Wednesday, April 13, 2005

TALIBAN: What did the Taliban do wrong?

Here are some of the things the Taliban in Afghanistan should or should not have done:

a) Be tolerant to ordinary people
The ordinary Afghan people could not adjust easily to the imposition of harsh religious measures, even if these were justified and well-intentioned. Following the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, the Taliban should have allowed more time, used more persuasion and applied less pressure to bring the Shariat into the daily lives of the people. The ordinary people cannot reach the highest moral standards immediately.

b) Economy comes first
The Taliban should have given more attention and resources to improving the economy of the devastated country and to creating job opportunities. It was extremely difficult for most people in the war-ravaged country even to survive. The religious agenda could become more acceptable after the most people had at least two square meals a day.

c) Some education for girls was better than no education
The Taliban could have set up separate schools and other educational institutions for girls. They could also change the courses and syllabi for them. But they should not have closed the existing schools and institutions while preparing to achieve their objectives.

d) Begging is not better than jobs for women
There could be segregation for women but they should have been allowed to continue with their existing jobs in education, health services, etc. That would not have forced them to beg on the streets. It would have also avoided the complaints of human rights organizations in the West that led to the stoppage of humanitarian aid in many cases. In due course, opportunities could have been created for women to have jobs that did not involve mixing with men.

e) You cannot be aloof from the world
You may not care for the world but you cannot afford to ignore it. There was no harm in listening to what the others, particularly in the West, said and suggested. By removing some of their complaints, the Taliban could have gained more recognition, more aid and better understanding. They also could get more international sympathy and support against what the US was raring to do. Every poor country needs these things to survive and make life somewhat easier for its people.

f) Being Muslims would have been better than being Pashtuns
The Taliban should have behaved like true Muslims and made a compromise with the Northern Alliance, instead of trying to crush and overpower them with force because they were not Pashtuns. By treating the people in the North as brothers and giving some concessions to their leaders, they could bring the entire country under a single government. It would have not only gained more international recognition (however grudging) but also denied the Americans a foothold on Afghanistan territory and a readymade Northern Alliance force to use against them. (The US so has been unable to attack Iraq mainly because it cannot put its feet anywhere inside the country.)

g) Usama should not have been retained at all costs
Usama might have been a benefactor to Afghanistan before and after the Taliban came into power. There also may be a strong Afghan tradition of not throwing out a guest. Still, without being rude to him, Usama could have been asked to change his residence for the time being, especially after the ulema had recommended it. After all, Usama did leave Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban. He could have done so earlier and saved such havoc to the Afghan people and the Taliban themselves.

h) Peace is always better than war
Unlike the common belief, history doesn’t repeat itself. If the Taliban knew the history of their wars with the British and the Russians, so did the Americans. If the Taliban believed that a guerilla war would go their way, so did the Americans. So, the Taliban should not have deluded themselves to believe that the Americans would repeat the blunders of previous imperialist powers and give them a war of their own choice. Any peace arrangement, therefore, was certainly preferable to an all-out war.

i) Never be arrogant
When the official delegation from Pakistan went to meet Mulla Umar to persuade him to agree to a compromise in view of the very aggressive mood of the Americans, he was reported to have refused to listen, saying, “Don’t lecture to us. You never won any war and we never lost one.” The pride doth have a fall. Even the Holy Prophet chose peace when a war would not have been in the national interest.

The history of the region would have been vastly different if Mulla Umar had listened to Pakistan and found a way out. We can always learn from history. He too must have realized it by now – wherever he happens to be at present.


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