Friday, January 27, 2006

Plight of the Pakhtuns

After having spent some dough on a home entertainment system the past weekend I started looking for a decent video library around my place, blockbuster just doesnt cut it for me. I eventually came across a gem in ZIP they have fantastic service with the deepest collection and the best part, I dont have to move an inch to look it up its all over the internet. I signed up for their 2 week trial but rest assured, I am checking in long term with these folks. So having come across a collection so deep, I started testing it out with random searches, putting in Keywords like Karachi and Pakistan. It was then that I came across a classic that I had seen as a child but had very little recollection of. It was called Traffik, a british mini-series about the heroine trail between Pakistan, Germany and England.
It was quite a treat watching the old 80s world. Its changed so much in the last twenty years. The funniest thing however was the Hollywood movie "Traffic" with Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro and Catherine Zeta Jones, is a complete copy of the original Traffik. Pakistan has been replaced by Mexico and the US has subsituted for Europe. Scene by scene, word by word, the movie is a redo of the mini series. Given that Sorderbergh made some revelant changes with regards to the cultures and geographies of his movie, but it still surprises me that a director of his calibre would copy so blatantly. Its Hollywood, not Bollywood!
The older version got me thinking. Replace heroin with terrorismt, replace the UK with most of the western world and replace Talat Hussain's character with one of the fundamentlist mullahs out there and we get pretty much the situation that prevails in NWFP at present. I dont think we or any one before us, may it be the British or the forces of Alexander, have really understood these people. I think that they have a talent, a talent of being able to utilize the sparse natural resources to make the most of it.
Take opium for example, who would have thought that the beautiful green sticks with a pinkish bud could produce heroine. Even to date, the best drugs or the raw materials for it, come from this part of the world. The Pakthuns basically cultivated the crop and then passed the bud onto people who would process it into heroine. Our governemnts response to situation was burning down the poppy crop and and forcing the farmers to grow seasame seed. Is it just me, or is that a massive economic blunder ?
Here we have one product, opium, thats known to produce the "soothing" effect to the mind. It sells for a lot more as well because it doesnt grow all over the world. So lets take a look at that supply chain and instead of killing the farmer, nab the people who process opium into heroine. If it can create heroine, then I am certain that it can be used in several medicines. Instead of wasting resources on setting fire to the crops, the government should have seriously considered researching other areas in which opium could have been used.

So now lets look back at these poor Pakthuns. They have lost their prize crop. They grow seasme seed which doesnt get them half the price of what they used to get with opium and right next door there is a civil war going on in Afghanistan. Any war needs two things, soldiers and ammo. And hence the cottage industry of arms and ammunition manufacturing gets a major boost. People start learning and making weapons and a new mafia evolves thats dealing in arms export. It doesnt take long for them to find international clients who would be interested in buying cheap good quality weapons on the black market and so it spreads. Now everyone can not make guns can they? So some people took to the maderssahs to get educated and have a safe shelter while they went through their education. Its no surprise that Maulana Sami Ul Haqs biggest Maderassah is not in the big cities of the country like Karachi or Lahore, but in a town near Peshawar. And hence their comes into being a supply chain for the Taliban which has multiple upstream feeds of figthers and arms coming from the same location.

Fast forward to present time, and these are the very institutions that the west has an issue with. The capability of the Pakhtuns to be the best at what they do. So the question that exists now, is should they Maderssahs be destroyed, should the Darra be raided and abolished or should those governing the country look at this region and its people as a competitve advantage that needs to be utilized and harnessed in a manner different than the present?

1 comment: said...

