Die Homepage wurde aktualisiert. Jetzt aufrufen.
Hinweis nicht mehr anzeigen.

The Taliban's New Target: Losing Faith in Pakistan's Future

By in Lahore, Pakistan

Long a home to Pakistan's intellectual elite, the tolerant city of Lahore has become a favorite target of the Taliban. The development is causing the country's leading writer, Ahmed Rashid, whose books are required reading in the West's military academies, to lose his optimism that the Islamist militants can be defeated.

The small photo hanging on the wall in his office depicts a serious-looking man with a long, black beard, dressed entirely in white. The man is one of those Afghan warlords who have made life hell for would-be conquerors from the East and West for centuries. Ahmed Rashid, standing next to him, stares at the camera with the same blank expression on his face.

The man in white is Jalaluddin Haqqani, the leader of a clan in eastern Afghanistan. The picture was taken 22 years ago. At the time, Haqqani was still poking fun at the Taliban, who he saw as uneducated hicks, born in Pakistani refugee camps, indoctrinated in Islamic religious schools and led by zealots from Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. At that time, the Taliban still had to learn how to wage war, and it made many mistakes. Its leaders were constantly losing an eye, an arm or a leg.

The Taliban fighters were uneducated and unaware. The history of their Pashtun people was unknown to them, they were unfamiliar with the history of their country, and they had never lived in a real city. Haqqani, on the other hand, was a warlord for his clan and was well-traveled. He once met with former US President Ronald Reagan in Washington. Haqqani, now 60, was a real Afghan. That was the way he saw himself, and it was how Afghanistan saw him.

Rashid chuckles quietly as he rocks back and forth in his desk chair, his hands behind his head. He is a friendly, 62-year-old man with the booming voice of a storyteller. A man without pretentions, the Pakistani intellectual has become the chronicler of this part of the world.

Both men were wrong at the time. The warlord firmly believed that important Afghan warriors had to be like him. His mistake was that he didn't take the Taliban seriously. And Rashid underestimated the immense power that lies in the simple faith of the Taliban. Its members have no problem with death, and they turn it into a political weapon. They have since learned how to wage war, and waging war has become their life. They are also not the puppets of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but rather a deadly threat in their own right.

Experiencing History at First Hand

Rashid has made many trips to Afghanistan in the last 30 years. He has acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of this part of the world, and he is a singular figure, because he not only describes history but has also experienced it himself.

Rashid happened to be in Kabul in 1979 when Soviet tanks invaded the country. He was in Kandahar in 1994 when the Taliban captured the city, creating a bloodbath in the process. He became a firsthand witness to a tragedy in this strange, remote part of the world, and he had already written his books by the time it occurred to the rest of the world to turn its attention to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

The West first learned about the origins of the jihadists and their mentors from Rashid's books. And Rashid was the first to write about the things the West now knows about Afghanistan's warlords -- the Haqqanis in the east, the Dostums in the north and the Khans in the west --, and about their conflicting alliances with the Pakistani, Turkish and Iranian intelligence agencies. "Taliban," his most famous book, is still required reading for officers in British and American military academies.

Rashid wrote it in 1999, two years before the 9/11 attacks. He described who the Taliban were, how they interpreted Islam, who their influences were and what role bin Laden and his Arabs played. It made the Pakistani intellectual into a world-renowned figure. Suddenly he had acquired a monopoly on explaining and interpreting a new phenomenon in world politics. A million and a half copies of "Taliban" were sold in the Anglo-American world alone, and it was translated into 26 languages.

Read in the White House

Rashid has been a sensation since then. After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the White House ordered 28 copies of his book. Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with him to discuss his opinions, and Rashid was showered with invitations from the likes of neocon luminary Paul Wolfowitz and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. President Barack Obama invited him to dinner before his inauguration, at a time when Obama himself was apparently not very well informed about the situation in Afghanistan.

Hardly any other intellectual enjoys a comparable level of authority. Given his fame, Rashid could almost be forgiven for being conceited.

In Germany, the writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger was similarly influential, but unlike Rashid, Enzensberger wasn't interested in being an adviser to political leaders. In France, Bernard-Henri Lévy has taken on the role of the public intellectual, a role in which he has both rendered great service and demonstrated his need for admiration. The British prefer serious scholars like Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash.

Tolerance Under Attack

But Rashid doesn't live in Munich, Paris or London. Instead, he lives in Lahore, Pakistan, a country plagued by constant unrest and danger. The Taliban, a group he has written about extensively, has expanded its efforts beyond what it sees as the national liberation struggle in Afghanistan. It is now in Pakistan, and it is in Lahore, a place filled with many of the things that it hates and wants to destroy.

Lahore is still a beautiful city, a Pakistani jewel, with its Badshahi Mosque, its Shalimar Gardens and its landmark fortress behind imposing walls. The British left behind a large number of schools and universities. It is a city where mopeds overloaded with people dominate street traffic. But it also has its fair share of old-fashioned donkey carts.

On the surface, Lahore, a city of 10 million, is still a refreshing exception among Asia's big cities, cleaner and less overheated than New Delhi, Karachi or Bangkok. It also seems more open-minded. The city's most popular talk show host is a transvestite. At the same time, Lahore is a place where open-mindedness has now come under attack.

