While some Pakistanis, including major political leaders, are afraid of speaking out against the Taliban, other Pakistanis are taking the challenge posed by the insurgents lightly. They are underestimating the power and the capacity of a rag-tag band of barbarians to bring down the Pakistani state and take control in the nation’s capital in Islamabad. It’s important for Pakistanis to learn from history to end such complacency.
Famous medieval Islamic historian Abd ur Rehman Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) argued in his masterpiece“Muqaddima” that tribesmen and barbarians have often had more courage and social cohesion than settled and civilized folk. He cited many instances in history when rag-tag bands of ill-educated and uncivilized insurgents have swept in and conquered lands whose rulers became corrupt and complacent.
Fall of Empires:
History is witness to the fact that great empires were brought down by relatively unsophisticated but highly committed armed groups of fighters. Roman empire was destroyed by blue-eyed barbarian tribes from Northern Europe. Persian and Byzantine empires were brought to their knees by desert-dwelling Muslim tribesmen from the Arabian Peninsula. Thriving Islamic Caliphate of Baghdad in what is known as the Golden Era of Islam was sacked by Mongols and completely destroyed. China, too, was conquered and ruled by Mongols. India was repeatedly attacked and conquered by invaders from Europe and Central Asia and ruled by their dynasties for centuries.
The Taliban attacking the Pakistani state are not fundamentally different from earlier generations of barbarians and tribesmen in history. They have shown that they, too, are highly committed and willing to die for whatever they believe in . They are clear in their aims and ready to use whatever means it takes to achieve their goals. They have been relentless in their attacks on the Pakistani state and civilian population.
The response of the Pakistani leadership has so far been highly confused in the face of concerted Taliban efforts to destroy the Pakistani state. There is a lot talk about “talks” but it’s not clear what they are going to talk about? The Taliban have made it clear that they do not accept Pakistan’s constitution. They have rejected democracy as a system of governance. They have stepped up their attacks on state institutions and Pakistan’s security apparatus. They have unleashed a reign of terror and killed tens of thousands of civilians in the last few years.
Are Pakistani political leaders willing to compromise on the constitution of Pakistan? Or the democratic process? Or Pakistan itself? Are they willing concede defeat to a band of barbarians without a fight?
Pakistani leaders need to develop necessary consensus to fight the existential challenge posed to the nation by the Taliban and their allies in Pakistan. They need to declare war and show determination, not weakness, in the face of relentless Taliban attacks on innocent civilians. They must remember that it took Sri Lanka a long sustained effort spanning decades to win against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). It will take a long and sustained effort for Pakistan to win the war on Taliban to preserve Pakistan. It’s time for Pakistanis to learn the lessons of history to chart and stay the course. Once there is a clear strategy and plan, I am confident that the Pakistani state and its military will eventually defeat and destroy the Taliban.