A Letter to the Taliban
After the Taliban named an interim government that was regarded as quite controversial inside Afghanistan and did not exactly please the nation’s Eurasian neighbors, I asked Dr. Ejaz Akram, Professor of Religion & World Politics at the National Defense University in Islamabad, for a detailed analysis. He sent me an astonishing, unique essay that is a must read for both East and West, presented here in a slightly edited version but with its mighty punch intact. Dr. Ejaz carries the necessary authority to not only map the regional chessboard but to suggest to the Taliban the righteous paths to heal Afghanistan after four decades of imposed war (P.E.)
On the demand for an “all inclusive government”
Imagine if the French revolutionaries were asked to retain the elements of the kingdom of Louis XVI while forming the new republic to keep it all ‘inclusive’.
Imagine that the American revolutionaries were asked to keep the British loyalists as a part of the new American republic to keep it all inclusive.
Imagine that the Bolsheviks were asked to keep the Czarist loyalists in the government to keep it all inclusive.
Imagine that Chairman Mao was asked to keep the Kuomintang as a part of his new set up to keep things all inclusive.
Imagine that Imam Khomeini was asked to keep the elements of Reza Shah’s puppet government to keep the new Iranian government all inclusive.
Imagine that Erdogan was asked shortly after the coup to keep the Gulen movement intact to keep the Turkish government all inclusive.
Imagine that the Saudis are asked to give due representation to a quarter of its Shi’ite population to keep the Kingdom all inclusive.
Imagine that India’s Modi is asked to give full citizenship rights to Muslims, Sikhs and other minorities to keep RSS-India all inclusive.
If all of the above cannot be, then what logic is the so-called international community practicing when asking the Taliban to keep those who aided and abetted the utterly unjustified foreign occupation as a part of their government to keep things all inclusive?
What happened in Afghanistan was not a mere change of government. A puppet state responsible for killing their own people and spreading subversion in the region was overthrown. Any talk of government comes after the state formation is complete. To keep the elements of the Ancien Regime is to keep the fifth columnists alive who can undo their half-century long struggle to keep foreign rule out. It is like asking a surgeon not to remove all the cancerous tissue from a cancer patient as it might come in handy later.
A state is one group that has to have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. All other groups have to be disarmed and disbanded. After the state is formed and all groups subscribe to a creed that is shared by all, only then a government can be formed by a wider group of people who will reflect peoples’ sensibilities and beliefs and values. If that government does not do that the people will not consider it legitimate and the state will stage a coup and send home the government.
That state’s legitimacy comes from a principle to which the population of that country subscribes through their primordial socio-religious moorings. This common denominator in Afghanistan is none other than Muslim beliefs and values. Even though the Taliban’s overwhelming force are Pashtun (which means they practice Pashtunwali code and its understanding of Hanafi Sunni Shariah), non-Pashtun Afghans are all Muslims too. So, their common denominator still remains Islam.
Therefore, for the Taliban to insist that their rule should be built on Islamic principles is rooted in sound logic. To expect that the Afghans will subscribe to Swedish liberalism is a daydream. Ashraf Ghani was prepared to go down that foolish path, but the Taliban are too smart to do the same.
Keep in mind that the Taliban took control of the entire country without a fight. The so-called Afghan National Army disbanded so easily and hugged the Taliban fighters and many even joined them. If public opinion is not behind a resistance movement, it can never succeed.
This is the proof of Taliban’s inclusion. Unlike the Bolsheviks, the French revolutionaries, the American revolutionaries, the Saudis, the Iranians and many others who butchered their opponents on their path to power, the Taliban gave general amnesty to all. Who has more mercy in their hearts, the progenitors of the modern republics or the Taliban? We have never seen such a spectacle in recent human history. If this is not inclusion, then what is?
The reason the “international community”, as in a gang of Western nations gone rogue, is shrieking and fretting over an Islamic system for Afghanistan is because of their habitual and historical prejudice against Islam and Muslims. From crusades to colonialism, in the West’s imagination, Islam is the ultimate boogeyman. Edward Said illustrated that quite well in his famous classic, Orientalism. The contemporary Islamophobia industry is another proof of the West’s unfounded hatred of Islam. One would only hope that the Chinese and Russian political systems do not allow their ruling elite to go down that path, or else the long-term consequences for both these superpowers may not be pleasant. So far, their state media are toeing the Western logic of inclusivism, similar to their pro-America positions in the aftermath of 9/11, without much reflection as to who was right and who was wrong. We have faith that these two political systems will make better judgments this time around.
