Recent South Asia Articles

The Peshawar massacre: Pakistan’s problems with the Taliban didn’t start with 9/11

by Sunny Hundal     December 18, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Tuesday was a hard day to absorb the news. All year I’ve seen some really horrible videos, mostly by ISIS, showing men being shot in the back of their heads, throats slit or being buried in mass graves. But that day… maybe it was the pictures that came out of Peshawar, the Facebook updates from friends or just the nature of the massacre… I was nearly in tears. You can try but you can’t always remain emotionless in the face of such news.

I wanted to wait at least a couple of days to collect my thoughts and write something about the politics surrounding this issue.

I can’t even imagine the horrors that Pakistanis are going through. The Taliban have attacked over 1000 schools in the last five years and they become more vicious every year. How can you even live a normal life when you’re not sure if your kids will come back alive from school?

I suspect this is a tipping point. The Taliban’s desperation is being driven by infighting, defections and losing more support from the public. In June the Pakistani army launched a military operation against the Taliban and other jihadi groups – Operation Zarb-e-Azb – which also seriously degraded their capabilities. Most Pakistanis will always support their army against others. From here on, the Taliban in Pakistan (also called the TTP) is headed for a downward spiral: less people will join them, help them, donate to them and defend them in public. They may successfully mutate into something else, but its certainly likely that the TTP is now headed for doom.

And then there is the international politics. I’ve seen several people since yesterday blame American drone attacks for the Taliban’s actions, or claim that this was all America’s fault anyway since Pakistan was relatively peaceful before 9/11. I want to knock these two fallacies on their heads.

First, the drones. Yes there have been drones strikes in Pakistan but the vast majority have actually been in Afghanistan. The two countries are not the same. Afghanistan has its own Taliban that is different to the TTP and the former does not attack civilian or government targets in Pakistan (unlike the TTP). There are complicated reasons for this, but the point is that drones strikes in Pakistan are rare. It is not unusual for the TTP to kill more Pakistanis in a month than the US government has killed in 10 years of drone strikes. And most of those strikes have been with Pakistani government approval. See more on that here.

Why does the TTP kill innocent Pakistanis when it opposes the killing of civilians via US drones? Because their stated aim is to take over the country, rip up the constitution and install a system of sharia of their hardline interpretation. I’m not making this up – this was in their list of demands. They are waging a war against the Pakistani government and won’t give up until their demands are met. The drones are a sideshow.

Then, the War on Terror. There’s no denying that it has created instability in Pakistan (although Afghanistan was going through a quiet civil war before as the Taliban forcibly took over territory like ISIS have done).

But the seeds of Pakistan’s instability were sown long before 9/11, when Pakistan was funding hardline groups in a proxy war against India. What frustrates me about the ‘war on terror’ argument is how western-centric and ignorant of South Asian history it is. The jihadi groups aren’t new to Pakistan – what’s new is their focus on creating chaos in Pakistan rather than India. (You may argue that the TTP is different to the likes of LeT and others that were focused on India, but the same infrastructure of hardline madrassahs, preachers and support in the Urdu media created the monsters).

I want Pakistan to be a safe, secure and prosperous country. I was also pleased, as someone of Indian origin, that India was the only country yesterday to mark the Peshawar massacre with silence, while not a single Middle Eastern country did the same.

But that safety and security will only come after enough Pakistanis realise that the Taliban itself is the problem, because they want to destroy the country as it exists and remodel it to their own twisted, hardline version of Islam. The United States isn’t helping but blaming them is like focusing on a gash while your body is being destroyed by cancer. The Taliban is the cancer and its about time it was rooted out before it destroys the body of the Pakistani state.

Thinking of abandoning your wife in Pakistan or India? Think again

by Sunny Hundal     July 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm

A court judgement out this week sheds light on a very under-reported and rarely-discussed problem within South Asian communities in the UK.

In 2007 I reported for BBC Asian Network on women who come to the UK as brides from South Asia, and the potential problems they face. Since many don’t speak English (and are sometimes discouraged from learning it!) – they are more vulnerable to being abused, exploited, beaten or abandoned. One way to help, I argued, was to make it compulsory for them to learn English, so they could more easier seek help when needed and play an active role in British society.

Here are the facts of the case, as laid out in the court judgement. What’s extraordinary about this case is that a British law-firm (Dawson Cornwell) fought on behalf of this woman and won a judgement against the man. I hope it sets a precedent and serves as a warning to other men thinking of abandoning their wives.

* * * * * *

A very young wife was lawfully brought to the United Kingdom, where she was dependent upon her husband and his family, and where she gave birth to a child who has major disabilities. Her husband made little effort to secure for her the immigration status to which she was entitled and when the marriage got into difficulties, she was then sent out of the country with no right to re-enter. The result is that she and her child have been separated for the past three years, a situation that is a wholesale breach of their right to respect for their family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The child, S, was born in 2005 and is nearly 9 years old. He has very severe learning and communication disabilities. His parents are both of Pakistani origin. The father was born in England while the mother came here in June 2002 after an arranged marriage that was celebrated in Pakistan in 2000 when she was around 15 years old.

In December 2012, the father pronounced a talaq. In August 2013, the mother remarried in Pakistan. She says that this marriage was a marriage of convenience. Her father was planning to arrange for her remarriage to a person of his choice and she went through a ceremony of marriage with someone else to prevent this. Her evidence is that she has never lived with this “husband” and has no intention of doing so in future or of bringing him to the United Kingdom.

The mother described several occasions on which the father and his mother would slap and kick her and pull her hair. These did not cause major injury and she did not seek medical treatment or, in general, complain to the authorities. However, on 7 February 2011, she did make a police report and went overnight to a refuge. She explains this as being because the father struck S on that occasion. The father denies any violence whatever.

The judge also writes:

The father’s failure to secure the mother’s immigration status was a gross dereliction of his responsibility towards her and towards S. In his evidence, he claims that he was unaware of her precarious position, having left matters of that kind to his own father. He says that when she left the country in July 2011 he did not know what the position was. I found the father’s evidence incredible and I reject it. He knew perfectly well that if the mother left, she could not return. The reason why the father and his family were so careless of the mother’s position was because it suited them.

Having considered all the evidence on this issue, the judge found that the mother was tricked into going to Pakistan. He also made it easier for her to travel back to the UK and see her son, and forced the father to give her some visitation rights.

Well done on the judge on handling this so well.

It may be that this case also sets a precedent for other ‘stranded’ spouses. As the judge said right at the beginning:

Where one party to a failing marriage has secure immigration status and the other does not, the opportunity arises for the former to exploit the latter’s weakness by taking advantage of immigration controls. This case is a bad, but by no means unique, example of what has come to be known as the stranded spouse.


If you are being affected by this (or other issues like a forced marriage) and need some support, get in touch with Sharan Project

The Rohingya Muslims in Burma are on the verge of facing genocide, and we can help stop this

by Paul Cotterill     July 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Genocide is not a term to be bandied around willy-nilly. The whole point of the UN’s post-war Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is that it marks out genocide as being on a different scale of evil from, let us say, mass indiscriminate killing undertaken in the pursuance of state expansion.

So even though I’ve followed, for a number of years now* the mistreatment and murder of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority living principally in the Burmese state of Rakhine, I have been reluctant to see the ongoing atrocities as genocidal.

Until now.

Developments in the scale, manner and motivation for the killing of Rohingya people now seem to meet many if not all of the pre-conditions for a coming genocidal phases. Using Gregory Stanton’s Eight Stages of Genocide as a useful starting point, it is fairly easy to see that the first six of these have fallen or are falling into place:

Classification: the Burmese authorities, in collusion or at least in fear of a now rampant militant Buddhism, have overseen the development a popular conception of Burma as a bipolar society – Buddhist Burmese vs. Muslim minority (cf. the artificial disaggregation of Tutsis from Hutus). This has intensified in recent months as Muslims from outside the Rohingya community and beyond Rekhane state have been targeted, increasing the bipolarisation. This is not to say that the Christian minority in Kachin state have not also suffered terribly, but increasingly it is the Muslim minority which seems to be being portrayed as the sole enemy within.

Symbolization: The stripping of citizenship (and thereby travel) rights and the herding of Rohingya communities into ghettos, where they can be increasingly marked out as ready and waiting for killing. This goes alongside the narrative of the Rohingya as fairly recent illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite the clear evidence of settlement in the pre-colonial period.

Dehumanization: An important phase, in which the normal revulsion against murder seems to be being overcome by significant sections of the population, for example in this episode of the merciless killing of teenagers, in which an exhortation to “Burmese courage” propels a group of people to do the hitherto unthinkable. Here it would seem, the ‘moral’ authority provided by extreme ‘969 Buddhism’, under the guidance of ‘Bin Laden Monk’ Ashin Wirathu, is of importance.

Organisation: The all-too-common process of state denial, whereby the state at the very least turns a blind eye to atrocities carried out by local militias, seems to be developing in Burma. In Burma, this local organization seems to be in the hands of the religious community, though there are some doubts as to whether some of the leaders – including the one able to drive heavy machinery – are actually monks.

Polarization: For example, a law effectively outlawing intermarriage has been drafted by extremist Buddhist groups, with the apparent approval of the state.

Preparation: As noted, the herding of Rohingya communities into barely liveable ghettos, sometimes “for their own safety” has begun in earnest, in a process which makes later killing more ‘manageable’ but at the same time furthers the dehumanization process.

In short, all the warning signs that a truly genocidal phase is coming, and maybe coming soon, are there.

The deepest irony, perhaps, is that all this is happening as Burma moves seemingly inexorably towards democracy, and as Western nations (and China) start to invest/extract heavily.

It is surely with the narrative of a new, open and free Burma that its Prime Minister is due to arrive in London and Paris this month for talks with Cameron and Hollande. Back home, the (ex-) Junta, and arguably even Aung San Suu Kyi, are focused increasingly on how they might best build up their vote for the approaching elections, and it seems increasingly unlikely that they will do so by appealing for tolerance towards the Rohingya community.

But genocide is not inevitable. Outside attention can create the impetus for even a weak state to step, especially if it fears losing the foreign investment and allied political legitimacy it craves, and in this case may help to embolden the opposition, who do appear strangely quiet.

So what can we do as bystanders? Well there’s a useful petition, asking the European leaders that meet the Burmese President to go beyond the usual platitudes about welcoming democracy. Please do sign it.

Perhaps more importantly, we might remember the ‘never again’ commitments of our governments when the scale of the horror in East Pakistan, then East Timor, then Rwanda & Burundi became apparent, and Srebrenica appeared on our screens, and ask our own elected representatives about what they can do about evil on a scale beyond mass murder.

To follow developments, I recommend French journalist @sophieansel (in English and French) and @voicerohingya as good starting points, though the New York Times also keeps a good eye on things.

Don’t blame consumers for the Bangladeshi factory disaster – blame multi-nationals

by Owen Tudor     May 10, 2013 at 8:40 am

Ever since the disaster at the Rana Plaza textile factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, some commentators have been trying to guilt-trip cash-strapped western consumers for the terrible conditions of workers in Bangladesh’s Ready-Made Garment (RMG) sector, where wages are as low as £27 a month.

We’ve been told that our insatiable desire for cheap clothing is what keeps wages down, and working conditions so poor that factory fires are endemic and corners cut so badly that buildings collapse, as Rana Plaza did.

But we think cash-strapped consumers aren’t the problem, and the TUC have researched and published a quick graphic to explain:

T-shirt graphic

The suggestion that consumers are to blame struck us as a bit too convenient. So we asked the textile unions in Bangladesh how much their members were paid to make a t-shirt.

Believe it or not, there’s actually a term for how long it takes a textile worker to run up a basic t-shirt: the ‘Standard Minute Value’ or SMV. And the time it takes is 10.565 minutes. That’s a rough estimate, presumably!

Textile workers usually work over 200 hours a month, producing nearly six t-shirts every hour. So the princely wage they receive for each t-shirt is roughly 2p. We’ve found costs in high street shops ranging from £2 to £10, with the archetypal t-shirt mentioned in several reports costing £6.

So the price you’re charged for a t-shirt has nothing to do with the wages of the textile workers who made it. To double their wages would increase the production cost of a basic high-street t-shirt by 2p.

That all suggests that someone’s trying to pull the wool over our eyes about who’s really responsible for the low wages and poor health and safety standards in Dhaka’s RMG sector, and it’s the global brands and manufacturers who set the prices.

Bizarrely, some of them have insisted that they have no control over wages, hours of work, factory safety and the like. But they can determine the time it takes to manufacture a t-shirt down to three decimal places and determine what the stitching on the hems looks like! Pull the other one!

We’re supporting the global union for textile workers, IndustriALL, who are demanding that global brands, retailers and manufacturers sign up to an agreement on health and safety and wages. You can support them by by taking this e-action.

Crucially, workers in Bangladesh need the right to join a union and the right to negotiate terms and conditions with their employers. But they also need to work in safety, as the International Labour Organisation has insisted.

The people who should be feeling guilty are the people who run those global multinationals and the Government of Bangladesh. Not shoppers like you, struggling to get by on wages that are also not increasing, while the costs of food, fuel and accommodation continue to rise.

Workers everywhere need dignity at work, based on decent wages and decent jobs.

