The Taliban and moderation: a contradiction in terms

Akram Gizabi – Nov 25, 2001 |

Recently, there have been talks of including “moderate Taliban” in the future government of Afghanistan. This is a notion raised by Pakistan during the visit of Secretary of State Collin Powell to Islamabad. Let’s examine this notion as to who these Taliban could be:

Who among the Taliban are the moderates? Those who carried out the executions of at least 8,000 people in Mazar-e-Sharif in August of 1998 or those who dragged dozens of patients out of hospital beds in the city of Bamian and shot them just because they were Hazaras?

Who are the moderates? Those who had planned the executions or those who murdered innocent civilians in cold blood? Those who ordered the destruction of the orchards and vineyards in the Shomali plains north of Kabul or those who carried out the scorched earth policy?

Who are the moderates? The ones that spouse the idea of simple enslavement of women or the ones that sell them as commodities to the highest bidder? The ones that just put the women under house arrest or the ones who beat them in public as well?

Who are the moderates? The ones that are just on Bin Laden’s payroll or the ones that actively participate in their Jihad against the infidels? The ones that just give him shelter or the ones who protect him as well?

Who are the moderates? Those that just ordered the destruction ancient statues of Bhudda or the ones that blew them up?

Who are the moderates? The political leaders, the military commanders, the propagandists, the dreaded vice and virtue police or the foot soldiers who kill with impunity?

Let’s not kid ourselves. A Taleb (Pashto singular of Taliban, used interchangeably) in today’s Afghan context is someone who has studied in the religious schools in Pakistan, who has no feelings for Afghans or Afghanistan other than his cohorts; who has no knowledge of Islam other than just reading the Koran; who kills for God and who if killed goes to heaven. He is more at ease in Pakistan than in Afghanistan. The Taliban is a foreign phenomenon, alien to Afghans and Afghanistan. They have studied in Pakistan’s Deobandi Madrassahs under the heavy influence of Saudi Wahabis. As such there is no moderation.

Taliban and moderation are a contradiction in terms. Did the Nazis have some moderate elements among them? If they did who were they? The Goebels, the Hesses, the Goerings, the Gestapo, or the soldiers in the concentration camps who willingly sent hundreds of thousands of Jews to gas chambers?  The analogy may sound farfetched, but it is only in the degree of atrocities. Wait a few more years and you will see the lack of proportionality disappears. All it needs is a few more Hijackings and operations and the use of chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons.

If the notion is to include some elements of Pashtoons in the future Afghan government, the ex-King, himself a moderate Pashtoon, is in the best position to find them. Pashtoons’ governing role in
Afghanistan did not start with the Taliban and will not end with them. Although the Taliban are exclusively Pashtoons, they neither symbolize nor represent the true sentiments of Pashtoons.

The idea of moderate Taliban is tossed around by Pakistan, which still wants to have sway in Afghan affairs. Who could better provide that than the Taliban whose sentiments are more toward Pakistan than with Afghanistan?

Let’s have a clean start after the Taliban’s downfall. The US and others should not repeat the misadventures of Pakistan’s ISI and should not give a carte blanche to Pakistan. If the objective is to have a government friendly to Pakistan, in Kabul, it can be achieved through a dialogue among Afghans, not through Pakistan’s interference. The Afghans understand Pakistan’s concern but they very much resent its interference in their internal affairs. If the US or UN wants to resolve the Afghan crisis once and for all, they should not play at the hands of ISI or Musharraf and should not insist on the inclusion of the Taliban in the future government of Afghanistan. Afghanistan can be friendly to Pakistan and to the rest of the world without the inclusion of the Taliban. They represent neither Afghans, nor Afghanistan.

Nobody in his right mind will establish a government in Kabul that would be antagonistic to Pakistan. Therefore, why is there insistence on the inclusion of the Taliban while any non-Taleb Pashtoon or even non-Pashtoon ethnic groups for the sake of their national interest would not opt for a hostile regime in Afghanistan?

Let’s not forget that it was Pakistan which created the monster of Taliban and gave it unqualified support to rampage though Afghanistan. If the US in its campaign against terrorism, rewarded Pakistan, out of necessity or choice, it should not play at the hand of Pakistan, especially when it comes to the decision on the future government of Afghanistan.

Let’s not for the sake of appeasing this or that government, create a non-representative, non-democratic government in Afghanistan that would not be functional or appropriate. The Afghans if left alone have the sagacity to determine what is good for themselves and what is good for others. Let’s not put the interest of others ahead of the interest of Afghanistan. If the US or the UN backs the Afghans, especially, non-Taliban Afghans to freely decide about their future, they will not create a monster such as the Taliban. Regimes like that of the Taliban are brought about by foreign power for their own narrow minded self interest.

The Taliban should not be shoved down the throat of Afghans once again. The Afghans have had more than enough of them. If anything the Taliban should be brought in a Nuremberg type trial for the crimes that they and their “guests” have committed against humanity in their own country and for the accomplices that they are to those that are carried out against others outside Afghanistan.

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Akram Gizabi

The writer is a former VOA journalist. He is an analyst on Hazaras, Afghanistan, and South Asia. Twitter: @AGizabi

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