Alternatives in Pakistan

May 18, 2009 § 11 Comments

Note: This post is by Shalini Gera, a friend and ally of APP.

TINA, TIANA and TATA in Pakistan
by Shalini Gera

As I see it, the justification for the current military action in Swat is primarily this: “Although this bombardment of Swat is tragic, and the plight of the refugees heartrending, and the extent of devastation overwhelming –this is the only way out! There is simply no other way to stop the Taliban. Military action is a necessary evil, and ugly as the results are, things would be much worse otherwise.”

It is this perspective that I want to explore more in this post. I don’t know enough about the particularities of Pakistan, other than what I can gather from the internet—so I would appreciate all corrections, arguments and vehement disagreements, and hope to learn more from the conversation.


Maggie Thatcher’s famous slogan, when it came to advocating neo-liberalism, free-trade and capitalism was “There Is No Alternative.” In fact, this was such a favorite line of hers, that it was shortened to TINA, and became the title of her biography.

It is not just neo-liberalism—TINA is the favorite slogan of the Conservative Right for every single war or any other depradation. From the Hiroshima bombing, to the Vietnam War, to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to tax cuts for the super-rich, to obscene hand-outs to the financial sector—we have always been told that other alternatives were considered, but they were simply not viable.

I am not making facile comparisons between what is happening right now in Swat valley with these other cases. What I am saying is — given the regularity with which TINA gets dished out every time the power elite further consolidate their power at the expense of the poor and dispossessed, let’s keep our skepticism alive for a bit before accepting TINA in the case of Swat valley. Especially because our accepting TINA will lead to the legitimization of a solution which…

(a) gives even more power and legitimacy to an institution, the Pakistani army, which has a sordid history of being completely unaccountable, and servicing a tiny elite

(b) disproportionately hurts the most poor and marginalized people in society

(c) furthers the imperialist agenda in the region

(d) comes at such a huge humanitarian toll

(e) allows a corrupt government to divert even more public resources away from a progressive social agenda (of education, employment and health), which in the long run is the only real defense against Talibanisation.

Each time in the past when TINA has been successfully deployed, there is some dire threat which requires immediate action (another imminent 9/11, WMDs ready to be launched, insurgents running amok, Great Depression round the corner), and there simply isn’t enough time to fix the system or address long-standing needs. And yes, the poor and innocent will have to face even more hardships, but what-to-do, “TINA!”

And so, I question the urgency and imminence that is driving military action at this point also. I sense some hype and hysteria behind the din of “The Taliban are coming.” The Taliban have been coming for several years now, and yes they are a truly evil force and should be opposed, but I am not convinced that things have changed overnight. Going by various news reports, most local people dismiss the idea that Taliban are imminently poised to take control of large urban centers, or that vast areas of Punjab and Sindh are ready to fall to the Talibans. Buner district, around which panic was created about the expanding reach of Taliban, had already been vacated by the Swat Taliban forces by April 26th, before the Army action started. (This of course, did not stop the Army from bombing Buner for good measure.)

The high pitched reporting by NYT and WSJ around Buner and Swat deals, seems ominous to me. Sufi Mohammad is not a new, sudden occurrence—he has been active in the area since 1990, and the Nizam-i-adl regulation of 2009 is not all that different from the Nizam-i-adl regulations of 1994 and 1999, when also the provincial authorities negotiated peace deals with Sufi Mohammad. Just last year, in May 2008, another peace deal was negotiated with Sufi Mohammed. Yes, the local context is changing for the worse, and yes, we should be alarmed, and yes, we should be doing *something*– my only point in talking about this history is to say that this latest step was an incremental one, not a deal changer.

So why did this peace deal result in the screaming headlines of newspapers and Hillary Clinton’s aggressive posturing, when the last year’s deal raised barely an eyebrow? Is a certain case of “clear and present danger” being deliberately built up, and is the media complicit once again in carrying out US foreign policy objectives?


I am not convinced of the TINA line yet, and I would also like to present another line: TIANA! “This Is Also No Alternative!”