We are starting a campaign to offer asylum to Afghani interpreters to British soldiers

by Sunny Hundal     May 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm

About six years ago, bloggers from across the political spectrum banded together for a campaign to offer asylum to Iraqi interpreters to British armed forces. It was a long and bumpy campaign, and we didn’t get all that we wanted at the time, but it helped to get more Iraqi interpreters into the UK than if we had done nothing.

Now it’s time to revisit the issue, for interpreters who have helped British armed forces in Afghanistan.

The reasons this is the right thing to do are straightforward:

1) These interpreters have helped save the lives of British soldiers in Afghanistan.

2) They put their lives at risk, from extremist elements, to help British forces.

3) If we abandon them, it hurts British peace-keeping missions in the future. Locals will be less willing to help British armed forces in the future if they think they will be abandoned at a later date.

Whether you were for or against the war in Afghanistan, helping Afghani interpreters and their families is the morally righteous course of action. This says nothing about whether Afghanistan was right or wrong – only that these people need help, and should be offered asylum in the UK for their services.

* * * * * *

The campaign also has wide-spread public support. A Sunday Times opinion poll found that most Britons agree we should offer asylum to Afghan interpreters who worked for British troops. Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem voters all support the call for protection for the interpreters – while UKIP voters were narrowly against it.

There is an email petition by and I fully support that, though I think there should be a off-line campaign focused on lobbying MPs too.

The Times is once again campaigning strongly on this issue, and I hope other newspapers will follow suit.

* * * * * *

It would help if bloggers wrote about this issue too, or highlight related stories in the press on Twitter, to keep up the momentum.

Support from Lib Dem and Tory bloggers & figures would be really helpful – this has to be a cross-party campaign.

What I’m looking for right now are offers of support and help, and ideas on how to take this forward. The first step is likely to be a meeting in a pub somewhere (in London, sorry) to discuss how to take the campaign forward and who can help in what way.

Why is the government refusing asylum to translators for British soldiers?

by Robert Sharp     May 3, 2013 at 12:43 pm

A few years agao, I blogged about the campaign to save the Iraqi translators who had worked for British troops in the country.

Appallingly, the British Government refused to give them asylum, even though it was their work helping (perhaps, even keeping alive) British soldiers that had got them into trouble in the first place.

Via Aavaz, I learn that the British Government may now repeat this shameful episode in relation to translators working with British forces in Afghanistan. They want to give compensation, in lieu of asylum.

This really is not good enough. We have a duty to protect these people. Failure to do so would not only be a moral outrage – it would damage the reputation of British forces abroad and make it much harder to recruit local translators for future military operations.

Aavaz have a petition, which I have signed. Please do the same.

Why does the British Government drag its heels on these ethical no-brainers?

I worry that it is down to the confused debate about immigration in this country. Asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants and illegal immigrants are all very different types of migrant, but they are all spoken of as similarly illegitimate and unwelcome.

We cannot allow an immature debate at home to hobble our soldiers working abroad.

Does news coverage of tragedies like in Bangladesh worsen the problem?

by Chris Dillow     May 1, 2013 at 9:10 am

In 2010, 140,000 children aged under five died in Bangladesh. If the country had the same mortality rate (pdf) as the UK, only around 15,000 would have done so. This implies that around 125,000 Bangladeshi children die each year from poverty.

This fact, however, does not feature prominently in nightly news bulletins, even though it is equivalent to two Rana Plaza collapses every week.

There is, of course a simple reason for this. The news reports abnormal events, not normal ones; "dog bites man" is not news. Collapsing buildings are abnormal and so newsworthy whilst acute poverty is normal and so isn't news.

This bias is inherent in the nature of news. And yet it can be misleading. You cannot understand why so many Bangladeshis tolerate working in sweatshops until you realize that doing so gives their children not just a better chance in life, but a better chance of life. Thanks in part to the economic development brough by those sweatshops, child mortality in Bangladesh has fallen.

However, news reports which draw attention to the evils of sweatshops but not to those of rural poverty understate the benefits which such sweatshops have brought. Yes, they're hellholes which perhaps could and should be improved upon – but they're better than the alternative.

In this sense, news generates a bias amongst its western consumers; it encourages a hostility to globalization and industrialization even though these are – albeit imperfect – routes out of poverty.

There's a parallel here with attitudes towards crime reporting. It's a commonplace that whilst crime has fallen in recent years, the fear of it hasn't. A big reason for this, I suspect, is that violent crime – being abnormal – gets reported whilst folks living safely, being normal, does not. Ordinary reporting thus warps our perspective.

