Even as Ukraine hogs the media headlines these days, an earlier collective tragedy has slipped from people’s consciousness the world over – Afghanistan under the Taliban. After the American retreat, it had been desperately hoped that the Taliban would be a more moderate lot, as they had promised to be ‘inclusive’. Nothing of the sort has happened and with world attention drifting elsewhere they are back at doing what they are best at – imposing an archaic worldview on a hapless population.
In a world where addressing a person with the wrong pronoun can become an ‘international scandal’, nobody cares that suicide bombers kill 25 school children in Afghanistan merely because Shias are a legitimate target. And it was by no means an isolated incident – the attacks are taking place on a daily basis. Very few leaders around the world have condemned these actions, even taken notice. This is because Afghanistan and its people are now beyond the pale – there is acceptance of the fact that this part of the world cannot be changed – everybody else will have to adjust and accommodate. Gradually, ways will even be found to do business with them. In fact, some will rejoice because many of the precious natural resources will be sold cheap.
Pakistan, whose then leadership foolishly rushed to take credit for the Taliban victory, is now facing the consequences of its rashness. The fundamentalist groups that seek to take over that country now have an even safer haven under the Taliban. Their actions have resulted in worsening of relations between the two countries, with Pakistan even carrying out air strikes in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the confused approach within the Pakistani Establishment on how to deal with fundamentalist ‘tehreeks’ is doomed to fail, as nobody dares to challenge the basic tenets that lie behind this faith inspired movement. While human rights activists everywhere fall over themselves in the effort to defend the right to hold these beliefs, nobody really knows how to deal with them. Pakistan, which has ideologically cut itself off from its civilisational roots, will find it hard to stop the fighters that claim to be bringing a ‘purer’ form of the very principle the nation is supposedly based on. And, the success of these Talibani variants will inspire similar ‘tehreeks’, elsewhere. This is not a battle to defend territorial boundaries, it is between ideologies. It will, ultimately, have to be fought in people’s minds.