Saturday, April 04, 2009

It's Quite Simple Really: Pashtun = Taliban

Yeh Hum Naheen was the title of a media campaign launched by our ex-President to convince the world that Pakistanis aren't terrorists. The world was ignorant and didn't comprehend the complexity of terrorism. Bush's insistence on painting everything in black and white resulting in the larger world not realising that Pakistanis were suffering the most at the hands of Islamist terrorists.

Turns out we're not much different than the ignorant West. There is growing anger and resentment aimed towards the Taliban, and rightly so; however, this anger and resentment is now being directed towards all Pashtun. Friday Times in its latest editorial warns its readers about the Taliban and as evidence relies on testimony by the MQM.

The MQM isn't fighting the Taliban, it's fighting the Pashtun. Gun battles in the North Nazimabad hills have intensified in recent months and this is being depicted as the MQM's battle against the Taliban. My grandparents used to live in North Nazimabad in the early 90s and every time I went to stay with them I would hear gunfire coming from the hills. There were no Taliban then, just Pashtun.

The head of Admin at our office, a jolly old lady, recently interviewed a man seeking employment as a driver. He drove the car well, was presentable and had good references, but she wasn't comfortable hiring him simply because he was a Pashtun. The reason for this: the last driver, a Pashtun, was fired because he had voiced out his opinion that women shouldn't be working at our office. In the end, we offered him the job but he received a better offer from somewhere else and declined to join us. Now it may seem understandable why the Admin lady wouldn't want to hire a Pashtun but she was plain wrong.

She's not the only one who is hesitant about coming into contact with Pashtuns. Over the past few months I've heard countless people speak about Pashtuns as though they are aliens - "don't trust chowkidars, you don't know if they're Taliban."

For the past two decades the Islamists terrorising our mosques and our imambargahs have not been Pashtun, they've been Muhajir, Punjabis and Seraiki. They somehow never managed to get a bad rep. Sure, the Taliban is a different creature than the Sipah-e-Shahaba and its remnants but that doesn't mean that the Pashtun should be viewed as being synonymous with the Taliban.

President Musharraf was right to state that Pakistanis have suffered the most at the hands of Islmist terrorists. But it is also true that amongst Pakistanis, it is the Pashtun who have suffered the most at the hands of Islamist terrorists - even amongst law enforcement agencies, it is the FC that has lost the most men.

We've got to stop alienating the Pashtun, they are as much part of this country as we are need our support.


JDèé said...

Agreed! I think it's more about the land grabbing fight going on between MQM and the pushtoons and MQM's propaganda machine is spreading hatred as they have always done.

NB said...

Really good post dude. Especially liked the point about how if 'proximity to terrorism' confers both blame and responsibility, as well as loss and victimhood, (and thats something that the Muslim world and Pakistan have both flagged in their defense), then Pathans really are the biggest victims, in terms of the loss of life and social upheaval.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Rabia said...

This is a really great post. I especially like how you turn the "yeh hum naheen" logic on Pakistanis.

The funny thing is that growing up Karachi in the 90s, I remember that middle-class conservative Karachiites were some of the biggest admirers of the Afghani Taliban. Can't remember how many social gatherings I've sat through in which some uncle was going on about the Taliban being just like the early muslims, etc. Now these same people are dismissing the whole thing as a Pashtun phenomenon with nothing to do with Islam.

takhalus said...

good post...there are two serious issues which are converging here.
Firstly the effects of the fighting in FATA and NWFP have largely been ignored by the general public and governments over the last five years (compare the publicity over the landi kotal bombings and the police school attack in lahore). The result is the large number of IDP's have been ignored and infiltrated with Taliban sympathisers. The NWFP| provincial gov is disintegrating under the relentless pressure of a well armed and brutal force which is an alliance of militants from all over the country and world.

The second is that this second influx of people into Karachi will likely change the demographics in karachi forever. That is disturbing for the MQM.

Shariq said...

Good post, but slightly strange coming from Mr 'we shouldn't employ women because they run away to get married' AKS.

So its perfectly okay to not employ a secretary because you can't trust her maternal urges, but its not okay for women to feel uncomfortable having someone as a driver who is hostile to women working.

I agree with the general message of the post but a little consistency would be nice.

jingoist said...

Very well written my fellow... I have been listening the same from many people.

Keep up the voice!! and count me in if you ever need my support in spreading this ideology.

somethingrichandstrange said...

good post in and of itself, but i hear shariq on this.

AKS said...

@ Shariq

I'm sorry but I find your comment offensive. A little context would've been nice.

I understand that my post was incendiary but I still uphold my central thesis that as an employer one must factor in the cost of training an individual for two years when you apprehend that they are going to leave.

And to put the record straight, my post wasn't about a secretary but about a scientist who had been trained to tackle patent law.

supe said...