Another absurd proposition by the “August” international community is that the Taliban must fulfill the promises they made overnight. This is like asking a newborn baby to start running immediately right after being born. For anyone who knows the ABC of statecraft should know that it is not possible. First the state has to be consolidated. This will take a few months.
The interim set up must not include elements of the Ancien Regime who were on the payroll of the enemy they fought for twenty long years. Then a variety of cross-ethnic elements in the country must be recruited who subscribe to the common denominator of beliefs and values that the state is expected to be a vanguard of. This is inclusion and this will yield legitimacy of the state in the eyes of its people.
Once the state is consolidated, a government should be formed in accordance to Islamic principles. Islam is neutral to the form of government. It only insists that regardless of the form of the government, the outcome must be justice. Whether it is a kingdom, a city-state, a democracy or any other form, the outcome must be justice.
The Quran also suggests that justice is not equality. Equality is giving everyone the same; justice is giving whomever their due. Quran is kitab-al-insaf (book of justice) and not kitab-al-masawat (book of equality).
After the period of state consolidation, government formation should be achieved on the principle of meritocracy, and not multi-party democracy, in which global capitalists will turn democrats into their prostitutes and rip off the people. Honest and competent people from all ethnic backgrounds should be chosen, then trained and then run the government.
But that phase comes after the state formation process in which it must never be forgotten that that community which struggled and sacrificed enormously to throw out the foreigners should have more say in matters of state formation, compared to those who sided with the oppressor to kill their own people and their neighbors. This is common sense, which is beyond the IQ of the “international community”.
A message to the Taliban
I extend my congratulations to the ghazis of the Emirates of Afghanistan and offer prayers of condolence for those mujahideen who became martyrs in their jihad against the oppressive, atrocious and cruel governments of the U.S. and its Western allies. In two centuries of humiliation against the Muslim world, you buried the British, Bolsheviks and Yankees in your mountains along with their empires.
The hardships you have suffered and the sacrifices you have rendered for the millat have produced a character in you that is worth being proud of. Now that you have successfully defeated the foreign occupation, lots more needs to be done. The world is already suggesting you to adopt a direction which will be disastrous for you in the long run. As a scholar who is familiar with the West and East Asia, as well as the various understandings of Islam within the Islamic civilization, perhaps I am in a position to make some humble suggestions that may prove useful in charting out your future.
First and foremost, the sword from your right hand can now shift into your left hand, and you will have to grab the pen in your right hand.
Your military resistance era is now over, but you still need to defend and develop your country. While your enemies are still planning to bomb you, their kinetic efforts will be supplemented by a mischievous hybrid war, for which you may not be fully prepared. Without the power of knowledge, this hybrid war cannot be won.
Your decades-long steadfastness comes from the principle of istiqamat (one of the nine principles of Pashtunwali). You were tortured, incarcerated and killed, but the enemy could neither buy you out with money, nor could they bludgeon you into submission over the last twenty years. This shows that you have basirat (ability to see beyond the apparent facades and false promises).
These are quintessential aspects of character, which are necessary prerequisites of a morally and spiritually upright leadership in statecraft. Basirat comes from tazkiyya-i-nafs (cleansing of the soul), which in turn comes from austerity and being strict with yourself and generous with others. This too, you proved after you gave general amnesty to all who fought against you, even though it would have been perfectly Islamic to demand retribution as was done by the Nuremberg trials conducted by the victors of WWII.
Bear in mind that movements start with great spirit which wanes over time because the adherents recede into their comfort zones, become complacent and are finally overcome by the forces of evil that always lurk behind the shadows. Afghanistan will soon become one of the world’s richest countries under your leadership. Make sure that your peoples’ needs are met and they have moderate prosperity, or else excessive riches will make your population fat, lazy and coward like the Gulf Arabs.
