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Wrong Side Of Religion!

Wrong Side Of Religion!

Author: C R IRANI
Publication: The Statesman
Date: November 18, 2001

Ever since America's world-wide campaign against terrorism in early October, we have been crying ourselves hoarse that Pakistan and Taliban are locked in an inseparable embrace and Pakistani inputs would be misleading. They are now finding out for themselves, which is always the best way to learn! Witness the fiasco over commando raids inside Taliban territory and the murder of Abdul Haq, a Northern Alliance commander, led to his death by Pakistani officers in league with Taliban. They did not even allow his family to bury him. Vladimir Putin, having failed to convince Bush of the true nature of the Pakistan/ Taliban axis, did not waste time; black belt karate experts tend not to do so! He went straight to Burhanuddin Rabbani, once president of Afghanistan, living in Dushanbe, which persuaded Bush that if he wanted an end of Osama bin Laden and terrorism, he should be careful about humouring Musharraf.

Bush and Musharraf then turn into traffic cops, asking Northern Alliance to stop outside Kabul, meander around it to the south, there to wait until Bush, Blair and Musharraf give further instructions. The Alliance have benefited from the fearful American bombing but Bush also knew that only their troops could defeat Taliban. The fall of Kabul was greeted with jubilation; television screens gave the lie to Musharraf's simulated fears.

It is time to correct misconceptions fed to America by Pakistan:

1) The Taliban must be part of any new government on ethnic grounds. All Pashtuns are not Taliban nor are all Taliban, Pashtuns. Taliban include, Arabs and Pakistanis among other fanatics. The impressive Foreign Minister of the provisional government set up by the Northern Alliance, Dr Abdullah Abdullah is a Pashtun. The majority of commanders of the Northern Alliance are pashtuns.

2) The reason for Musharraf's panic is clear enough. Pakistani regulars fighting alongside Taliban were in danger of exposure; it transpires that 19 Urdu speaking Pakistanis were captured in Kabul in one go. Jubilant crowds greeted Alliance troops shouting - death to Taliban!, death to Pakistan! Children spat on the dead mercenaries. Retreating Taliban took young women with them. Protection of virtue and prevention of vice - my foot!

3) Pakistan shares a long border with Afghanistan and therefore any new administration in Kabul must be friendly to Pakistan. The short answer is that India has a longer border with Pakistan and no friendship! By Musharraf's logic, Islamabad should change its government! It is no part of the duty of any country to pass a friendship test imposed by a neighbour. Friendship is a two-way street; unless Musharraf is wanting yet another bonus from America - at Afghanistan's expense.

4) A desperate Musharraf is demanding United Nations' intervention, which he can manipulate with American help. This is merely absurd. Dr Abdullah has invited all groups to come to Kabul to discuss a new government. That is how it should be and the UN could be a facilitator. Kofi Annan has already asked all outsiders (including Pakistan) to stay out.

5) Afghanistan is Pashtun. This is simply not true. The population is mixed; although Pashtuns are the largest single group, they do not constitute a majority by themselves. Does Musharraf order his own country on ethnic lines? Does he allow representation for Shias, Mohajirs, Ahmediyas and the rest? Does he give any Pakistani for that matter, any say in the country's affairs? By what right then does he preach to others? Mutatis mutandis, this goes for Bush and Blair too. Religion plays no part in their affairs; neither does ethnic extraction. Why then must these be relevant in Afghanistan? Why cannot all those who inhabit Afghanistan be treated as Afghans?

6) Afghanistan has Islamic fundamentalists and the rest and the divide is sharp. The Taliban would not allow men to shave, women to work, girls to go to school or music or chess to be played. The name of the game is oppression and oppressors must be crushed, not invited into a new government!. The first edict of the Northern Alliance in Kabul was to remove these restrictions. Music is playing, men are shaving beards and women have come into their own. Musharraf would herd these two incompatibles into one government, hoping that while the cats quarrel, he can run away with the nuts! The world is not that dumb.

7) Now the riddle. Musharraf is not a fundamentalist, yet he has forged unbreakable links with the Taliban and is desperate to give them a place in the sun, something rightly denied by the Northern Alliance and other countries including France. Apart from the greed involved in drug trafficking, his excuse is religion, his objective, Kashmir. He needs fanatics to die for Islam there. It is now proven that Taliban have used mercenaries including Pakistanis. Why does Bush say he will not give Northern Alliance any favours? Nobody has asked him for any!

Afghanistan has a right to be treated as a civilised country. We must not accept the wrong side of religion.

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