You've brilliantly touched upon a deeply sensitive issue that essentially affects every single one of us. And I agree, the Pashtuns are being made to pay the heftiest price.
It often worries me whenever and wherever calamity strikes in Pakistan, it means some unassuming Pashtun folk somewhere will be getting the rap.
And I can go on and on about how this affects all Muslims in the modern world, but meh, you already know that.

peeno said...

Haven't read the post as yet (and will read at the earliest convenience) but the headline is, yet another sweeping generalization. So I being a pathan/ pushtun qualify as a talib. Wonderful :)

*yet again, I will read the article to see what you really meant*

Ismat said...


I see how you have enough time to compose a full comment asserting your presumptuous holier-than-thou attitude, but not enough time to read what the post actually says. Congratulations, water-cooler aap ka huwa.


Great post. Keep 'em coming.

Ahsan said...


I hope "at the earliest convenience" you retract your highly unintelligent comment.

peeno said...

Hey..easy there! I just commented on the headline and now having read the article itself, I think it is a fabulous point that you brought up. We always have been looked down upon and sometimes even called barbarians (speaking from personal experiences).

My apologies for having hurt anyone's feelings but there was no intention to have any such attitude or 'unintelligent comments'.

naqiya said...


what does it say about you if, when thinking about women in the workplace, you immediately think "secretary"?

Farooq said...


Im all for removing the Taliban stereotype off the Pashtuns, but I still think the homosexuality jokes directed against them should stick. That's half my material.

Shariq said...

AKS, I thought it was relevant to highlight that post, because like this one it deals with stereotyping, except that you take a different approach.

Surely you can see the similarities in the two posts? In one you are reluctant to hire another women to the position because of a bad experience with a previous female employee. In the other someone else is reluctant to employ a pashtun because of a bad experience with a previous pashtun employee.

You may argue that I've overlooked some key difference, but there's definitely a case to answer.

Also, given the fact that this blog tends to make a lot of fun of people who unnecessarily take offence (which I enjoy), I find the notion of you being offended by my comment strange.

Gul Khan said...


Your honesty is acknowledged. As a token of your gratitude you must agree not to lodge an FIR. You are free to seek other help though. We're not cruel, just shauqeen. Till next time ;-)

Anonymous said...

These People are curse to Karachi kindly see their real face

Nikki. said...

Totally Agreed with that one. We cant point fingers at anyone. We have to think twice before blaming someone. Any situation occurring at hand must be verified from all directions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the interesting inside. I have a request to change the title of the post as people might think the other way around without reading the whole thing and get a wrong idea of what you are trying to tell the world. Please accept the request and change the topic to another interesting one that should not mislead the watchers.


Anonymous said...

Great article.
I agree; the Pushtuns have been bearing the brunt of the Taliban the most.
And you correclty pointed out, even in the security agencies, it is the FC (particularly the Frontier Constabulary as opposed to the Frontier Core, though) and the Frontier Police that have had to bear the worst brunt.
Even politically, the party that has suffered most losses to the Ts happens to be the ANP, the secular party who, ironically, the MQM is opposed to.
In his interview with Hakeemullah Mehsud, the Dawn correspondent says that Mehsud could not stop spewing invective against the ANP. It is clear that if the Taliban were to come over to Karachi, the ANP would be their principal targets.
It is clear that the MQM has simply latched on to the anti-taliban cause.

confused said...

didn't you guys keep Badshah Khan, a pashtun and by no means Taliban, for some 30 years in jail?

Anonymous said...

Nice article, but stereotypes have a basis. Americans call this kind of person a hillbilly, and you can meet them (if you dare) up in the mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia along the Appalachians. There are people up there who speak Elizabethan bloody English they've been so isolated.

I wanted to go up there and a friend who was from the hills, a guy who said he never wore shoes, not even in winter, and didn't see so much as a dirt road until he was 13, told me not to go unless he went with me, because I would probably be shot. Another friend who grew up in West Virginia always kept a rifle in his cabin and exchanged gunshots with the hillbillies regularly. They'd through drunk, and nobody ever hit anything, but once he shot the hell out of their car to get them to leave.

Maybe mountains and inbreeding that makes people crazy? Probably the biggest difference between Waziris and the Kentucky hillboys is the Waziris smoke hashish until it oozes out their pores - those mountain waziris can just smoke their hair if they run out of hashish. The Kentucky hillbillies drink moonshine that'll take the paint off your car. Both do blood feuds, all that crap.

Ghazal said...

@Anon 11/10/09 5:22 PM

That was the stupidest comparison ever. I can't believe you spent 3 paragraphs on it.
'Mountains and inbreeding make people crazy' wtf

muhammad said...

@ Anonymous

Are you for real? man you r sick.