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Taliban vis-à-vis the state of Pakistan

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Daud Khattak

Such is the level of fear among the common people that not a single person from the village, not even the family members of the three abducted whose hands were severed, dared to inform the political administration or any other available state or government agency

The Taliban chopped off the hands of three alleged thieves in Orakzai tribal agency last week. Though the horrible episode was reported in the media, the government, as usual, has stayed quiet and apparently ignored this ‘state-within-the-state’ act.

Why were these three men amputated and under which law? Can someone claim, with authority, the government’s writ in Orakzai, one of the seven tribal agencies of the country? Even if they were guilty of committing theft, under which authority are armed men allowed to cut their hands to implement their style of Islam and shariah?

After many efforts, I managed to talk to one of the three affected people, Razim Shah, over the telephone to know what exactly happened in the remote Kundi village where the armed bigots are calling the shots.

The 26-year-old Razim Shah, who is the father of two children, admitted that the three were involved in theft, but their families and elders, according to him, had settled the matter with the other party and both sides had agreed on a settlement.

Still, hooded armed men broke into Shah’s house one night, dragged him out and kept him, along with his two other abettors – Khaista Khan and Bahmal Khan – in their private prison.

No one, neither among the village people nor from the government, dared question the abduction and the illegal detention of the three people during those days. Moreover, such is the level of fear among the common people that not a single person from the village, not even the family members of the three, dared to inform the political administration or any other available state or government agency.

Kundi village cannot be singled out here. A majority of those who lost their near and dear ones due to Taliban violence in the tribal areas, for one reason or another, opt to keep mum and do not blame the Taliban publicly even though they have migrated from the lawless areas and are presently living in the somewhat safer cities.

This illustrates the level of trust by the people in the state, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of the life and property of each and every individual, and the degree of trepidation inculcated in their hearts and minds by the Taliban tactics over the months and years.

Returning to the ordeal of Razim Shah, the three men were brought before the Taliban court, blindfolded, after 40 days in captivity, and the men in waiting then ordered the cutting of their right hands, disregarding the settlement between the alleged thieves and the other party.

Asked why his family had not informed the government when they were in Taliban captivity for 40 days, the hapless Razim Shah said, “Which government? To whom do we complain? There is no one to help us.”

This is the state of affairs in most parts of the tribal areas where individuals do not even know where to go and whom to approach for their complaints. And this is not just an isolated case that has come to the fore from areas being (mis)ruled by the self-proclaimed defenders of Islam.

It is not unexpected if the people who are out to challenge the writ of the state commit such crimes, but the irony is the absence of the state and government, its security agencies and political administration, which draw huge sums from the national exchequer to ensure the writ of the government and safety of life and property of individuals.

Happenings like the one in Kundi village and many others, both reported and unreported, are rampant and the state has done nothing. In Swat a girl was reportedly flogged by armed Taliban and their spokesman, Muslim Khan, admitted the same before a television camera along with boasting about how they behead people and slaughter them like animals; in Bajaur Taliban violence knew no bounds; in Mohmand Agency alleged kidnappers were publicly executed just a few kilometres from Peshawar; in South Waziristan hundreds of elders were killed without knowing their sin, and in Khyber, again, public executions were conducted just a few kilometres from Peshawar. Hence fear of the Taliban has ossified in the hearts and minds of common citizens, finally compelling them to believe that this is their fate and there is no way of emancipation.

And the harm caused by this psyche among the masses is unimaginable. It is not only the dwellers of Kundi village who will accept the Taliban as a power towering over the state of Pakistan. In this age of media revolution, the story has reached every village, town and city. The people are also now being conditioned to believe the same, thus further dwindling their trust in the state and its institutions supposed to safeguard individuals.

In recent months, the terminology of “winning hearts and minds” has become the most used catchphrase in each and every discussion regarding the tribal areas or other troubled parts where the armed forces are conducting operations against the Taliban.

One such operation is also underway against the militants in Orakzai Agency. But can someone actually answer how the government or its security agencies will win the hearts and minds of the people in the face of public executions, chopping off of hands and kidnapping for ransom?

Distribution of food items or small financial amounts as compensation is like distributing mere lollypops and cannot win hearts and minds. To accomplish the job is to restore the trust of the people in the state by ensuring the safety of their lives and property in each and every part of the country.

The writer can be reached at khattakjr@gmail.com

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Written by rohitkumarsviews

May 12, 2010 at 10:41 am