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M.Tahir on AI, Begg, Sahgal & the Taliban

March 18, 2010

Action for a Progressive Pakistan carries a post called ‘Left of the Taliban: A critique of the Left from the Left’ which contains an email written in the light of the Amnesty International/Gita Sahgal controversy.  Madiha Tahir gives a particularly thoughtful analysis of Pakistan and Pakistani’s relationship with the Taliban, with a particular focus on Balochistan.  Part of this post is below but the whole piece is well worth reading (More from Madiha Tahir here on video and her website  and blog):

The larger issue, however, is this: why do our so-called allies constantly demand that we articulate our disavowal of the Taliban? Do they perhaps believe that in some deep dark religious corner of our lefty Pakistani hearts, we nurture a secret love for the ruthless brutish bearded circus called the Taliban?  Why are we being constantly asked to prove our bona fides as secularists and as humanists (in the sense that we believe in the dignity of *all* humanity)?  And that too by those who appear to have little qualms about retracting dignity from a man whose words and appearance unsettle us but who has done nothing – in terms of his actions – but run a girls’ school in Afghanistan and, now, defend the rights of precisely those that the American empire has reduced to ‘bare life.’ [1]  Does the problem lie in the fact that he “has championed the rights of jailed Al-Qaeda members and hate preachers…” as the Sunday Times puts it? But isn’t the selective granting of rights precisely what the Left is critical of in general?  Or is it that he stated in his memoirs that the Taliban were “better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past twenty-five years.” Yes, these views are abhorrent, but by no means unique. I heard much the same thing from the Afghans I met when I traveled to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border town of Chaman (in Balochistan) over a month ago.  These were Afghans who all hated the Taliban now (among them were ex-Taliban fighters).  To them, the Taliban had seemed like an answer to the corruption, chaos and random murders that had afflicted Afghanistan for decades when they first rose to power. They left when they realized that this was not the case or that the price they were being asked to pay was too high.  …

In Balochistan, the army uses the Taliban to suppress the local Baloch nationalist movement that is threatening secession.  When Musharraf hunted and killed the Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti in 2006, he justified it by instrumentally (and falsely) accusing Bugti of having dealings with al-Qaeda – laughable if one knows that the Baloch movement is secular with shades of Marxism.  Also, the US is still using religious extremism by many accounts, using the Baloch Sunni group, Jundallah, to launch attacks into neighboring Shia Iran.

Peter Tatchell recently spoke about human rights abuses in Balochistan and detailed the mineral riches of the region, the poverty in which Baloch’s live, the usual imperial tactics of colonisation and imposition of foreign language and religion.  He also noted that Pakistani forces use the Taliban to keep the population under control and that we pay for this:

Despite the Prime Minister’s [Yousaf Raza Gillani] assurances, military attacks have continued. The attacks have been aided and abetted by military supplies from western countries, including my own country, the UK. The US is the biggest weapons supplier. It has sold the Pakistani military $10 billion in arms, including F-16 attack aircraft, and Cobra attack helicopters, which have been used to indiscriminately strafe and bomb Balochistan, killing many civilians.

More detail here from Peter Tatchell and here from Madiha Tahir on Balochistan.

To finish, if you want to waste 20 minutes of your life (I did on Tuesday) Hitchens the younger posted an interview with Sahgal by NDTV India onto YouTube for you – it is available in two parts or in one edited video.  As usual Sahgal doesn’t care about the antecedents of the media organisations she works with as has been pointed out by a HP commenter:

It is worthwhile noting that the Director of NDTV is the sister of Brinda Karat, a leading Politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and wife of the party leader. The CPI(M) has come under sustained criticism by Amnesty International for human rights abuse in West Bengal, notably the Nandigram massacre a couple of years ago and continued police brutalities in West Midnapore. It has an axe to grind and I suspect that is why Gita Sahgal is getting interviewed on NDTV


Amnesty, Moazzam Begg, Gita Sahgal – Link roundup

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