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Taliban takeover of Pak is inevitable, imminent

Last updated on: April 30, 2009 19:22 IST

This is an attempt at raising the red flag. In India, preparation for conflict is denounced as war mongering and pacifism at the cost of realism. Indian history could well be called a chronicle of military disasters. We obviously have civilisational strengths, as our civilisation has survived for over 5,000 years while that of Greece, Egypt or Persia has vanished. But unless we understand our weaknesses and rectify them, we may not get a second chance.

The nature of warfare and threat has changed over the years and unimagined destruction is now in the realms of possibility due to the presence of nuclear weapons in the hands of our adversary. It is a reflection of Indian ennui that the impending Talibanisation of Pakistan and how to deal with it, is not even on the electoral radar?  

Many analysts, including this one, have been foreseeing the demise of the State of Pakistan for quite some time. Recently, Australian and American security experts have given only six months for this to happen. This 'point of no return' was crossed when the Pakistani national assembly approved the 'deal' with Taliban that for all intents and purposes handed over the Swat valley to the extremist rabble.

'Sharia doesn't permit us to lay down arms,' Muslim Khan, spokesman of Taliban told The Dawn over telephone. Some Taliban fighters last week moved out of Swat and into Bunner district, only 100 km from Islamabad, and Khan said his men would push into new areas. (The Dawn, April 15). The Taliban have made clear their intention to take over the whole of Pakistan.

Malik Navid, the current IG of police of the North Western Frontier Province, told the Pakistani parliament that the Taliban and Al Qaeda 'are present in every city and town (of Pakistan) in some places they are active, in others they are dormant.' The IG had added that jihadi groups were moving through southern Punjab and eventually aimed to reach the financial hub of Karachi. He warned that the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine had developed some expertise in biochemical weapons

One of the most virulent Pakistani analysts, Shireen Mazari accepts that. 'Just the sheer numbers of madrassas/students (218/25,395 in Rahimyar Khan; 185/20,780 in Dera Ghani Khan; 105/8,502 in Rajanpur) show the enormity of the task ahead -- even though not all the madrassas are "jihadi" in type, according to a detailed ground survey I conducted through a local field worker in three districts of southern Punjab. But the background of poverty is rampant and even non-jihadi madrassas can in future produce militants.'

There is a false sense of 'victimhood' that many Pakistanis assert and claim that the radicalisation of their society and the jihadi cult is all the fault of the Americans, who used it during the Afghan war against the erstwhile Soviet Union. This is only partially true. A historical process of Islamist moral policing and militancy began almost the moment Mohammad Ali Jinnah was buried. In 1950, Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan issued an official injunction urging Muslims to fast during Ramadan. Intolerance towards Ahmadis and Shia has an equally long history. In 1953, officially organised riots led to looting and killing of Ahmadis. Pakistan's only Nobel Prize winner, the late Abdus Salam, was heckled in Karachi for being an Ahmadi. He had to flee to Italy. Ironically, Salaam had made a major contribution to the Pakistani nuclear programme. But since he was an Ahmadi, even that could not save him.

In 1979, General Zia-ul Haq went a step further and overhauled the entire education system in Pakistan and handed it over to the Jamaat-e-Islami. Teaching of history was abolished. These textbooks poisoned the young minds of generations of Pakistanis. Hatred of Hindus and Jews was institutionalised. Jihad and Shahadat (martyrdom) were glorified. The entire history of Pakistan prior to the arrival of Mohammad bin Qasim was wiped out. It was only a matter of time before this poisoned generation came of age and produced today's Taliban. The point to note is that it is not just the students of madrassas but even the so-called mainstream schools who were subjected to this brainwashing. Radicalisation of Pakistani society is comprehensive and across the board.

But mere fanaticism or brainwashing is not the only issue in Pakistan. In last 60 years there has been attempt at land reforms. Eighty percent wealth of the country is controlled by seven percent of population. Landlords rule the roost in rural Pakistan and are even known to run private armies and prisons to oppress the poor. The bureaucratic and military elite eats up 40 percent of revenues. Jobs in the Gulf were an escape hatch for many poor Pakistanis. But with the global economic meltdown these are now scarce.

Finally, to cap it all is the population explosion. There are several Muslim nations with very high population growth rates, but Pakistan tops them all. In 1950, Pakistan had a population of about 4 crore. Since then it has more than tripled and stood at 13.6 crore in 1995. It is estimated to be 16 cores today. The real population explosion in Pakistan will come in the next few years.

It has a very young population, and an extremely high fertility. According to the most recent UN estimates, Pakistan currently has a TFR (total fertility rate) of about five children per woman. This is an average and if one accepts that rich and the middle class have fewer children, then the rate at which the poor are breeding in Pakistan may well exceed a figure of 6 to 7 TFR. These hordes of poor are the perfect fodder for the Taliban.

The Taliban takeover of Pakistan is both inevitable and imminent.

Part II: Implications of a Talibanised Pakistan for India

Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retired), is a Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow of the USI studying internal security and co-ordinator of the Pune-based Inpad.

Colonel (Dr) Anil Athale (retd)