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Barbarians at the gate

Barbarians at the gate

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 22, 2009
URL: http://dailypioneer.com/157991/Barbarians-at-the-gate.html

There is sufficient reason to be worried about the gutless civilian Government in Pakistan abjectly capitulating to the Islamic fanatics of Swat Valley who have prohibited girls from attending school, ordered women to stay at home, instructed parents to give their daughters as 'wives' to the Taliban, begun flogging men in public squares, and will soon replace popular entertainment by way of films and music with stoning victims of rape to death in bazaars. With the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi - never mind that we are talking about the Pakistani variety of Mullah Omar's masked Afghan killers - virtually coming to power in Malakand division of North-West Frontier Province, reducing the secular ANP Government to no more than a nominal 'authority' forced to do Islamabad's bidding, it's only a matter of time before the geographic expanse of 'Jihadistan' increases to consume large chunks of what remains of Mohammed Ali Jinnah's moth-eaten Pakistan.

It's really of little or no relevance that last week's 'peace deal' hinges on the imposition of 'Nizam-e-Adl', or shari'ah criminal law: Malakand won't be the only place in the world where limbs will be chopped off for petty offences or women done to death for the crimes of men. Nor should we be unduly impressed by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's description of the Taliban as "murderous thugs and militants" who "pose a danger to Pakistan, the US and India". Surely he hasn't forgotten that it was Benazir Bhutto who connived with the ISI to promote the Taliban, nor should he pretend to be ignorant of the fact that it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who aggressively preached "Islam is the solution, the Islamic Bomb is the means". Having sent Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to the gallows, Gen Zia-ul-Haq could not but have aggressively pushed Islamism and its attendant evils. The poison fruit is now for the PPP and the people of Pakistan to relish.

Mr Arun Jaitley of the BJP was not being facetious when he said that the Taliban are a mere five hours away from India. Parliament may have missed the point and the Prime Minister's flatterers may be upset that he should have compared the absentee head of Government as a 'night watchman', but it would be outright stupid to ignore the fact that the barbarians are at the gate. Let us also bear in mind that the Deobandi madarsas which produced the taliban who then went on to become the Taliban - in Pakistan and Afghanistan - are not entirely dissimilar to the madarsas which have mushroomed across the length and breadth of India, nurtured by both mullahs and their patrons in the 'secular' political parties, of which the Congress is just one example.

Let it also be said that the 'intolerance' of the Taliban which so alarms us is not specific to the 'murderous thugs' of Swat Valley and Kandahar. We have seen dissident Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen being hounded out of Kolkata by Islamic fanatics and forced to leave India by the 'secular' UPA Government which now wrings its hands and waxes eloquent on the dangers of the rise of Talibani fanaticism. If only such concern had been expressed over the editor and publisher of The Statesman being arrested for reproducing a scintillating article from The Independent, written by Johann Hari, Mr Anand Sharma's vapid reaction to the fall of Swat Valley would have carried some conviction. If Pakistan is now paying a steep price for its duplicitous policy of using violent Islamism to further its strategic interests in Afghanistan and bleed India through a 'thousand cuts', we too shall pay a price for following a line of least resistance and legitimising appeasement by grafting what the Prime Minister described as "Muslims first" to the policies of an allegedly secular state.

There are other similarities which make India as vulnerable as Pakistan to the scourge of Taliban. For all its emphasis on subjugating the country to the supremacy of Islam, of being one with the ummah, and its repeated proclamation of the equality of Muslims, Pakistan has abysmally failed to deliver good governance. Elected Prime Ministers and military dictators have equally fleeced the country, pushed the masses deeper into poverty, made a mockery of the judicial system, and maintained a dissolute elite's hegemony over Pakistan's politics, economy and society. Islamism was once a useful means to distract the masses and silence critics. Islamism now has become a powerful tool to mobilise the masses against the elite. Real grievances and imagined victimhood have coalesced to create a fetid swamp that breeds the deadliest of germs, of which the Taliban is a particularly venomous species.

Cut to India. The vast Muslim underclass remains unaffected and untouched by the Prime Minister's "Muslims first" creed. While Mr Manmohan Singh spends sleepless nights agonising over the plight of those suspected to be involved in jihadi terrorism, millions of Muslims spend sleepless nights - as do millions of Hindus - wondering where their next meal is going to come from. When the Government decides to reward the families of slain jihadis, it sends out a loud message to Muslims: Take up the gun, die in action, ensure a better life for your families. By casting aspersions on Delhi Police and accusing them of killing 'innocent' Muslims, the Prime Minister's Cabinet colleagues encourage moderates to turn extremists. When madarsas are euologised and Saraswati Sishu Mandir schools are relentlessly demonised, the ulema feel sufficiently emboldened to include hate in their teachings. When the Government slyly allows the setting up of qazi courts, which dispense justice according to shari'ah, and lets them function without so much as a whimper of protest, it tells Muslims that India's secular justice system is incapable of protecting their interests. When a wholly illegitimate All-India Muslim Personal Law Board is allowed to dictate how Muslims should run their personal lives, the state abdicates its responsibility to its citizens. As in Pakistan, here too the Government has come to believe that Islam is a substitute for jobs, housing and health services. Azamgarh to Alappuzha, Dibrugarh to Dharwad, a fetid swamp similar to that of Pakistan's is spreading; the 'Indian Mujahideen' are the produce of this swamp.

- The distance between Swat Valley and Islamabad is 160 km. Jamia Nagar is in Delhi.
- kanchangupta@rocketmail.com

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