Everyone who is advocating TINA as the reason to support the military initiative, and dismissing other suggestions (peace deals, negotiations, educational overhaul, land reforms) as impractical, idealistic, “too long-term” should at least make *some* effort to show why the current military approach is a viable, short-term alternative. It appears to me that this is just an underlying assumption on everyone’s part– I haven’t come across any argument to reassure us skeptics that this approach, though ugly and unpleasant, is at least workable.

How many real-life examples do we have, especially in the South Asian context, where military actions have successfully stopped insurgencies, Taliban or otherwise? In Swat itself, this is the second (albeit a more virulent) military offensive. Gunships have already pounded the valley in Nov-Dec 2007. (Look at for a comprehensive timeline). The first military offensive didn’t make any dent in the Taliban, who simply receded to their mountain hideouts and reappeared later, although hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands of people were displaced in the process. So what gives us fond expectations that this one would be any different? In “History repeats itself — at great cost to our nation,” Shireen Mazari lays out several examples in the Pakistani context, where military action has not only failed to quell an insurgency, but actually made it stronger.

So then, why are “pragmatism” and “realism” associated with military operations, when they have never been shown to be successful, either in the short term or the long term—but structural changes are immediately dismissed as “impractical” and “idealistic”?

There is another reason why I doubt the effectiveness of the current approach. News reports depict the Taliban in Swat to be “lightly armed” fighters, i.e. armed with Kalashnikovs and machine guns—enough to create havoc in an unarmed civilian population, but no match for an army. So what sense does aerial bombardment make in this case? These Taliban forces, unlike the LTTE, don’t have their own air strips or airplanes or permanent military installations. Nor do they have other infrastructure on the ground, nor armored tanks nor other heavy artillery. So, pray, what exactly are the war planes bombing? There are no “bomb”-able enemy targets that I can think of—except schools and government buildings, roads and bridges, homes and farms…

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I cannot avoid the cynical feeling that all this “shock and awe” is more to impress the imperial master, than to fight the Taliban, which have probably already disappeared into some mountain hideouts.


The famous political scientist Susan George, coined a counter slogan to Thatcher’s TINA… and called it TATA! There Are Thousands of Alternatives.

I know that my skepticism of TINA and my advocacy of TIANA only go this far unless I can also suggest a few alternatives. However, here is where my lack of knowledge of the local context makes whatever I say sound rather presumptuous and fluffy. But, in any case, here are a few thoughts.

First, the timeline: Given that the Taliban and the religious jihadi movements have been around in the area for decades now, virtually unchallenged, if not actively encouraged by the powers-that-be, it’s a little unrealistic to expect that they can be rooted out in a matter of weeks, no? Just as the establishment of Taliban has been a long process, their eradication will also be a long effort—so let’s not shy away from strategies that have a long term focus. But let’s get started on those NOW.

Second, structural reforms: After reading so many differing accounts from Swat, it is quite clear to me that people in Swat do not support the Taliban. But they also have no faith in the Pakistani government, which works only for the feudal elite. The Swatis aren’t invested in resisting the Taliban, because the pre-Taliban days of little government presence, an oppressive feudal order and huge deprivation aren’t all that attractive to them either. And so I come back to the familiar theme: people will only organize against the Taliban if there is a movement or a political party with an agenda that addresses their socio-economic needs *and* ties it to a strong anti-Taliban stance.

While it is decidedly more difficult to organize anyone under a barbaric and authoritarian regime, what about the areas that are not yet under Taliban? As I read the comments on this list—it is the fear of more areas falling under Taliban control that seem to create the most urgency. Surely, we can help to strengthen secular, progressive forces in these non-Taliban areas of Punjab and Sindh, and make the Taliban less attractive there, no?

I hear of peasant resistance movements and fishworkers unions, and anti-displacement movements in some areas in Sindh and Punjab—all of which are multiethnic, with a lot of participation from women. Shouldn’t we be helping and promoting these movements more, if we are concerned about countering the spreading Talibanisation? If the Taliban are using madrassahs to spread the ideology, shouldn’t we be setting up alternate, secular schools at a maddening pace and frantically wooing students away from the madrassas? There is no reason why women’s movements in Karachi cannot be strengthened, why media campaigns and education drives around women’s educations and rights not be undertaken NOW, if there is fear of spreading fascism. But in all this discussion of how to stop Taliban from coming South—I am not hearing any of these non-military options being discussed.  Instead, are we passing on the blame to the Taliban, for what are essentially colossal failures of the civil society? 

