On this land that belongs to God
February 6, 2009 11:31 PM   Subscribe

On the Militant Trail [Most recent of four articles with links to preceding pieces] Renowned Asia Times correspondent Syed Saleem Shahzad visits Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and takes a journey with the Taliban through the Swat valley. His four-part series of articles examines the differing natures and strategies of various Taliban groups, describes a government counter-insurgency campaign gone seriously awry and finds indications that "a major battle will be fought in Pakistan before the annual spring offensive even begins in Afghanistan this year."
posted by Abiezer (15 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm still working my way through the articles. After reading a bit of the one you linked, I decided to go back and start at the beginning.

Incredibly interesting. Thanks for the post.
posted by dejah420 at 12:15 AM on February 7, 2009

Fantastic post.

What a great series of articles.
posted by sien at 12:58 AM on February 7, 2009

Wow, a lot to think about here.

I think the idea of the Taliban as agents of social reform is an interesting one. Not that I'd want to live in their society, myself, but you can see how their message against corruption or mistreatment of the poor really would take root in a place like Pakistan, particularly in Peshawar. Not to keep banging on about cricket, but part of the appeal of a player like Imran Khan was because of his idea that players on the national team should be there because of their merit, not because their place on the team was bought by bribes or family influence. He's practically a saint in Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora, no matter how many Jemimas he's mixed up with.

There is so much poverty, so much corruption and nepotism. If you are poor in a place like Pakistan, and your family has no influence of its own, you are nothing. Feudal lords only survive on the backs of serfs and the peddling of influence. How is this alliance between tribal feudal lords in the Peshawar any different from the alliance of medieval European lords and back to the basics sorts of religious movements of the time? I wonder how much of the popular support of the Taliban is down to not wanting to offend the sensibilities of the local big man and his particular religious feeling?

The idea of a lingering British influence of sorts in Pakistan... from what purely anecdotal evidence I've seen personally, I wonder how much of this is down to family members working in Britain, even for part of the year, and sending money and presents back home? Or families sending their British born kids back to Pakistan for religious education, or to spend time with family? Or to marry? In other words, how much success would the Taliban really have if they tried to impose a less permeable wall between the two worlds, and families and institutions in Pakistan suffered as a result?

Interesting sidestep around the education issue as well. Pakistanis in that area speak Pashtun and Urdu, maybe some Farsi, but not Arabic. If they aren't properly educated in Arabic, their ability to read religious texts is compromised. They need to rely more on someone to verify and explain their faith. If that someone is a Wahabist...
posted by Grrlscout at 1:32 AM on February 7, 2009

Thanks abiezer. Now if only the "allies" could stop bombing civilians and arresting their own for telling the truth. Civilian deaths increased by 40% in 2008. I'm reading Tariq Ali "The Duel" at the moment and this helps explain the very complicated history and politics of modern Palistan, NWFP, Baluchistan etc. A surge troop numbers is not the answer.
posted by adamvasco at 4:58 AM on February 7, 2009

The Swat valley is not my neighborhood, I don't understood the language and culture of the region and I'm not going to no matter how much I read on the internet. However, I'm pretty sure there is a US government agency commonly referred to by a three initial abbreviation made up of people who think they do know what is happening and are advocating for me. Thus, i am now responsible for what ever further horrors await.

Also, that reporter has balls.
posted by geos at 6:03 AM on February 7, 2009

Great articles. Thanks, Abiezer.
posted by homunculus at 9:15 AM on February 7, 2009

Face Of The Day
posted by homunculus at 9:44 AM on February 7, 2009

Thanks for this post. I'm also interested and surprised that British influence seems to be such a driver of the resistance. Of course, as mentioned above, Mr Khan manages a couple of neat sidesteps on issues which don't suit his line of propaganda, and I can't imagine many reporters really sticking it to him given the circumstances of the interview ("Hey, nice gun, where'd you get it?").
posted by pompomtom at 3:19 PM on February 7, 2009

Pakistan's Muddled War.
posted by adamvasco at 11:59 AM on February 11, 2009

« Older The Gutenberg Method   |   "blue eyes that had seen Franz Josef in his glory... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments