Friday, February 20, 2009
Making a deal with the devil
"The agreement between Pakistan's government and the growing Taliban forces in the country's northwest region cemented a truce between the two sides and gave the insurgents dominance in the Swat region by installing a strict regimen of Islamic law amenable to the militants' authority. The pact was spearheaded by a hard-line cleric sent to the region to negotiate with the Taliban and persuade them to give up their arms."
Read the rest of this story here.
When it was first announced a few days ago, this story about the Pakistani government making a deal with the Taliban struck a chill inside me.
So scary and full of potential for unfolding disaster that I can barely blog about it. The schoolgirls in Swat whose schools were shut down and the women who are now entering a dark phase of life under the Taliban will pay for this decision taken in Islamabad. Two sides: one a resurgent and powerful Taliban that never really went away, the other an embattled government losing control of swathes of its country. And in between the millions who are trapped between these two powers. A government that cannot even hold on to its territory but hands it over to a renegade power should be ashamed of itself. Is this why the Pakistani people elected these folks?
This deal was supposedly struck for peace. Was it? Or was it to shove the lives of millions into darkness so the rest of us don't have to look at them any more? Like putting bandaid on a gangrenous limb. Ultimately this will poison the rest of the country and perhaps the world.
And once the Taliban again becomes the de-facto rulers of a place, will they be content? Will they not want to grow their influence, the cleanse the remaining parts of Pakistan? What will they do its female intellectuals and writers and poets, to its schoolgirls and its college students? Since all is Allah's domain and they are the self-appointed arbiters of religion and conduct, will they recognize geographical borders? How will this impact India in the long run?
India and Pakistan have a blow hot-blow cold relationship anyway but for a while we were at least talking. Our leaders at least made a charade of meeting, of keeping to the stated objective of peace. But the Taliban? If America is the great Satan to them, what is India? India, with its Hindu majority, its secular constitution, and its large Muslim minority....what special demonic significance does India have in their eyes?
I feel like the world has moved on from this news, shrugging it off as a South Asian oddity. But I fear this was a defining momment in history. Who would have thought that a hijacking Indian Airlines plane in Qandahar would have ultimately led to 9/11 and then on to the wars in Afghanistan and the under-false-pretences occupation of Iraq. But it did.
And, this no mere hijacked plane. This is much bigger and I fear for the world. I fear for myself. And I wonder where we are headed. I hope I am wrong. I fear I might not be.