Third, Military options: There are many Pakistani commentators who remain convinced that the Pakistani army has not sundered its links to the Taliban, so what is going on right now is just a sham. So for them, the first and foremost demand is for the Taliban to stop enjoying all kinds of state and military support.

I don’t know enough about the current status of military-Taliban relationship, and would like to hear more from the knowledgeable types on this list. But what I can say is this: had the military really wanted to hurt the Taliban and not the people, there are a lot of other things it could have done other than aerial bombardment of the region.  E.g. jamming radio stations being used to propagate Taliban propaganda (a long standing complaint of human rights groups), securing roadside check posts, safeguarding exit roads from the cities leading out, air-dropping commandos at taliban strongholds rather than an all out aerial bombardment.

It is only at a recent dinner meeting in Washington DC that Zardari announced that the government would start monitoring all the madrassas in the country. If the idea was to control the spread of virulent ideology, shouldn’t this oversight of the madrassas have started a *long* time ago? The madrassas didn’t suddenly become extremist when Zardari reached Washington, or after the bombing started.

So I take seriously the allegations that the government and military aren’t really concerned about countering the Taliban and only want to make a pretense of it. And certainly one of the most pressing tasks for us is to ask for accountability from the govt and the army.


§ 11 Responses to Alternatives in Pakistan

  • shaheryar mirza says:

    First off, apologies for the length of the comment. Hope it is not too taxing to get through.

    Thanks for this piece. And before I continue with a different point of view I would like to state that your point of view, and others who have written similar posts should be a larger part of the public discourse in Pakistan. I agree with the developments and reforms you suggest but with some reservations.

    The first thing that comes to mind while reading this is, while these reforms are made as you and others have mentioned (land reforms etc etc.), who is going to stop the Taliban and other so-called miscreants from blowing up these schools and other such facilities being developed? Let us not forget that Swat had a highly educated female population historically, and since the Taliban have consolidated power there, they have tried to stunt that education. That is a stated policy of theirs.

    I completely agree that there is a need for these reforms, but under what circumstances? Firstly, the militants in these areas are a combination of the newly formed “pakistani-taliban”, foreign fighters, and local hired ex-bandits turned mercenaries.

    I was speaking to a member of parliament prior to this Swat operation and she told me that a large number of the fighters fighting for the Taliban are just criminals being paid a lot of money. So i asked her, why don’t you just pay these criminals more money than the Taliban is able to provide? She said the government had tried this, and Hillary Clinton had pressured them to try this recently, but it would be a continuation of the policies that have brought
    Pakistan to the position it is in now.

    Basically, what will be done with these criminals who are being paid by the government, once the conflict dies down? Will they be ditched by the Pakistani government and then join anti-state militias again because they were neglected? So they decided not to pursue this policy.

    The Pakistani Taliban’s goals are to establish an Islamic Emirate in Pakistan through force.

    Then, there is the Mullah Omar faction of the Taliban which still has links with the ISI, at least that is what some are saying. I was speaking to an army officer who has fought in waziristan in the past, and he told me that the Mullah Omar faction still has links with the ISI, and Omar has instructed his faction not to attack Pakistan but to focus on Afghanistan (with probable nudging by the ISI). Which makes it more feasible that what this source was telling me holds some water.

    Therefore, one should be careful when comparing Pakistan’s previous military operations to the one that is happening now. The Pakistani Taliban that is being fought in the Swat region differs from those in Quetta, who mainly have links with the ISI. And then there is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s faction which is the wild card in this whole scene. But basically, what I am trying to say is that when you compare the past operations with this one, there are some differences.

    For one, I spoke to two army officers, and the major difference they feel this time is that there is a political and popular framework behind the operation. In the past they had no idea why they were fighting, and who was really pulling the strings. Because a large portion of the Pakistani public is supporting this operation, the army is going in with greater resolve/morale and are willing to “stay the course” as George W. might say. That being said, I am not advocating this action or its potential success/failure, but rather pointing out that there are differences between previous operations and the current one.

