Taliban and the need for ‘evil USA, Zionists and India’
Terrorists armed with rockets and grenades attacked the headquarters of Pakistan’s naval air force in Karachi on May 22, triggering gun battles that killed at least 13 personnel – three weeks after the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
According to TTP’s ideology, attacks against Pakistan Army are justified since it is ostensibly assisting America against al Qaeda.
However, despite TTP’s open confessions of alliance with al Qaeda, a conspiracy theory exists in Pakistan that TTP is being funded by the United States (US), Israel and India and its aim is to weaken the Pakistani state. This theory has now become a popular belief in the country and is being heavily promoted in both electronic and print media by the best rated anchors and journalists.
There are two reasons behind the formulation of such a theory:
1. To defend the image of pro-Pakistan militants or and the Pakistan Army
Pakistan formed the Afghan Taliban after US conveniently left Afghanistan in a dilapidated state. In order to strengthen its position in its regional rivalry with India (that was supporting the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan), Pakistan supported the Taliban since to influence Afghanistan’s domestic and foreign policies.
While the Taliban continued to pummel Afghani women and children as well as men, the elite of Pakistan continued to party away late into the nights – life was great. Most people in Pakistan had no idea about the existence of the Taliban and their brutal tactics, which was to spill onto their lives a just a few years later.
However, things dramatically changed after 9/11. Pakistan was forced to rethink its policy towards the Taliban due to American pressure and strategic reasons, and a general consensus against them was formed the world over. The Taliban were brought to the forefront and their dirty deeds were exposed through the internet and the media.
At the same time, under Musharraf, Pakistani media became relatively free, which led to the scrutiny of Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban. Images of public beatings of women, and killings and executions in soccer grounds were all over TV channels. This contributed towards forming a negative image of the Taliban among the Pakistani people.
Specifically after the TV boom in Pakistan which also occurred simultaneously, the new free media and the newly hosted talk shows exposed the role of the military in the formation of the Taliban through prominent politicians who spoke up. The military rule came under fire as Pakistan’s history of exploitative politics and ISI’s role came to light through critics in talk shows and the electronic media.
Thus a negative perception of the military was created.
By 2007, Pakistan came under the strain of excessive bombings by the newly formed TTP. This group was formed on the same ideological lines as the Afghan Taliban i.e. to enforce puritanical Sharia in Pakistan and to fight against any occupying forces. However, TTP differed operationally from the Afghan Taliban as the latter were fighting against the US and Nato forces and the TTP was in a war against Pakistan. They were both being controlled by al Qaeda and would mostly collaborate.
Soon after the suicide bombings in 2007, TTP openly started claiming responsibility for the attacks and received significant coverage from the electronic media. In these circumstances it became increasingly difficult for the extremists and the conspiracy theorists to openly defend the militant organisations and to simultaneously have the Afghan Taliban and Kashmiri militants as regional levers for control. Since the TTP were openly claiming on television to have carried out suicide bombings in Pakistan, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and its allies became increasingly worried as this was tainting the image of the Mujahids and Jihad and spreading the perception that the militants were retaliating against Pakistan because of the indiscriminate bombings by the army in the tribal areas.
In addition to this, the Lawyers Movement added fuel to the fire and acted as a catalyst in forming a negative image of the military. The military however, had to come up with a plan which was politically safe in the short run and which also served their interests in the long term.
To counter all this, the Pakistani establishment, militants, and their allied conspiracy theorists devised a plan to launch a new theory that would easily blame all the attacks in Pakistan on India, Israel and the US. Hence TTP and any other affiliated militant group that was attacking Pakistan was then tagged by these conspiracy theorists as Indian or American agents working in disguise as Taliban to malign the reputation of the Taliban.
The establishment did not stop here. They launched a proponent agent in the public – someone who would act as a defender as well as a promoter. Right about that time, and apparently without any associations to the army, Zaid Hamid appeared on the horizon and took two stances that the army was in dire need of. In order to rally support for his perspective, he gave his ideas a religious aspect insofar as glorification of the army was concerned. Briefly mentioned, his views are firstly that the army is sacred and can do no wrong, secondly, that our army is destined to overpower the whole world, and lastly, Ghazwa-e-Hind i.e. we have to defeat India and we are religiously destined to do so one day.
2. To boost the morale of the armed forces and the general population when the army sees a need for any military operation or intervention
Before any military operation, it is a tendency of the army to label its adversaries as ‘Indians’ or ‘Zionist agents.’ This is because the army is predominantly trained and indoctrinated to fight against the ‘Hindus’ or ‘infidel Indians.’
A common exploitative tactic is to give a conflict a religious context for example by presenting the ‘enemy’ as enemies of Islam. Before the 1971 operation in East Pakistan, Bengalis were targeted by issuances of fatwas for their “infidel activities,” thus painting the Bengalis as unfaithful and conspirators against Islam. This ideological manipulation influences the public sentiment by projecting an un-Islamic and imperialist image of foreign countries/people. Prejudiced and censored history also makes the public vulnerable, making it easy to get their support for a military operation. A similar strategy was employed in Swat and Waziristan operations where with the help of conspiracy theorists such as Hamid, the army was successful in gaining public support and motivation for troops.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.