Ask the Right Questions

Nov 2012

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It constitutes a refusal to see how the continuing state of war in Afghanistan, the drone strikes in FATA, and Pakistani military operations have only contributed to an increase in militancy, and in fact to an unprecedented level of collaboration between various militant outfits across ethnic and tribal differences.

The Pakistan military, for its part, has only managed to offer “peace deals” to the various militant groups which not only left the latter’s power intact but in fact has added to it. The only thing the much-touted military operations in Swat and South Waziristan have achieved are serious human rights abuses at the hands of the intelligence forces and the displacement of millions.

As the popular Urdu slogan has it:

Yeh jo dehshatgardi hai                                                    یہ جو دہشتگردی ہے
Iss ke peeche vardi hai                                                  اس کے پیچھے وردی ہے

[This terrorism, behind it is the (army) uniform.]

And yet, these are the forces being posited as those who can save Pakistani and Afghan women from the Taliban.

Perhaps it is apposite here to turn to the insights of another female firebrand from “Af-Pak,” Malalai Joya, who herself lives in fear of her life, and not just from the Taliban. “I believe,” says Joya,  “that the only solution for the catastrophic situation of Afghanistan is withdrawal of all of the troops from our country because their presence is making much harder our struggle for justice and peace.”

So, if we are concerned with women’s rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the threat posed by the Taliban, let us also ask the following: Is there a way to safely support women’s rights in areas under attack by the NATO forces and the Pakistani military? What can we do to stop these armies from terrorizing civilians?

Dr. Saadia Toor teaches Sociology at the City University of New York. She is the author of State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan, published by Pluto Press.

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4 Responses to Ask the Right Questions

  1. […] questions and understanding the structural causes of our current predicament. Finally, Toor turns the exercise on its head and provides some interesting questions of her […]

  2. Shahid on Nov 2012 at 2:00 PM

    I generally am very allergic to statements like

    “…. TTP was formed as recently as 2007 as a direct consequence of the occupation of Afghanistan, and that its ranks are filled with the veterans of the US’s previous adventure, which left the country in the grip of a civil war and the region awash in drugs and guns.”

    TTP was not formed as a direct consequence of occupation of Afghanistan. If you mean to draw a very long connection, then that’s disingenuous at best.

    I’m guessing here’s how the ‘connection’ goes:
    1. US lands in Afghanistan.
    2. Pakistan is asked to and tries to control it’s section of the border so as to stop escaping AQ and Taliban foot soldiers.
    3. Pakistan starts facing old and new terrorism elements internally.
    4. Various factions combine after the Siege of Lal Masjid in opposition to Pakistani state.
    5. Hence, US occupation is responsible for creation of the TTP.

    It’s such a long draw that I have to shake my head because when academics angrily write against media portrayals as not being nuanced enough or lacking depth or using cliched points and stereotypes, they forget these very standards in their own writing. Nuance on the creation of the TTP perhaps?

    As much as it would loathe most academics to concern themselves with the details of militant groups’ histories, as generally occupied with writing on state imperialism these days, even the founding head of the TTP, Baitullah Mehsud, was barely a teenager during the ‘Afghan Jihad’ days. TTP elements have to have been in their mid to late 30s to have been foot soldiers in that sponsored resistance. Most, very very most, never took part in it. A sizeable number did take part in the aftermath, the civil war, mostly forgotten in thick essays on imperialist hubris.

    Anyhow, Baitullah was used in some ways against the first major militant leader to turn guns directly against the Pakistani state, Abdullah Mehsud. The TTP was formed after the Siege of Lal Masjid as a ‘reaction’ (however disgusting that word makes me feel here). A major contention was that the Pakistani state was mounting pressure on the various militant factions to abide by earlier peace terms to expel Uzbek, Turk, Chinese, Arab and other ‘terror tourists’. Having used Uzbeks against their local opponents, Baitullah and others did not agree, and formed a combined front against the state.

    • Kamal Memon on Oct 2014 at 1:38 PM

      No doubt about it that the creation of TTP is NOT directly related to the US invasion of Afg but dont you think that the underline factor of Jihadi culture and mindset which was cultivated in the region by the chain of madarsahs and petro dollars for the Afghan Jihad was THE major reason which made the existence of such a large organized extermist militant group feasible.

  3. Kailas on Jan 2013 at 6:07 AM

    I have a 4-year-old daughter who has rlelay been hating pre-school this year because she wants to be successful at everything the first time she tries, and when she isn’t, she gets angry. I was getting rlelay tired of the struggle of forcing her to go when she heard a part of Malala Yousufzai’s story on the radio and asked about it. I told her that in certain parts of the world, people don’t want girls to go to school and they do very bad things to keep them from going. That’s why I am grateful to live in a country where girls have the same educational opportunities that boys have. It seemed to be a story she needed to hear. She has stopped telling me that she hates school. She has stopped whining about not wanting to go. She has started praying that other girls around the world will get to go to school, too.

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