In the second report in a series of articles exploring Pakistan's tribal areas, Syed
Saleem Shahzad visits Malakand Agency to examine the differing natures
and strategies of various Taliban groups. Malakand Agency is a region in
North-West Frontier Province and covers one third of the total area of the
province. The region is further divided into several districts - Chitral, Dir,
Swat, Buner, Shangla and agencies like Malakand and Mohmand.
Agency: Dear Mr Doctor ... ENT specialist
May Allah bless you. The mercy on the people, created by God, rains blessings
by the creator. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is the name of an organization which
aims to establish a welfare
society based on justice and confront all evil forces which try to obstruct in
this great objective. May Allah heal you from all physical and spiritual
We don't have any personal grudge with anybody. If we stop anybody from
wrongdoings or motivate for righteous things, our purpose is simply to attain
God's blessings and to express affection from its creation - the masses.
You are our brother. If you are hurt from our behavior, we apologize. We only
did that for the reform of your behavior. Prophet Mohammad - Peace Be Upon Him
- said a sweet and good talking to somebody is charity. Therefore, we advise
you to take care of your patients. Don't charge too much because several people
cannot afford that. May Allah reward you the best and may He guide us all for
good deeds. Blessings ...
Ameer-i-Taliban Pakistan (Malakand) Qari Jabbar.
This is a translation (at right) of a letter written on the Taliban's
letterhead and delivered through the post on January 22, 2009, to an ear, nose
and throat specialist at a hospital in Batkaila in Malakand Agency.
Earlier, the names of five doctors were broadcast on the Taliban's local FM
radio station, saying that based on public complaints, the Taliban had made
some investigations and found that the five doctors had behaved arrogantly
towards their patients.
The Taliban said that the doctors did not have any sympathy for their patients
and that they just tried to make as much money as they could. Further, they
were hand-in-glove with the pharmaceutical companies and prescribed very costly
The Taliban warned the doctors that they must "reform" their behavior,
otherwise stringent actions would be taken against them. The doctors did change
their behavior, and then each of them received a letter of "clearance", as
Welcome to Malakand Agency, where one can freely roam around and yet not see a
single Taliban vigilante, even though they rule the roost.
In Pakistan, "Taliban" is the generic name for those groups that pledge their
allegiance to Mullah Mohammad Omar and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but in
different areas they have different manifestations.
In some places they aim to enforce strict sharia law. In others, the
Taliban want to establish bases from which to work in support of the resistance
against foreign forces in Afghanistan.
In yet other areas, the purpose is simply to create chaos and anarchy so that
militants can engage the Pakistani armed forces and deter them from supporting
the global "war on terror".
However, the ultimate mission of the groups is steadily harmonizing, that is,
to support the regional war and then the global war against Western hegemony;
this is the concept driving the neo-Taliban.
In Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and
surrounding areas such as Muttani, Shabkadar, Darra Adam Khail and Khyber
Agency, the Taliban have never tried to implement sharia. Their presence
is more strategic and several groups operate independently under various
Their purpose is to sever North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supply
lines that pass through Pakistan and to eliminate the writ of the central
government so that it will not be able to provide protection to the supply
In the South Waziristan, North Waziristan and Bajaur tribal agencies, the
Taliban aim to establish strategic bases with al-Qaeda to provide support to
the Afghan resistance. In Malakand Agency and the Swat Valley, the struggle is
focussed on enforcing sharia and in cleansing society of unscrupulous
Increasingly, though, as mentioned, these differing goals, as a result of
Pakistan's military operations, are coming together as a broad struggle to
defeat the Western powers in the region and their ally - Pakistan.
In much of the tribal areas and the Swat Valley, the state of Pakistan has lost
its control, but the situation in Malakand Agency is somewhat more complex.
In early 2008, the Taliban flexed their muscles all around NWFP, especially in
the the area between the Swat Valley and Peshawar, and Mardan became a hotbed
However, the Taliban realized that without local support and only with fighters
from different regions of the province, they would never be able to defeat the
state forces. Therefore, they resolved to establish their influence over the
urban centers in this area, hoping eventually to wrest NWFP completely from
Islamabad's control. Similarly, Balochistan province, which also borders
Afghanistan, is destined to become "Taliban territory".
The remaining two provinces of Pakistan, Punjab and Sindh, do not figure in
this plan. Any attacks here would add additional pressure, but there is no urge
for the Talibanization of these areas.
At present, in areas such as Malakand, the Taliban use radio to expose
government incompetence and corruption and then ask the people to submit their
complaints to the Taliban. Only then do they act.
Recently, after having received complaints in the form of dozens of letters,
the Taliban announced on radio that they would investigate the matter of
brothels in the Malakand region. The result: several brothels were blown up.
As seen with the medical community, a similar approach was adopted. In the same
vein, a local gangster, Shoaib Khan, who was said to have received backing from
politicians and the police, was forced to flee.
People in the area call this "creeping Talibanization" and say it is taking
root because of corrupt and bad governance. It's not only guns that win over
hearts and minds.
NEXT: Swat Valley - whose war is this?
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can
be reached at email@example.com