    At least for the soldiers on the ground and those commanding them. As you mentioned that they have been in this region for decades, that is untrue. They have not been in Swat until the last five years, and they are not the same as those who have been cultivated by the ISI, Not across the board at least. Certain factions and fighters within, yes. The movement in Swat as a whole, no. This is also evidenced by the timeline you posted, this is a different movement from the traditional Taliban the ISI has cultivated.

    As far as heavy-handedness is concerned, that is a valid debate. Air-strikes may not have been necessary. As for the government’s point of view and likely argument for this is that, they aren’t going to go into it this time half-assed and lose whatever support the public has given. Everyone in the country and abroad is waiting to say, “see the military doesn’t really have an interest in defeating these guys.” That could be one reason aside from a viable military need for the airstrikes. To avoid detractors doubting the Pakistan army’s commitment. And as you mentioned to impress “the imperialists.”

    As far as the Taliban gaining control in Swat, as you mentioned was not an overnight thing. As someone who has lived his whole life in Pakistan, did my undergrad and grad from the US, I have seen this country change before my eyes. This whole Talibanization thing is not some “myth” perpetuated by the media. The media is not a monolith, and one shouldn’t subscribe to this myth of the extent of the power of the media. The talibanization exists as a result of the madressahs you mentioned, barelvi and sufi religious leaders being fired and replaced with Wahhabi and Deobandi leaders during zia’s time, extensive funding by Saudi arabia and the Pakistani state’s use of these groups as proxies. There ideologies have spread throughout major portions of Pakistan and it is dangerous. And I don’t say that in an alarmist way, they aren’t going to take over tomorrow, but they are already ruining everyday life for lots of people.

    So while one can easily say Pakistan is just furthering the imperialists agenda, as a pakistani I really don’t care about who’s agenda it “may” be furthering because it is also tugging at the fabric of our society. And making Pakistan a less-enjoyable place to live.

    We all know about the feudal system in Pakistan and the institutionalized exploitation of the the Pakistani working class. No one is arguing that. That being said, if you truly want to be progressive you have to work to transform the system in Pakistan over time and within the realities that exist on the ground. The things you mentioned DO take time, but that does not mean they should be dismissed. But one has to create the conditions on the ground for these
    kinds of reforms to be pursued.

    Lets say that a peace deal is struck, without a military strategy to abolish the Taliban and then these objectives are aggressively pursued. I understand that when I say abolish the Taliban, it doesn’t mean you can just bomb the hell out of the Taliban and then the ideology does not exist nor the possible recruits for them. But the fact remains that they (the Taliban) do also exist in human form, aside from their ideology and those who are fighting the state
    and enforcing their laws on the people of Swat can be fought. Nonetheless, it is easy to say strike a peace deal and start developing. What this doesn’t take into the equation is the people’s livelihoods that existed before the operation and Taliban power in the area. It was a tourist powerhouse in Pakistan and huge amounts of the population were earning a living through the tourism industry. Now, if a peace deal is struck, but those Taliban (whose aim is to establish Shariah) remain in the area, do you seriously think that people are going to start flocking back to a Swat which is populated by subdued militants and the shariah law banging at its back door? I don’t know one person who would want to go back to Swat in that
    situation, even if there is no fighting going on. I’ve spent countless vacations there growing up and I for one, would not.

    What are these people who used to work in the tourism industry going to do while this development is taking place. I suppose they could be employed by the development initiatives but can you even develop with the Taliban sitting on a peace deal? That is the definition of an uneasy and fragile peace. The fact remains that the Taliban have a goal, and unless they are working towards that goal, they will cease to exist. In other words, I don’t think it is entirely feasible for these initiatives that you and others propose to to be implemented without peace and security in that region. And peace and security will not
    come from a peace deal with the Taliban. One would have to whole-heartedly expect that the Taliban is willing to forget their goals in order to strike a peace deal. Striking a peace deal most likely means enforcing shariah in the region. Being a staunch secularist, I cringe at the idea.