Article...
Comments
Discuss this issue with other readers!
5 total posts
Show all comments
    Page 1    
1. Unheard warning
jodhaaakbar 08/06/2010
Thanks for an informative article, which I suppopse will once again fail to alarm a sufficient number of people that something is building up in South Asia, which is far more dangerouos but much less visible than the threats we have become used to. I fully agree with the author that the Iran - US problem looks almost minor compared to the potential of an armed conflict that involves Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, China and who knows else. Seeing Pakistan with all its splendor descend slowly into a failed state, witnessing the exquisite beauty of Lahore fade away under bomb blasts, road blocks, threats of all sorts is something that makes every human's heart heavy and fills our minds with grief. If only India and Pakistan could understand each other, would respect their common roots and ancestors, build trust and faith and plan a common future to oppose these forces of destruction. They are brothers, and they should act like brothers who have different faiths, but a common heritage, a common love for their families and for peace. Where has all this insisting on the right religion led us?
2. The paw of China should fly out like a cat's claw
esperonto 08/13/2010
I have to admit that even though I would love to see China punish the USA wildly and with Asian sadism, I have to admit, most wars end badly, an even the greatly deserved suicide flight into the world trade center, which one is attempted to applaud, ended up pushing the USA into further fascism. But I don't blame the Chinese at all if they muscle the USA back. I wouldn't mind seeing the USA decimated, since we already have the nerve to pick fights with Iran and China at the same time even during this elongated war. Everyone complains about the long war in Afghanistan, yet the USA pushes and pushes now even pushing China. It would serve the Ugly Americans right if China suddenly swatted the US out of Vietnam and let loose all the military might they are hiding in their mountains. I almost look forward to it, given that the USA have been picking on rather poor peasant types in Afghanistan, many of whom are probably illiterate, it would be pleasant to see them err so gravely with China. The irony would be that the US military uses mostly made in China equipment, so we'd be literally fighting China with money and equipment they loaned to us or sold at cheap prices. Halfway through the war, the US would run out of money and have to borrow more from China to fight China longer. The paw of China should fly out like a cat's claw and swat the USA out of Asia! http://www.china-defense-mashup.com/?p=3183 I decided to make an English Blog about this specifically, though I usually only blog in Esperanto language, and this is something out of control that I cant change. Though conflict is inevitable, I can at least complain online! http://china0war0no.wordpress.com/
3.
BTraven 08/16/2010
According to an article the „Guardian“ published the Taliban are not the ones which western countries have to fear most but the conservative intelligence who prefers traditional values like for example girls being veiled. Nobody wants the clerics ruling the country, however, the application of sharia is widely be welcomed. “A poll of Pakistanis released last month by the respected Pew Centre reinforced quite how widespread such views are. More people see al-Qaida, the Taliban and homegrown groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba more favourably than the US, it found. More than 80% supported segregating men and women in the workplace, stoning adulterers and whipping or amputation for thieves. Three in four endorse the death penalty for apostasy. And 80% said suicide bombing was unIslamic.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/08/jason-burke-pakistan-changes It seems to me that people like Rashid will soon have to leave the country permanently, perhaps they immigrate to the UK permanently. The class educated by the values of the late colonial power does not have any change to survive.
4. rules
esperonto 08/17/2010
Zitat von BTravenAccording to an article the „Guardian“ published the Taliban are not the ones which western countries have to fear most but the conservative intelligence who prefers traditional values like for example girls being veiled. Nobody wants the clerics ruling the country, however, the application of sharia is widely be welcomed. “A poll of Pakistanis released last month by the respected Pew Centre reinforced quite how widespread such views are. More people see al-Qaida, the Taliban and homegrown groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba more favourably than the US, it found. More than 80% supported segregating men and women in the workplace, stoning adulterers and whipping or amputation for thieves. Three in four endorse the death penalty for apostasy. And 80% said suicide bombing was unIslamic.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/08/jason-burke-pakistan-changes It seems to me that people like Rashid will soon have to leave the country permanently, perhaps they immigrate to the UK permanently. The class educated by the values of the late colonial power does not have any change to survive.
Not a happy thing to move to the UK from Pakistan. Better just to immigrate to the USA. In the UK they notably do not like "Pakis" as they call them. I have seen anti-paki graffiti in public restrooms there. If I was a Paki, England would be the last place on Earth I would go! In the USA this bloke could just blend in as an immigrant in some big city and not have any problem. Many people tend to enjoy other laws after a while of dealing with the USA, such as Sharia or for Amish they reject English and welcome their "Ordnung". For me communism is similar. After really getting tired of the USA, I welcome Communist rule, even if it is somewhat more extreme, as the only alternative available to something I am really tired of. I generally feel more affection for China these days and forgive them their mistakes more than I do the USA. The USA seems just to want to maintain control over the world. At least the Chinese are "being themselves". The USA on the other hand is some kind of ruthless robot driven to impose its will on the planet and tell lies to its citizens while presenting a false image of itself.
5.
BTraven 08/19/2010
Zitat von esperontoNot a happy thing to move to the UK from Pakistan. Better just to immigrate to the USA. In the UK they notably do not like "Pakis" as they call them. I have seen anti-paki graffiti in public restrooms there. If I was a Paki, England would be the last place on Earth I would go! In the USA this bloke could just blend in as an immigrant in some big city and not have any problem. Many people tend to enjoy other laws after a while of dealing with the USA, such as Sharia or for Amish they reject English and welcome their "Ordnung". For me communism is similar. After really getting tired of the USA, I welcome Communist rule, even if it is somewhat more extreme, as the only alternative available to something I am really tired of. I generally feel more affection for China these days and forgive them their mistakes more than I do the USA. The USA seems just to want to maintain control over the world. At least the Chinese are "being themselves". The USA on the other hand is some kind of ruthless robot driven to impose its will on the planet and tell lies to its citizens while presenting a false image of itself.
I am not sure about it. Despite being called Paki my impression was when I was staying there that they like living there because the Victorian suburbs with all that terraces houses allow them to keep a family structure they are used from the home country. That structure enabled them to set up communities where are they among themselves. Turkish people managed it too, especially in larger towns, but with the stain that they areas where they live are regarded as run down and neglected. I did not have the impression that the sites where “Pakis” live are shunned by other people. I found them quite attractive and full of life.
Show all comments
    Page 1    

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2010
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH



Photo Gallery
Photo Gallery: Attacks in Pakistan


International Newsletter
Sign up for our newsletter -- and get the very best of SPIEGEL in English sent to your email inbox twice weekly.
Twitter
Facebook