Friday, 28 February 2014

Pakistan's bearded brigade, bombs and cricket

Pakistan's Bearded Brigade, as represented by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), recently lost their best shot at establishing a new foothold in the state's corridors of power. By shunning the opportunity to negotiate with Pakistan's elected government by indulging in non-stop violence during the talks, the mullahs have further alienated popular opinion away from the Taliban. The Taliban will never find a negotiating partner as willing to make 'Islamist' concessions as Sharif!

The battle between one set of Islamic Holy Warriors (Pakistan Army)
and another set of self-proclaimed Islamic warriors (the Tehrik-e-Taliban) continues
Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party, which won the most seats in Pakistan's May 2013 general elections, is well known to have Islamist ideological tendencies. In May 1991, during one of Sharif's earlier (disastrous) tenures as Prime Minister, he tried to enforce a Sharia Bill in order to impose a version of Islamic law in the country. Sharif's second tenure in 1998 saw him nominate former Justice Rafiq Tarrar, as President of the Republic. Tarar's nomination as head of state revealed  Sharif's  politico-religious underpinnings.

The recent botched negotiations between the government and the mullahs underscore some realities within the Pakistani political landscape.

1.   Much like Al-Qaeeda, its ideological cousin, the TTP is not a unified, monolithic entity. Instead, the TTP is a loose coalition of forces which either oppose the legitimacy of the Pakistani government and / or desire the enforcement of a strict version of Sunni Islamic law across the country. Hence, the TTP's 'leadership' exercises limited control over the various militant factions which fall under its umbrella.

2.   The Pakistani state, at least in its present format, and the TTP cannot coexist. Several of the TTP's fundamental demands fly in the face of the (already Islamic!) Pakistani Constitution, including curbing women's rights and other basic freedoms.

3.   Despite being religiously conservative, Pakistani Muslims are unable and unwilling to wholeheartedly accept Salafi Islam. Several influences, such as Barelvi thought, Sufi tendencies, inculcation of Hindu practices / beliefs into local culture, differentiate Pakistanis from Saudi religious reactionaries. Not to mention the considerable influence of Pakistan's combined 25-30 percent Shia and non-Muslim minority population. Importantly, the Shia minority is prominently represented within the country's armed forces.

Now that talks between the Taliban and the Pakistani government have broken down, one hopes the authorities will again get serious in battling the militants. The recent violence inflicted by the TTP and its partners on Pakistan's security forces and civilians signals the lack of intent on the TTP's part to compromise. Frankly, one hopes there is also no desire by the authorities to compromise the personal freedoms of Pakistanis.

After all, can a nation obsessed with cricket ever accept a Taliban leadership which has unreservedly expressed its abhorrence for the nation's one unifying force! "These [the government] secular people want to distance our youth from jihad and Islamic teachings through cricket. We are strongly against cricket and dislike it."

Source: Taliban refuse Pakistani minister's cricket match peace offer. February 25, 2014. AFP. Emphasis added by author.
Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors and the Deodar Diagnostic, Imran improves profits of regional businesses. He can be reached at

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