    First off, goodbye tourism. Secondly, Shariah law, in most cases around the world is abused and human rights would be even worse in that area then they already are. Swatis are liberal people and the state enforcing shariah law on them to appease the Taliban, in my opinion, is worse than military action to drive them out of the area. The long-term goals you speak of with development and all HAVE to be achieved without a doubt in my mind. But unless there is a short-term solution that can create conditions for development to take place, these goals are nothing but a fantasy.

    So i suppose one arrives at the question, is there another short-term strategy to eliminate the Taliban from the area? Or a better military strategy? Probably, as you mentioned, the ground troop COIN sort of operation is one possibility. But then again maybe that wasn’t put in place because of the lack of counter-insurgency training. Basically, my whole argument rests on the elimination of the Taliban, as I am of the opinion that with them in the region, nothing can be accomplished. Will them being driven out of Swat shut down the madressahs and other insitutionalized catalysts for Talibanization? No. But it can get the Taliban out of Swat and help to regain Swat as Pakistani territory not in the direct hands of religious zealots. The country should at the same time be reforming and shutting down swathes of madressahs.

    One thing that shouldn’t be underestimated is that life is hell for people under the taliban. Life was never HELL for people in Swat even if they were neglected by the government. Over the past two decades if you drive through streets in the Swat Valley you are greeted by nothing but smiles and people were living of their land and the tourism industry. Sure, they aren’t getting what they deserve but they weren’t oppressed to the levels that the Taliban did.

    Our brothers and sisters in Swat don’t deserve the Taliban and they don’t deserve Shariah and they don’t deserve the death and displacement that has befallen them. Yes, the neglect of the Pakistan government is usually the spark behind militias being able to gain power in these areas. If the Pakistan government manages to oust the Taliban militarily, takes responsibility
    for the displaced and succeeds in empowering them in Swat, the operation would be relatively successful. That in my opinion would be when these kinds of reforms and development can take place. I just don’t think it is even remotely possible to create the conditions for the Swati people to not be exploited by the Taliban again, without removing the Taliban. And it is unfortunate that is being done by force.

    The first alternative you propose, other than the fact that the Taliban has not been in that area for decades, makes sense. The long term strategies have to be pursued. But as I have mentioned above, can only be done within a state of order in the region, and without the taliban waiting in the corridors for the government to leave. As it is PATA, the government cannot possibly be there forever in full force. If the taliban are driven out, and these development initiatives take place, the Swati people themselves would resist the Taliban. But if they aren’t ousted in the first place, then the Swati people can never succeed.

    The second structural alternatives you mention. To play devil’s advocate here, you say that the Swati’s are not loyal to the pakistan government. And probably rightfully so because their needs have not been addressed. But the Taliban will never address those needs and have alienated themselves from the Swati public more than ever before. A show of force from the Pakistan army to abolish the Taliban could just be the beginning of establishing some loyalty to the state. Pakistani soldiers are laying down their lives so that Swat can be rid of the Taliban oppressors. And the swati people also recognize that. And a lot of them will resent the loss of life and destruction of property. But if the pak government takes on these initiatives you propose, they can gain their loyalty. But in my opinion, if these initiatives are undertaken without the military trying to oust the Taliban from the area, the Swati people will have even less faith in the government than now. If they leave the taliban structure in place, and try to pursue these policies it will seem even more half assed than not doing anything at all. The Swati people don’t want the Taliban in their region, and all these developments would be in constant jeopardy if the Taliban were just “subdued and not eliminated.” There is a greater chance for swati loyalties to fall into the hands of the Taliban if a peace deal is struck and their structure in the region remains.

    Look, the Swati people are simple human beings like most everyone else and they just want to have a home,justice, to educate their children and a chance at some prosperity with peace. I can assure you that the majority of Swati’s believe that the Pakistan government, despite their failures, can better help them to achieve this than the Taliban. The taliban proved what they could do in Swat in the recent years, and the Swati people are not too impressed. Now it is up to the government to follow the military strategy with a strategy to develop and adress the socio-economic needs of the people. Pretty much do the exact opposite of what the US has done in Afghanistan since the major military campaign.