The last big wave of Western oppression came to Afghanistan after 9/11. This wave will take about 2-4 more years to finally wane and subside permanently. When it wanes, like a tsunami it will take many unwanted bad things from your neighborhood also. Even though you do not want to transform your neighbors, many of us are already beginning to be transformed by your victory. The Kashmiri movement, the Khalistan independence movement, the Palestine movement, and the movement against corruption in Pakistan are already drawing inspiration from your victory against forces of oppression.
Islam does not accommodate secular liberal political philosophy, from the womb of which the modern democratic fraud was born. Steer clear of it. Modernist Muslims will tell you that the concept of Shura is democracy. It is not. Shura is not Western style democracy, but a system of consultation prevalent at all tiers of society, from the realm of the family to the state. Use that at every level, as you have during your resistance years.
How to deal with the big powers
The governments of Western countries were your enemies. They occupied you, spilled your blood, and destroyed regional peace. You may forgive them, but do not forget. It is best to do aggressive diplomacy at the moment, but under no circumstances should you deal with them with clemency. They do not deserve it. Starve if you have to, but do not yield to these forces. Apply the law of Pashtunwali and Shariah in dealing with them.
You say that Pakistan is your second home. If you form your government according to Islamic principles, it will eventually become a part of your first home. Afghanistan is not a nation. It is a territory that comprises many nations. Pakistan is not a nation either. It is a union of four big nationalities and a few smaller ones. It too came about in the name of Islamic values but its corrupt and westernized elites forgot the original mission. So many Pashtuns, Hazaras and Tajiks came to Pakistan successively through various wars and made it their home. You can too, not as a refugee, but as confederated citizen.
Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have learnt that on matters of defense and foreign policy, both need to be on the same page, or else there will always be trouble. If we do integrate defense and foreign policy, the economic control of your resources can remain in the Afghan hands just as the economic control of Pakistani resources may remain in the Pakistani hands.
This will only work for the short run. But since you are landlocked, you need to have access to the Pakistani territory in a way that Pakistan doesn’t need access to your territory. However, since trade with landlocked Central Asia is paramount, you can allow access to Pakistan to have access to Central Asia through which a one-sided dependency will turn into co-dependency, which will be better for both countries. Moreover, consider the following very important point.
Afghanistan is approximately 653,000 sq km, out of which arable land is only a little less than 12%, amounting to 78,360 sq km. One sq km has 247 acres. In the U.S. one acre feeds about 1-2 people. In Afghanistan, if one acre fed 10-15 people, then you can only feed less than 2 million people out of a population of approximately 38 million. The other 36 million have to be fed from Pakistan, because it is the cheapest source of surplus wheat. Pakistan’s 882,000 sq km has more than 40 percent arable land and it produces surplus wheat and rice.
You need Pakistan for your access to the sea, food security and building up a modern defense capability. If you keep practicing Afghan nationalism, and Pakistan also keeps practicing Uncle Tom’s backward ideologies from the bygone days of European enlightenment, both will remain adversaries. Pakistan will remain poor and you will starve to death. By the time you dig your resources and sell them for food and building infrastructure, you will keep indebting the Afghan people.
Pair up and partner up with Pakistan’s various sectors, except your politics. If you pledge your politics with Pakistan, we will let you down. Until a fully awake political elite comes into life in Pakistan, you should stay away. If and when it happens, then integrate with Pakistan as closely as possible.
You are most likely to produce an Iran-type of social space in the beginning. But make sure not to follow the Saudi model, because it is utterly un-Islamic. Remember, Muslim women have led armies of men in our history. We produced female scholars before any other civilization could do so. We even produced female sultanas before anywhere else.
However, since the last half a century, Afghanistan saw no peace, and women’s predicament, similar to men was focused on survival only. So, your current policy regarding women in Afghanistan is realistic enough for a conservative, warn-torn Pashtun society.
Others do not share the same outlook. Stick to Islamic injunctions and protect your women. Disallow man-hating feminist ideologies to protect the family unit. There should be enough freedom for our women. Our wellbeing depends on the wellbeing of our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. Resist all pressure from abroad on this account and gradually re-engineer society in which women will be modest but fully participating in our civilizational and national lives.
From the point of view of food security, revisit the Islamic position on population control. Family size now should be smaller than the days of war. In two generations, manageable population size in Afghanistan should be below 20 million, as in the case of Pakistan, which should drop from 220 million to 150 million.