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In search of ‘good’ Taliban
Published on 6 Mar. 2009 12:51 AM IST
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Suddenly, there is talk of two kinds of Taliban -the “good” Taliban and the “bad” Taliban. The world knows the Taliban is bad. So, what is “good” Taliban? According to certain strategists, in Pakistan as well as in the US, the Taliban can be broadly drawn into two categories -one, the socially ultra-conservative Islamists, who demand the rule of sharia in areas where they dominate, and, two, the global jihadis. It’s being suggested that the world can do business with the former, if only to isolate and eliminate the latter, the bad ones. Is this a valid distinction? When General Musharraf suggested that there were “moderate” Talibs, the then external affairs minister Jaswant Singh had called this an “oxymoron” - and most of the world, the West certainly, would have agreed. And yet now, when the Taliban is threatening to overrun Pakistan, there are some who are proffering the “good” Taliban theory as a key foreign policy input for the US. This is the theory that guided Islamabad to strike a deal last month in Swat with Muhammad Sufi, the same man who sent thousands of Talibs to fight the Americans when they went into Afghanistan after 26/11. He is today being seen as a “moderate” who is not interested in affairs outside Swat, unlike Baitullah Mehsud, the bad Taliban, who heads Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and is waging a war against the state. US strategists tend to divide the Taliban into three groups: first, based in Afghanistan under leaders like Jalaluddin Haqqani, responsible for the violence in Afghanistan; second, the Pakistan Taliban; and third, the ones led by Mullah Omar of the Quetta Shura, the core of al-Qaida. Some American strategists believe that by exploiting the divisions among these groups, US could achieve its objectives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre. Experts here say there are several reasons why flirtation with any kind of Talibanism is dangerous. They point out that, good or bad, all Talibs who demand the enforcement of sharia invoke a variant of Islam that also calls for Islamic domination by global jihad. Besides, to accept the “good” Taliban theory is to write off the rights of Muslim women, allow public stoning and summary executions. These experts feel that this romantic project to isolate and eliminate the worst of the worse, is a slippery slope that would amount to conceding ground to Islamic forces that, sooner of later, and at a time of their choice, would seek to impose their ultra conservatism on the world by jihad.

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