    The Swati people voted in what they though was a secular party, to represent them in the last election. They don’t deserve these shoddy peace deals which just lets the taliban fester and control their everyday lives. Yes, they do not deserve the displacement either, but if the Taliban had remained I think many Swatis would have left, as many did during the Taliban control. Non-violent solutions are always the ideal solutions. The pakistan government failed in Swat over the last five years. Therefore, the Taliban gained power through violence. And were controlling Swat and its people through violence. You can’t really expect the government to now sit on its thumbs and it lets it people be governed by primitive savages like the Taliban? I mean I know, it sounds very inhuman and dismissive but the Taliban are willing to use violence, and development can not take place under those conditions. No peace deal is going to change that.

    All the non-military options you suggest should be carried out immediately, within areas not controlled by the Taliban. One hundred percent. Throughout the country. Balochistan included, and maybe first and foremost. And on a side note, the drug-money coming in from Afghanistan is the number one reason why a lot of these militias can function on the first place. And the weapons. Without a u-turn in Afghanistan it will be hard to quell militancy in Pakistan. But that is another conversation.

    Now this whole thing can be a failure, of course. But I have a feeling that if the army didn’t go in, then the failure would be blamed on the lack of a military intervention. Let’s see how it pans out. Like I said at the outset, the proposals you make are all valid, I just disagree that they can take place under a peace deal or something of the like. Thanks, i enjoyed the piece. And look forward to your thoughts. It is the first time I have found myself not adamantly against a military operation, but taking things into consideration the realities on the ground, I feel compelled to consider its potential for success.

  • Arif Ishaq says:

    I like this article.
    I agree that TINA is bullshit.
    I agree to TATA, but I don’t think there are any “ready made” solutions. We have to use our intelligence to invent things. Try things out and then move along the ones that seem to be promising.
    But I presume it all depends on the goodwill of those in power. If we treat the problem along the lines of “good against evil” or “might is right”, we might as well just continue with the military option!
    How about trying to establish the legality of handing judicial power over to arbitrary persons. Why allow different laws from one region to another?
    How about engaging these “sharia” lovers into establishing proper procedures? How about getting them to agree to the fact that only qualified people can be accepted as “judges”?
    How about getting them to agree to the fact that they can’t keep people prisoners in their land and then finding a home for people who do not want to stay under the “sharia” controlled places?
    I suppose you can find any number of ways to loosen the grip of these guys on people. Any military assault should really be the last option and only AFTER you have made sure that you have done everything possible to minimize any damage to ordinary citizens. It is almost like a fight against groups who take people hostage. You don’t just go launch a military attack on them!

  • Apparently from the above write-up its crystal clear that, where Angels fear to tread not only destruction looms supreme but even the juggernaut of such monstrocity marches on in godspeed.

    Perhaps there is still time to salvage the situation by weaning the Sharia lovers towards sober, constructive and affectionate ways which is the true Islamic ways and not their rigid,fundamentalist cut-mollah extremeism of utmost destructions and killings.

    Do have a nice day, take care!!!


  • sl y jamal says:

    hi folks,

    the present swat campaign like in the past with the melting away of the talibans to their safe havens in the mountains despite maximum destructions by relentless bombardments by gunships ever since late april,2009. end result is similar to the swat campaign of the year 2007, wherein the nett losers were the civilian populations with; utmost destruction of land properties,death and maiming.

    of course the destruction juggernaut is robustly marching, this time apparently on towards waziristan where the isi/mullah omer rules the roost. perhaps this is just an eyewash or another source of money minting campaign with the understanding of mullah omer/isi clique to callously milk the gullible americans. history frequently repeats in pakistan as, apparently they have never,ever learnt anything from the scourge of holocaust the pak army resorts to in pakistan deliberate-ly, at frequent intervals!!!

    take care!

  • Asim Jaan says:

    What is the alternative to war – they ask ??

    What the pro-war people are not acknowledging, or are not even trying/attempting/to understand, purposefully avoiding to go into, is :

    1- Symptoms of Extremism (religious, nationalistic, sectarian, racial etc) have their origins in the socio-economic conditions in which people live.

    Instead of even attempting to acknowledge this, those supporting the war start from — people ARE extremist. PERIOD. (how they became so need not be bothered or wasted time about) – Their logical conclusion is therefore —they need to be finished off. It is the attitude US and the THEM, WE are ok, the OTHER has some ‘inexplicable’ problem.

    Since, acc to them, the ‘problem’ with the OTHER is inexplicable and has no material origins, therefore the only option left to make him see reason is – a similar ‘inexplicable’ COERCIVE action, kill him, jail him, extradite him etc etc.

    As if extremist ideas fall from the sky and somehow infect a particular people, by random, but always THEM and never US.

    Other explanations are also forwarded by such people as ‘ they are un-educated’, ‘un-civilized’, ‘they follow their archaic cultures’, ‘the other is un-willing to change and go with the times’ , ‘their religion or religious interpretation is backward, close-minded’, ‘there is a problem inherent in the other’s race’ etc etc.

    I am quoting below some examples of this attitude, in the current context, just to bring home the point.

    These are real comments that several friends/acquaintances of mine made recently to me to explain the ‘taliban’ phenomenon and thus justify why military operation is necessary. Pls note that all of these acquaintances have a minimum of Masters’ Education, several have studied from Abroad, and all have travelled to Europe, England or America. So the sample is of ‘educated’ , ‘civilized’ people.

    ”pathan hamaisha say khar damagh hotay hain’, ‘tum takeekh parho, yeh hamaisha say lutairay rahay hain’, ‘yeh jadeed taleem hasil nahi karana chahtay’, ‘yeh taraqqi ki daur main peechay rah gai hain ( yani ‘hum’ sey), is liay is tarah kar rahay hain’.

    You will notice that the problem is being diagnosed not in the ‘4000 taliban of swat (ISPR figure) , but in the whole 42 million Pahstoon race, that is, there is something intrinsically wrong with the race that makes them susceptible to become extremist. Hoodbhoy’s remark in his write-up on visiting a camp shows similar self-righteous views.

    So what is the other alternative to the SECURITY DIMENSION, they ask ?

    The alternative is very simple and straight forward, but for this one needs to have the empathy, to come out of the US and the OTHER binary.

    For this one need to think of ALL humanity as ONE. One needs to understand that there isn’t much of a difference between people of various races, religions, sects, cultures or nationalities. Our needs are similar, things that make us angry or happy are similar.

    Once we realize that, we can understand how continued exploitation of a particular segment makes them angry, frustrated at it. In this atmosphere if a group stands up for their genuine grievances and tells them a solution – some of the downtrodden will give him active or tacit support.

    Lack of progressive alternatives to such a continued suppression, and crushing of even a semblance of resistance from the downtrodeen by the ruling elite, can force such people to support any group that they see fighting against their oppressors, even if they don’t like many of the actions of such leaders.

    More suppression to crush this resistance, instead of solving basic contradictions, creates more sympathizers. Thus a catch 22 situation develops and feeds on one another.

    If we acknowledge that there are basic contradictions, in build systems of exploitation in our country, then the only solutions to ‘reactive sysmptoms’ is to resolve these basic contradictions, have a equitable system in which everyone feels he has a stake, feels he owns it, and does not feel he is at the receiving end.

    So very simply the ALTERNATIVE is working towards building such a society. Why is this fact so difficult to understand ?
    Maybe because we fear that, in such a society, our privileges, our undeserved luxuries, the luxury of our feeling ourselves superior to these other lowly creatures, will go.

    Military operations by an Institution that has a build in stake in the exploitative status-quo and which was instrumental in creating the grounds for it, will , you will agree, not work towards building such a society. It will only consolidate the exploiters at the expense of the already downtrodden.

    Last weekend i went with a few friends to Landhi. I saw several refugees forced to begging for feed their hungry wives and crying children. The state evicted them at an hour’s notice from their livelihood, but is not providing ANYTHING for them.

    Baba Zareen, a buneri refugee, died today in Landhi. He was among a group of 74 souls majority women and children, belonging to several related families that arrived from buner recently and settled in a small compound in Landhi. Several days ago he fell into a ditch that had been dug by the owner of the compound for a proposed water tank, he broke his leg and injured his head.

