Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Battle for Pashtunistan

.........................................................(source: CS Monitor)

Is it anyone’s duty to update societies that do not meet a progressive standard of civilization? The question before you is simple: does everyone in the world have to be equally civilized? And the answer is simple too: no. But that is not the end of the discussion.

Every society should provide its citizens or residents some basic provisions for living and improving their own lives and these include the following: food and nourishment, habitation, means for a sustainable income, equal human rights, healthcare, protection under the law, and last but not least, education.

Any society that does not provide these basic necessities has not yet attained the understood heights of civilization which are possible in our world today. But how many societies do you know that meet this requirement? Even the Western nations that demand that the rest of the world accord with their values, fail on some of these basic accounts!

-In the US, 14% of Americans have NO healthcare.

-In the UK, the National Health Service is so unreliable and incompetent that those who want effective healthcare must go private.

-In the European Union’s Parliament, of 740 members, only 217 are women. That’s less than 30%.

-In Germany, workers of Turkish descent who have lived in that nation for generations are not given equal rights as citizens. In fact, many of them still haven’t even been given citizenship.

-In Australia, the Aborigines who were natives of that land even before the British dumped their criminals on it, are still not receiving equal treatment under the law.

The list is endless and includes the pathetic literacy rate in the US, the problems of gender inequality that abound in all of these nations, the extreme shortcomings of healthcare in these societies and on and on.

A good case of the pot calling the kettle black on the issue of civilization has been the United States in its Wart on Terror. From the get-go of this Wart, the US has announced that it wants to civilize – the actually term has been ‘democratize’ – Iraq and Afghanistan and no doubt Iran. But how civilized (oops! “Democratic”) is the US itself where the last two presidential elections have been dubiously won, where the biggest natural disaster in the nation – Hurricane Katrina – left several hundred thousand US citizens without food, water or emergency care for nearly a week, and where women’s reproductive rights are rapidly disappearing, to name just a few very uncivilized things.

This week, the Bushler regime has been making a stink of Pakistan and Afghanistan’s inability to ‘control’ the Taleban in their respective countries. Bushler himself has been posing as the gracious mediator between Afghanistan and Pakistan over their supposed conflict over Taleban control. But as we all know, the real mediator is Afghanistan: the Bushler camp is very annoyed, to say the least, that Pakistan has little to no ability to control the Taleban strongholds in the NWFP (North Western Frontier Province) and even more so, the FATA (Federally-Administered Tribal Areas) – a large plot of land which, along with large parts of Eastern Afghanistan could more aptly be called “Pashtunistan” because the ancient Pashtuns rule over these lands – the same Pashtuns that comprise the Taleban in both these nations.

But what the 'experts' at the Pentagon and the State Department and all those supposed strongholds of intelligence do not seem to understand is that Pashtunistan is a force to be reckoned with -- this isn't a simple matter of providing nourishment or habitation to the people -- the Pashtuns (or Patans, as they are called in Pakistan), don't even have a respectably low literacy rate. According to journalist Owen Bennett-Jones, "most of the tribesMEN [in this area] can't read or write." And they don't seem inclined to learn either -- the Pakistani government has been trying to introduce an educational system in this vast area since Pakistan's inception in 1947, but the tribal leaders have resisted. And if the men aren't literate, you can be sure the women aren't either.

The point is, the Pashtuns will not be reeled in by force or by fancy -- this is a very tough-minded and thick-skinned patriarchical tribe that has been isolated, mainly because of the geographical nature of its land (it is a very mountainous terrain), for centuries and the only chance it has had for approaching modern life has been when it has fought off invaders such as Russia and now the US. Why on earth would they be inclined to accept the values of the very people that are intent on destroying their land and their way of life?

Pakistan has all but given up on the Pashtuns -- they essentially self-govern under the laws of the Pashtunwali and the Pakistani government had left them to it until Bisharraf's September 11th pact demanded that he start taking violent action against the Pashtun 'militants' which has only given rise to even more mistrust than before -- if that were possible.

The only way to 'beat' the Pashtuns and their Taleban manifestation is to stop attacking them and start rebuilding their land and their sense of security. Then, and only then, will they come out from their shadows and feel comfortable engaging with the rest of the world.

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