By Dr Adalat Khan

There is nothing worse, or more pathetic, than to see the whole Pukhtoon nations standing aside and wringing their collective hands over the death and destruction of their fellow brethrens either by bigoted extremists or mercenary forces. The whole Pukhtunkhwa is under fire and it would seem that if sense and sensibility did not visit the minds of Pukhtoons the whole race will erase. This is not exaggerating because many strong nations who once ruled the world do not exist today and have only become part of the forgotten history. Babylonians, Romans, Byzantine are just a few examples of civilizations which were wiped out and do not exist today. Is that a destiny Pukhtoons wish to embrace? If the answer is yes then this article will lose its utility. But let us hope that the same nation which was once the envy of the world will regain its dignity if not earlier glory. The task is tough but not impossible provided there is a collective struggle towards this end. No one can change the conditions of Pukhtoons but themselves. In the Holy Quran, Allah says that He does not change the conditions of a people unless they make efforts to change these themselves. The time to change our conditions is now because now are the worst conditions we as a nation face. After the last kind Pukhtoon King Ibrahim Lodhi whose rule was taken by Mughals in 1562 Pukhtoons have seen the worst of oppressions, colonialism, wars and destructions. However of and on they were able to bounce back either by consistently fighting their enemies, or regaining back their sovereignty from occupying forces. However today this regal race is pushed to the extreme wall and sliding backward will prove fatal. The one and only option available to Pukhtoons is to move forward and unite. Unity is not only needed but it is our survival and if we do not grab this opportunity in the history of annals we will be attributed the worse place.
There are great dangers because the great devils have brought the battle to our homes but alas we are fighting among our selves. A New Great Game is being played where the only obstacles seen are Pukhtoons and conditions are orchestrated to wipe out this race so there is a free flow of oil from the Caspian Sea to the Gwadar port and onward to the West. In The New Great Game, a book written by Lutz Kleveman, he gives us a fearless, insightful and exacting portrait of a new battleground in the violent politics and passion of oil: Central Asia, known as the "black hole of the earth" for much of the last century. The Caspian Sea contains the world’s largest amount of untapped oil and gas resources. It is estimated that there might be as much as one hundred billion barrels of crude oil in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan alone. And to transport this resource all obstacle must be removed at all costs including the annihilation of the Pukhtoon race.
Division into different parties, sects, tribes, and schools of thought is only offering the ammunition to our enemies to wipe us out. So what is needed is unity. It is ironic to see that the big Khans who sing the songs of Pukhtoon unity have not united us but further divided us. Our youth have joined extremist groups because the Khans have discriminated them, divided and ruled them, and in some instances forced even to vote against their will. Some of these Khans who even give long lectures on Pukhtoon unity have the blood of poor Pukhtoons on their hands. They must be shameful now as the Pukhtoons have reached a stage where if not reversed they will face total destructions. For the unity to be realized the following are some of the steps which needs to be taken:
• All Pukhtoons including other people of the whole province as well as the tribal area must come together. Putting aside our political affiliations or linguistic proficiency we must once and for all realize that disunity equals destruction and unity is the need of the hour.
• There is a need for a collective dialogue with the government as well as the so called Pro Taliban elements. Consultation or Jirga is not only part of the Pukhtoon culture but at the heart of Islam. We need to iron out all our differences be it between the Pro-Taliban or the people or the government. I am sure win-win solution could be found as the destruction of any of the three parties is the destruction of all.
• Instead of wasting time on futile and minute issues as to what should be the ring tone of a mobile phone or how long should the shalwar be hanging over the knuckles etc. people as well as government must focus on development activities. Health, education, employment and entrepreneurship should be spurred as these are the root causes which have enraged people into doing the things which we see these days.
• It is also the duty of every Pukhtoons to see that Pakistan remains intact as a country and counter all elements which are bent on destruction be they inside or outside. We must give up the retreat mentality but expand our influence throughout the country as well as the world.
• Extremism, ignorance, media assault on our image are some of the enemies which we need to confront. Being a freedom loving, secular, and Islamic minded people we must get rid of these menaces before the destroy us.
Pukhtoons have seen the best of times as well as the worst of times. Today Pukhtoons are at the crossroads and defining moment of their identity or survival. Extremism, international conspiracy to vanish them, and the lack of great leadership to steer them out of trouble are just a few of the myriads of problems faced by this brave people. Frankly there are only two options-first being destruction which is searching us and the second being survival which we must seek. If we do not opt for the second one then it is almost certain that we will become part of a forgotten history. A history where the members of the community were utterly disunited, too caught up in the pursuit of self interests and personal power, too reliant on others to do their work and to fight their wars, and these are the danger signs. They warn of destruction in society, the loss of identity and a decline in resolve that in times past had ensured both the survival of society and its continued existence. Unity among Pukhtoons and the people of the NWFP and Tribal Areas is the need of the hour as without unity we have no other options. So let us unite and rise to the occasion and save our land, our identity, our faith and the destiny of our present and future generations.
Dr Adalat Khan is an international columnist who is based in Malaysia and can be reached at