Religious Influences: Taliban - part 1
Though 95% of the population is Muslim, Pakistan has only become conservative within the last few decades. Economic failures and the movement towards a national identity have led the country to become a more conservative Islamic state in order to enforce social stability. The Taliban, which sought shelter in Pakistan after 2001, has heightened the tensions between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. The word "Talib" [TAH-lib] is Arabic for student [Taliban is the plural of Talib]. The Taliban chose this name for themselves as many of their leaders and members are former students of Islamic "madrassahs" (Islamic schools) located in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. A lack of available education and fighting among religious factions has led to a vast opening of religious militant schools (mainly in the Punjab region). Madrassahs tend to attract students from the thousands of poor and orphaned male children in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The majority of students who become Taliban are Pashtun. Though the Taliban is predominately Pashtun, many of the Pashtun people adamantly oppose them and have suffered at their hands.
|Listen to this audio about the Taliban from Nicholas Schmidle "Living With Political Islam"|
The conservative Islamic values taught at these schools are now coming into conflict with the more liberal populations of Pakistan. Adding to the conflict is the government of Pakistan’s alignment with the West. A substantial part of the population has had ties with the Taliban and the Pakistani military who were historically united in subduing warrior factions in Afghanistan after Soviet withdrawal.
In the more liberal urban areas, conservative Afghani refugees have come into conflict with the local population. High tension has arisen in the Sindh province where the Muhajir people migrated from India in 1947. The Muhajir, who are liberal and pro-U.S., started the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) which is opposed to religious conservatism, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. They have recently begun an anti-Taliban campaign to end the "Taliban-ization" of Karachi by Pashtun supporters of the Awami National Party.
The Taliban's interpretation of Islam grew out of the extremist sects connected to the various madrassahs in the region. Most Taliban members follow Wahhabism; the Taliban's view of Islam is considered to be the most extreme interpretation in existence . The power of the Taliban is growing throughout much of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province and Baluchistan. An increase in Madrassahs has been used to support the spread the extremist ideology of Pakistan. Areas falling under Taliban control have been experiencing suicide bombings, beheadings, strict purdah enforcement, and the destruction of girl’s schools.
The Taliban controls parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan and in the past controlled much of Afghanistan. In early 2009, the Taliban increased their control over the central Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa valley known as Swat. In 2009, over 300,000 people were forced to flee their homes from Swat, Waziristan and the surrounding areas because of increasing violence between the Taliban and the Pakistani government. The Swat valley has historically been a primary tourist area of Pakistan. In February of 2009, the Pakistani government agreed on a cease fire with the Taliban and has given them concession to rule the Swat valley in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa .