Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TALIBAN – Its Origin And The Historical Background

Etymologically, the word Taliban, the plural form derived from the Arabic word Talib meaning student. Therefore, in linguistic sense Taliban means a group of students. However, in modern context it is a chaotic group of Islamist student militia which emerged in the last decade of twentieth century as a Jihadi movement in South and Central Asia with the joint assistance of Mullah-Military alliance in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and tacit support of America.

In the absence of any respectable job opportunity, the frustrated youths from Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan set up by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam who opted for Jihad as career were recruited by ISI to fight against Soviet army in Afghanistan. Darul Uloom Haqqania, a prominent Deobandi madrasa which is about 45 kilometres south of Peshawar and about two hours drive from the border in North West Frontier Province of Pakistan played a major role in educating these youths. Maulana Abdul Haq, teaching Hadith at Darul Uloom Deoband in India founded this madrasa in 1947 on the pattern of Deobandi ideology. His son Maulana Samiul Haq, the former Senator (Member of Upper House in Pakistan) and head of his own faction of Jamiatul Islami is presently the VC of this madrasa. His son Hamidul Haq has also been teaching religion in this madrasa since 1993. Known as university of Jihadis, this madrasa is said to be producing about 300 Islamist warriors every year who dedicated their lives to Jihad. It accommodated a large number of refugee students from Afghanistan during Soviet invasion in 1979 and also issued a fatwa declaring Jihad against the invasion. Responding to the call, the extreme Islamist establishments from other Muslim countries like Bangladesh, Libya, Sudan, Egypt and Gulf nations also sent youths to join the Jihad against Soviet army.
According to the findings of Times on line on Persian Gulf about 90% of Taliban leadership including Mullah Omar were the students of Darul Uloom Haqqania. Brainwashed by Deobandi Mullhas with Jihadi ideology and trained in terror war crafts by Pakistan army this group of Sunni Deobandis predominantly Pashtun youths fought during Afghan war of 1980s.

With high morale after their success in throwing out the Soviet army from Afghanistan, these jobless, faction-ridden and chaotic Jihadis who called themselves Taliban emerged as an indigenous movement in 1994 against the warlords indulged in loot rape and murder in Afghanistan. Pakistan being their handler during Afghan war re-organised them with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia, direct or indirect support from USA and made them an effective political and military entity.

Emerging as a brute Jihadi movement with hot pursuit and proactive spirit killing thousands of innocent people, Taliban also provided a jihadi vigor to all the homegrown terror groups in the region. After tasting power with southern and western Afghanistan with the backing from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan they could gradually control a majority of provinces in this country and their brutality reigned Afghanistan for five years from 1996 to September 2001 until they were thrown out of power by US army, its NATO allies and the Northern Alliance. However, despite their best efforts, they failed to put them back in the bottle. Instead, Taliban regrouped in 2004 and revived their terror war not only against the present regime in Afghanistan but also in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. It is said that these Jihadis are the “de facto rulers of the province”. In the third week of February 2009 they forced the Government of Pakistan to sign an agreement for Shariat based administration in Swat valley. With a series of explosions in Pakistan including the attack on the cricket team of Sri Lanka and on a police training camp in Lahore, the Taliban has now been found to be dictating terms with Pakistan government. Ironically, both Pakistan and America are found in a mood to negotiate with the so called moderate Taliban. However, so long as the financial assistance from Saudi Arabia and Mullha-Military alliance of Pakistan to meet their respective ideological needs of promoting Wahhabism and strategic needs against India and Afghanistan remain their policy in South Asia of taming their Frankenstein monster Taliban is a remote possibility.

To understand the geo-political interest of the co-founders of Taliban, it is necessary to understand the inspirational link of the latter with the prominent Islamic revival movements since the collapse of the hegemony of Islamist warlords in South Asia. Believing in strictly radical interpretation of Islam and with objective to establish Islamic political power all over the world particularly in South Asia, Taliban draws inspiration not only from the long march of Islamist conquests by Arabian warlords from seventh century AD onwards which created the bloodiest history of world but also from all the Islamic revival movements after the fading glory of Islamic power since eighteenth century AD. One of the latest additions in the chain of the relay of long march of various Islamist groups led by leaders, institutions and organisations like Maulana Abdul Wahab, Shah Waliullah, Syed Ahmad Barelavi, Darul Uloom Deoband, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan of Aligarh Movement, All India Muslim League, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Tablique Jamaat and Jamaat-e-Islami, Taliban too like their ideological fathers believe in Arabisation of Muslim world as a true service to Islam.

Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) was the most radical Islamist who launched a militant movement to cleanse the Islamic powers from deviated versions of Islam. With an uncompromising campaign against Sufi tomb-worship, Shiaism and those who were not committed to his austere interpretation of the Sunnat (the customs, practices and traditions of Prophet Muhammad and his companions in Medina) he stressed upon the need for return to the same practices for establishment of Islamic power all over the world. He believed in strict adherence to the ways and practices of seventh century adopted by the Prophet. Any amendment in those practices was not tolerated by him. Although, he died in 1792, his followers carried forward the movement which eventually led to the formation of the present kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His followers were so fanatic that in 1802 they captured the Shiite city of Karbala in Iraq and even destroyed the tomb of Imam Husain, grand son of the Prophet. With uncompromising ideology they continued on rampage throughout Arabian Peninsula. They even smashed the tombs of many Muslim saints and Imams including the tomb of Prophet’s daughter Fatima. It is a historical irony that the same Wahhabi spirit inspired the Taliban just after two centuries to destroy the idols of Buddha in Bamiyan in Afghanistan. Like Wahhab, Taliban too believes in returning to Prophet Era and strict application of Sharia for restoration of Islamic glory and Muslim power as established by the Prophet, his companions and other Islamist warlords in different parts of the world particularly South Asia.

Shah Waliullah (1703-1762) was a great Muslim thinker of his time. Claiming his lineage from Quraysh tribe of Prophet Mohammad and the second Caliph Umar, he stressed upon the need of unity in Muslim community against the political rise of Marathas, Jats and Sikhs. Upset with the political disorder and fading glory of Muslim power he reminded the contemporary Muslim rulers of their holy duty of Jihad and raised the slogan that Islam is in danger. Although he was in agreement with his contemporary Mohammad Wahhab, his ideology was more a political strategy against the rising power of Hindus led by Marathas, Jats and Sikhs than against the Sufi-tomb worship and Shias. He supported the uncompromising Islamic thought of Wahhab for strict compliance of the custom and practices of the Prophet but he floated a theory of rational evaluation of Islam which was nothing but a sugar-coated version of Islamic fundamentalism. He is therefore known as a great Islamic strategist for the political power of Islam. At his invitation Ahmad Shah Durrani a ruling warlord of Afghanistan launched Jihad in Delhi in 1760 and defeated the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat. Highly regarded as a vibrant political Islamist among the Muslim community of South Asia, Shah Wali Ullah is also known as one of the ideological co-fathers of all the Islamist movements including Deoband, Aligarh, Muslim League, Jammaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, Tabligh Jamaat, Jamaat-e-Islami and Taliban. Like Shah Wali Ullah who regarded the rise of the political power of Hindus a danger to Islam, Taliban is not only against the rise of Crusaders, Jews and the Hindus but also against the Muslim powers not following the custom and practices of the Prophet Era.

Syed Ahmad Barelavi popularly known as Syed Ahmad Shahid (1786-1831) was a disciple of Shah Abdul Aziz (son of Shah Waliullah). Inspired with the Islamic strategy of Shah Wali Ullah, he dedicated his life to Jihad. Like Shah Waliullah, he was also upset with the fading glory of Muslim rule. The focal point of his Jihad from 1826 to 1831 was North West Frontier Province presently in Pakistan and then under rule of a non-Muslim ruler Ranjit Singh. Since 1831 when he was killed in the battle of Balkot of this Pashtun dominated province, he is revered by Sunni Muslims as a great martyr for the cause of Islam. Balkot where Sayed lies buried is also an inspiration for Taliban. ‘To this day Balakot where the Syed lies buried is a spot that has been greatly revered, not only by militants in contemporary Pakistan, some of whom have set up training camps near Balakot, but also by anti-colonial nationalists who interpreted the movement as a prelude to a jihad against the British in India’ (Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia by Ayesha Jalal, page 61, Lahore 2008- Source: Internet). Like Syed Ahmad’s Sunni Jihad against a non-Muslim Sikh Ruler, Taliban has also launched a Sunni Jihad against Crusader and its trusted ally Pakistan. It is an irony of fate that like Syed Ahmad who killed more Muslim subjects of Ranjit Singh than the Sikhs, Taliban too are killing more Muslims of Afghanistan and Pakistan than the Americans.

Darul Uloom Deoband:

After the fall of Mogul Empire the frustrated Islamic priestly class who lost their power and positions they had enjoyed during Islamic rule revisited the religio-political concept of Khalifa Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi (1564-1624), Maulana Wahab, Shah Wali Ullah and Syed Ahmad Barelavi and formulated a strategy for institutionalisation of the Islamic revival movement with an objective to restore Muslim power in the subcontinent. Accordingly, prominent Islamic theologians like Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi (1833-77/1832-1880) and Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (1828-1905), who had acted as commander and Qadi (Judge) of the fighting force respectively in Shamali rebellion in 1857 against the British set up a madrasa at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh on 30 May 1866. Gradually, this madrasa became a centre of higher Islamic learning and assumed the present name of Dar-ul-Ulum(Abode of Islamic learning) in 1867. Over the years this radical Islamic institution spread a network of madrasas under its administrative and ideological guidance not only in India but also in a number of Muslim countries. It is now the second biggest Islamic seminary in the world and is only next to Azhar in Cairo. Its strategy to produce clerics for mobilizing the community was not only to keep the Muslim masses under mental blockade but also a subtle attempt to convince them that Islamic power was the main ingredient for the revival of resurgent Islam. Upholding the principle of immutability of the Shariat, eschewing the practice of tomb worship and projecting the golden vision of Islam, its aim was ‘to resuscitate classical Islam: to rid the Muslims of the theological corruption and the ritual degradation. Mohtamim Maulana Marguhul Rehmani, Vice chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband while replying to a question—Why Dar-ul-Uloom is called Taliban factory? (Pioneer, 21 October 2001) said, ‘True, Dar-ul-Uloom is the ideological fountainhead of Taliban.’ .Deoband is however, now propagating that Terrorism is un-Islamic but not criticizing Taliban which is getting full support from Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan and other Islamic countries in the world. Darul Uloom Haqqania, a madrasa located in Akhor Khattak on Pakistan border with Afghanistan which is known for producing most of the Taliban fighters including their leader Mullah Omar was founded in 1947 by Maulana Abdul Haq, a teacher of Darul Uloom Deoband. Khaled Ahmed in his article ‘Th e Grand Deobandi Consensus’ published in The Friday Times of Pakistan, dated 4-10 February 2000 said, ‘The civil war in Afghanistan and the jehad in Kashmir have gradually veered to a Deobandi consensus.’ He also maintained that the Taliban of Mulla Umar, which enjoys popularity in Pakistan, was trained in the traditional Deobandi jurisprudence and that Harkat-ul- Ansar (Movement of Islamic warriors), a terrorist outfit in Kashmir is of Deobandi persuasion. He also quoted John K. Cooley in his book Unholy Wars that ‘Mullah Umar and Osma bin Laden first met in 1989 in a Deobandi mosque, Banuri Masjid, in Karachi.’

Aligarh Movment:

