is not a reaction to any invasions.  Call them good or bad, a stronger Taliban would simply translate into even more violence against the Shias of Pakistan.

In the wake of attacks on Moharram processions many have expressed disdain about the need for carrying out these processions in the first place. It is believed that these processions are attacked because they offer themselves up for attacks. Well, the same logic could be applied to Juma congregations, just like Sunnis would still go to the mosque despite 180 deaths due to attacks on mosques this year, the same way the Shia would take part in Moharram processions, faith being the motivating factor in both situations.

But, the solution to this problem does not lie in curtailing religious freedoms; it lies in having an unbiased approach to this issue. The rising popularity of the Shia hating Taliban in a Sunni majority Pakistan, is a clear indication of how our biases are making us look the other way.

Appeared in Pakistan Today on the 21st of December 2010.

Written by Imran Khan

December 21, 2010 at 4:49 am

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