Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swat Is Burning

Swat Is Burning ( is the name of a blog/website that I came across recently, which documents the fall of the Swat district of Pakistan into the hands of Taliban control. The advancement of the Taliban into areas of Pakistan has become quite alarming recently, due to how fast events seem to be occurring. They recently moved into another district called Buner, which is about 70 miles from the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad.

The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the infamous Durrand Line set up under British dominion slightly over a hundred years ago, is a line which essentially means nothing to the Pashtun peoples who live on both sides of the border, and they cross over back and forth freely and regularly. This is the area of the famous Khyber Pass, notable for infamous British last stands and final defeats, as was the case as well for the Russians in the 1980's, and where I fear we may become involved militarily at some point soon. This Pashtun belt is essentially the sanctuary for the Taliban, and is the area widely regarded as the place where Osama Bin Laden is hidden; kept safe by these people and their code of Pashtunwali, in which protection of the one who asks for it is the duty of all Pashtuns.

The Pashtuns have really never been defeated by anyone, and they essentially govern themselves in the north-west parts of Pakistan in which they predominate, as the Pakistani government has never been able to establish any sort of rule over them. The problem now is that this Afghan-Pakistan Pashtun belt, initially ruled by indigenous tribal systems of government, has increasingly been taken over by the Taliban, which were essentially religious students from the madrassahs or religious schools of north-west Pakistan who, in defeating the multiple warlords of Afghanistan and establishing a sort of welcome social order, brought with them an extremist version of Islam that is particularly extreme towards women (the traditional, moderate Islam of traditional Afghanistan was not like what the Taliban eventually brought along with them).

Now, this Taliban movement is expanding further into other areas of Pakistan from its north-west base of operations. It has taken over the Swat district (please refer to the Swat Is Burning blog), and is slowly encroaching upon the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. This is bad, not only for Pakistan, but for us as well, because Pakistan is a nuclear armed nation. We cannot and would not allow nuclear arms to fall into the hands of the Taliban, so the U.S. will continue to closely watch events in Pakistan. Some say that the situation is not so extreme as it might seem; that Pakistan itself would not allow encroachments from out of the Pashtun belt into non-Pashtun areas of the country (which is the major part of the country, made up of Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochis and other groups). It is alarming though, how the Pakistani army and police have essentially given up territory, and have in some cases fled from areas in which the Taliban were moving into.

The M.O. of the Taliban in Pakistan is essentially this: they move into a district, set up a radio station, establish Shariah law (or their version of it one might say), close all girls schools, read lists of names of those already found guilty of various "crimes", and in some instances take and behead some of these individuals from the lists. This establishes terror in a district, and this is how they gain control over the citizenry.

I used to be of the opinion that cultures are all different, and regardless of how "unusual" or even "bizarre" the cultural practices of others might be, that we should respect all cultures and how they organize themselves. After seeing the beating (on the legs) of the 17 yr. old girl on TV (not sure if it was in Pakistan or Afganistan) as her legs were held down, for being in the company of a similarly aged male, not her relative (this was her crime, and she was told that she was lucky she was not stoned), I no longer believe as I once did. The Taliban, while bringing order to a chaotic Afghanistan full of rape, pillaging and robbery, has established a system too repressive wherever it has went. This is not any form of traditional Afghan culture, Pakistani culture or Islamic culture, but an aberration of culture by an extremist group that now threatens the very existence of an established, nuclear state. We would do well to keep a very close eye on both Pakistan and the advancement there of a rising Taliban.


Blogger Willowtree said...

Is there anything that we can do but keep a close eye on the situation?

9:23 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

It's hard to be directly involved from this distance, but I would say to follow blogs like "Swat Is Burning" for the latest info, and especially support groups who advocate for women's rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's something I'd like to do. I'm more convinced than ever that it is through the women that these type of societies will be changed one day for the betterment of all.

You can tell how President Obama really understands this situation, by how he shifted attention more towards Afghanistan and Pakistan and somewhat away from Iraq.

11:56 AM  

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