Depressed with the plight of the Muslim community after the failure of the Sepoy mutiny of 1857, Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan (1817-98), scion of a Mogul family who was ‘acutely sensitive to the ending of Mogul dominance’ established Madrastul Ulum at Aligarh in 1873 for imparting education to Muslims in modern branches of learning, which later became Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. Drawing inspiration from the tactical moderation of Islam from Walli Ullah, and getting help from the British his philosophy was a synthesis of progressive and orthodox Islam. In fact, the sole objective of Aligarh movement was to restore the Islamic superiority over the Hindus the former subjects of Muslim rulers for which Sir Sayed had a tactical alliance with the British. Taliban had a similar objective to restore Islamist power not only in South and central Asia but also its supremacy all over the world through militant Jihad. Accordingly, they had tactical alliance with America against Russians as Sir Sayed had with the British. The discussion therefore suggests that Taliban is nothing but a practical and political manifestation of all the Islamic revival movements in South Asia. Muslim League, Jamaat-Ulema-e-Hind, Tabligh Jamaat and Jamaat-e-Islami - all the by-products of Aligarh and Deoband are also having direct or indirect ideological link with Taliban. As far as the respective geo-political interest of the co-fathers of Taliban is concerned, we may examine it one by one.

Saudi Arabia:

Ever since the birth of Islam in Saudi Arabia in 622 AD, its warlords started developing cultural arrogance over other countries of Muslim world. Its first Islamic subjugation of Persia (Present Iran), the equally powerful country in the region made the Saudi people more and more arrogant. This superiority complex in Saudis and historical humiliation of Persia not only created a gap of mistrust between the two countries but were also responsible for a separate sect of Shiaism in Iran which was not ready to accept Sunni brand of Islam based on Saudi traditions. Therefore, Saudi kings always remained apprehensive of their equally powerful neighbour. Saudi Arabia was formally founded as an independent kingdom in 1932 after an alliance between warlords of Saud clan led by Mohammad bin Saud and Abdul Wahhab who led an Islamo-fascist movement to purify Islam from Sufism, tomb- worship and Shiaism. The sole objective of Wahhabi movement which became the focal point of all the subsequent Islamic revival movements was to establish orthodox Islamic extremism. Although, Wahhab died in the last decade of eighteenth century, the Saud tribe conquered Mecca and imposed Wahhabi version of Islam in the newly established kingdom. Since then Islamo-fascist ideology remained the national policy of the kingdom.

Being the custodian of the two holy mosques one each at Medina and Mecca, the successive Saudi rulers particularly after the collapse of Caliphate in early 1920s emerged as an icon of the Sunni Muslim world. However, due to the rivalry among the then Muslim countries for the leadership of the Umma (Muslim community), the principal concern of Saudi Arabia was not only to protect the House of Saud and its oil fields but also to prevent the country from the expansionist designs of Shiite Iran. Besides, being rulers of a country with larger area but small population as well as a leading oil producer and exporter they always remained scared of the more populous and powerful neighbours like Egypt, Iran and Iraq. Thus, believing in conflict on multiple fronts: militarily, economically, diplomatically and ideologically to safe guard its geo-political interest to retain its grip on power and leadership of Sunni Muslim world it formulated national policy to export ideologically fierce fundamentalist form of orthodox Sunni Islamic extremism across the world. However, over the years, people of the country in general and moderate intellectuals in particular were found uncomfortable with the imposed orthodox ideology which has debarred them from leading a modern life. Interestingly, a significant section of people were also found turning to Sufism which is totally against Wahhabism. Besides, the Shia minority in the kingdom was also restive due to their violent persecution at the hands of Wahhabi clergies. Thus, with avowed objective to protect the kingdom from modernists and also from Shiite Iran, Saudi Kingdom provided huge financial assistance for promotion of Taliban to promote Islamic extremism which could serve its interest for retaining the leadership of the Sunni Muslim world. Out of over fifty Islamic countries Saudi Arabia is one of the three countries including Pakistan and United Arab Emirates which recognized Taliban as a legitimate Government of Afghanistan and its brute governance from 1996 to September 2001. “Even after 9/11, the radical mullah bureaucracy in Saudi Arabia continues to foster religious extremism. When bombs go off in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Kenya, Indonesia, and elsewhere, Saudi Arabia is still the main source of the terrorist money. The kingdom is an unwavering nerve center of ideological indoctrination, incitement, and terrorist financing” (Nerve Centre of Islamic Extremism is Saudi Arabia, not Pakistan-

To understand the geopolitical interest of Pakistan behind the creation of Taliban, one must try to understand that Pakistan was created on the political ideology of extreme Islamism for which the Muslim leaders in British India launched high voltage Hate-India campaign. Therefore, from its very birth the geopolitical strategy of Pakistan moved around its hate-India national policy. After its emergence as new Islamic state, it looked for financial assistance towards Saudi Arabia a neo-rich oil giant. It also became a loyal ally of America also to strengthen its military power. America on the other hand with its geopolitical strategy against Soviet Union wanted a trusted ally in South Asia and therefore obliged Pakistan by providing financial assistance for strengthening its military. Thus, with financial assistance from two major foreign financers, military-mullah alliance became the basis of political power in Pakistan.

During the Afghan struggle against Soviet Union, Pakistan played the role of a broker to serve the interest of both Saudi Arabia and USA and got billions of dollars from them. Apart from spending the fund for producing Jihadis from madrasa trained students to fight against Soviet army, it also used this fund for building up its own nuclear weaponry against the so called threat from India. It may also be mentioned that Pakistan had been facing border conflict with Afghanistan ever since its creation in 1947. The Baluch and Pashtun ethnic groups in the bordering region between the two countries not only opposed the partition but never accepted the Durand line created by the British to demarcate the border between the two countries. In fact the leaders of these two ethnic groups living in both sides of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan had not supported the creation of Pakistan. They were rather the allies of Indian National Congress and opposed partition. Thus Pakistan with an implicit aim to keep Afghanistan under its influence always tried to have a weak government in this country which could be subservient to it. The loss of its eastern wing in 1971 after creation of Bangladesh was always a source of its worry as it expected return of similar impulse in Kabul. Besides, it tried to keep Afghanistan on its side to have a joint Muslim venture for encroachment of Indian territories. It never liked to see any foothold of India in Pakistan.

Although, Pakistan gave a political identity to Taliban, America lost its immediate interest in it after the defeat of Soviet army in Afghanistan. It however, did not prevent Saudi Arabia and Pakistan from nourishing this monster. Pakistan had to take a 180 degree turn after 9/11 and had to prove itself as a true ally of USA against Taliban. However, the jinn once out of bottle showed its power by controlling the Swat valley. With their presence in the interiors of Pakistan they are now in a move to Talibanise whole of this country.

Both Saudi kingdom and its indirect regent Pakistan are now landed between devil and the deep sea. Since Saudi Arabia does not have any border with Afghanistan, it is not facing any immediate problem from Taliban. However, Pakistan due to its long standing border conflict with Afghanistan is facing the heat from its own creation. Getting pressure from America in one hand to sever its link from Taliban and from the Mullah group in the country for supporting Taliban, Pakistan is found sandwiched. Now the echo of the roar of the resurgent Sunni Taliban from the region along the Pak-Afghan boarder is also found vibrating across Indo-Pak border a cause of concern to India.

Though USA never gave recognition to the government of Taliban in Afghanistan, it did not put any objection against such recognition by its trusted allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Its initial interest in Taliban was to use this Sunni Islamist militia against Shiite Iran and expected stability in Afghanistan to satisfy its economic interest. However, it proved to be the strategic failure of America in Afghanistan and after September 11, it had to fight against Taliban. Now under the leadership of Obama USA is apparently found to be serious to fight to finish Taliban. It has repeatedly asked Pakistan to sever its entire link with Taliban, Al Qaida and other terror groups operating from Pak-Afghan border, the most dangerous zone of the world as far as Islamic terrorism is concerned. According to media report it is arranging global aid worth $ 35 billion for developments and planning $2.8 billion military aid to Pakistan. America is aware that it is its military supply relationship with Pakistan provides real strength to latter’s hate-India policy and Taliban is an updated Jihadi strategy of terror war against India and expansion of Arabian imperialism in South Asia. Thus, without any commitment from Pakistan to demolish Mullah-Military alliance, the main spirit behind Taliban makes the credibility of Obama regime on war against terror doubtful. Therefore, if America is serious to check the long march of Taliban and transform the most dangerous terror zone of the world to a peace zone, it must apply the brakes on Saudi kingdom against export of Jihadi ideology to various Islamist establishments in South Asia and demolish the Mullah-Military alliance which formed the basis of political power in Pakistan ever since its birth.