    These are just a few examples. If we just go to Landhi and stay there for just a day, we will know hundreds of such stories of UNNECESSARY pain and anguish.

    Is this the solution these trigger happy people are advocating with such finesse ?

  • Tnvir H Mitu says:

    Asim Bhai,

    Going thru your write-up is quite similar to re-living the initial days of 1971 East Pakistan, unfortunately this is like the tip of the Iceberg when I qualified with the words “initial days”. What I mean is worst is yet to come, may Allah Pak forbid as apparently no end is in sight, first it was the beautiful Ski-resort Swat now it is Waziristan so, whats next???

    The juggernaut gone berserk rolls on with the scourge of US$ pouringin unabated while arrogant fairly tale myth of successes unfolds.

    Do take care Asim Bhai!!!

  • sl y jamal says:

    Hi Tanvir,

    Apparently you have read my mind, mentioning the juggernaut gone haywire by involving the Toori Tribesmen perhaps a solid gold pretext, to mount an expedition onwards to Afghanistan!!!

    As to the arrogant fairy tale myth of “Hamaray Bahadur Fouj Har Mahaz per Agay Bur Raha Hay” even 24 hours before surrender in 1971.I wonder how this line has been improved??? Will Asim Jaan Bhai kindly provide some feed-back also, about his Karach meeting highlights will be most welcome!!!

    Do take care!!!

  • sl y jamal says:

    Yo! Asim Jaan Bhai,

    Your silence is no more golden, how come this anomaly??? Are you not a free person anymore, after the Karachi meetings??? As for answer to your questions, one of them of which is, an alternative to war is more war simultaneously or till some time after licking the wounds!!!

    As to the consequences of the Swat war and the callous scourge of the pAK rehabilitation regime, just tune-in to Al-jazeera or the BBC!!! Immense fodder in droves will soon be available for more wars in the making due to, the petty acts of the past!!!

  • Asim jaan says:

    Hi Jamal,

    Sorry for the late response. I was on vacation for two weeks and didn’t have easy access to internet.

    You inquired about the outcome of the seminar we held last month in Landhi, Karachi. It went great, the discussion was rich, but the attendance was not as large as what we expected.

    I belong to International socialists, Pakistan. This seminar was just one event in a long line of debates, seminars, sit-ins, protests, publications, email campaigns etc etc that we have been undertaking for the last several years. These have been directed against dictatorship, authoritarianism and for real democracy (not the fake bourjeoisie type that goes by its name nowadays), real justice (in all senses – starting with economic justice) , real emancipation (as contrast to the slavery of capital termed as ‘freedom to choose jobs’).

    For details of our activities kindly visit and have a look at our monthly magazine ‘socialist’. Also available there are several booklets written by our colleagues on issues relating to Pakistan and world affairs.

    Are u on facebook ? If so become my friend. My id on facebook is ‘asim.jaan’.

    Alternatively we can communicate via email. My address is

    warm rgds

  • sl y jamal says:

    Welcome back Asim Jaan!!! what a relief to hear from you. I visited your Worldtownin website apparently, you keep a pretty tight schedule in your day to day activities. Noted your Karachi meeting, was a grand success inspite of the thin attendance.

    not on Facebook till even date so, this blog is great for a jaw,jaw with you also noted your e-mail address.

    Thanking you and wishing you all the best!!!

  • sl jamal says:

    Hi guys,

    Its been ages since any activities on this blog, no wonder the Swat Operations are also in a very scary phase despite return of thousand of refugees as, Taliban cleansing apparently is an ongoing process. Corpses lying around Mingora with, hands tied behind their backs are pretty certain signs of the Military Junta/ISI’s active dark hands of classic elemination regime!!!

    Oh boy this is re-visiting Bangladesh 1971 dark days under the same Military Junta/ISI quite capable of mass murders,rapes, loots and plunders in broad daylights continuously for months together!!! Are the leadership; stupid, blind, deaf and dumb or deliberately playing into the hands of this invisible Govt – ISI???

    Wake up guys and wrap up this bloody episode once and for all if Pak must move forward!!!

    Have a nice day, take care!!!

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