You cannot reasonably judge a probability distribution merely by looking at the far tail of it. But this is what the news invites us to do. 

There's another relevant bias here. Whilst under-reporting deaths from rural poverty the news is full of the doings of the rich and powerful. This too can have pernicious unintended effects. Laboratory experiments (pdf) have found that the mere act of communicating with others can induce them to behave more altruistically towards us. This implies that we are likely to be better-disposed towards the rich and powerful than we otherwise would be, and less well-disposed to the silent poverty-stricken billions. This too generates a bias towards tolerating poverty.

I say all this as a caveat to a common complaint. Everyone complains – with justification  – about bad, right-wing, dumbed-down linkbait journalism. But even when journalists are doing their jobs well, they are contributing to some unpleasant biases, by the very nature of what constitutes news. You cannot, rationally, base your political opinions in what your see in the news.

Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women

by Guest     January 4, 2013 at 10:02 am

by Iram Ramzan

Many commentators have written about the Delhi gang-rape case but, in my opinion, very few of them have alluded to the cultural aspects. We cannot just sweep it under the carpet.

While Owen Jones was right to point out that “rape and sexual violence against women are endemic everywhere” and that a third of Britons blame the victim, at least women in western countries are not conditioned to be raised as potential mothers and wives, with this notion of shame constantly hanging over them.

In the UK, no sane person would dream of telling a rape victim that she must marry her attacker. In late December, another Indian girl, who was gang-raped, committed suicide after police pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers.

In 1997, Bollywood released a well-known film, Raaja Ki Aayegi Barat, in which a young woman is raped; the court then compels the rapist to marry the woman because, as she says, “who will marry me now?” (Just Google Bollywood rape scenes and you will be presented with hundreds of links to sleazy scenes where we are invited to ogle at ‘hot babes’ being raped.)

Skewed attitudes towards the other sex develop from a young age. A female child is made aware of her differences by her parents and relatives who constantly belittle them compared to men. My brother is always given preferential treatment to me, and I am told that “It’s different for him, he’s a boy” or, my personal favourite, “A man can go out and come back with shit-faced and sit at the dinner table without any problems. You’re a woman, it’s different.”

I’ve been told horrific stories of Asian women who have been raped by their husbands and told by their mothers that it is their “duty” to submit to their husband’s will. Having honour is often the most sought after, protected and prized asset that speaks to the status and reputation of a family within their community.

I was stalked by a man for two years and did not report the incident to the police for fear I would be told by my family that their “honour” would be at stake if others knew. I have been harassed and molested in public and private, and have never told them, precisely because of this stigma.

This from a British-born Asian – imagine how worse it must be for those living in the subcontinent? There, females are neither safe inside the womb nor outside it.

Sonia Gandhi, the head of the ruling Congress Party, described Damini as a “cherished sister”. I really wish people would stop suggesting that if everyone treated women as their own sister or mother, there would be a reduction in harassment or rape. The fact that many of these men do not even respect their ‘own’ women, and view them as inferior, can be seen as a reason for why they commit these awful crimes in the first place.

To deny the impact of culture on this crime is doing a huge disservice to Indian women and ignores its overall impact. It is tragic that a woman had to be gang-raped to awaken something in the Indian mentality. However, let us hope that this is the beginning of a new wave of change and reform.

Why the British government should not cut important aid to India

by Guest     November 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

by Jack Torrance

The recent announcement that UK government aid to India will be scrapped was mainly greeted with either agreement or indifference, but we should consider whether the arguments for this move were fair.

It’s easy to see why people would support cutting the idea. The Indian economy is fast shooting up the GDP league tables and is touted to be one of the economic superpowers of the future, along with Brazil and China.

People often also point to the Indian space programme and nuclear weapons as evidence that the country no longer needs or deserves aid. However what these things belie is the true state of poverty for much of India’s population.

Whilst the total size of India’s economy is pretty vast, so is its population. The nominal GDP per capita in 2011 was around $1,400, around just 5% of Britain’s. Even in terms of purchasing power, India’s GDP per capita is just approx £3600 per capita, one tenth of Britain. So even without the severe inequality which plagues India the country’s people would not be remotely well off.

Poverty estimates by the University of Oxford suggest that more than 53% of Indians live in poverty whilst 28% experience sever poverty. Make no mistake that despite its economic achievements poverty in India remains a major problem that needs to be tackled.

Turning to the “vanity projects” such as the space program and nuclear weapons, these are hardly grounds for cutting aid. It’s certainly difficult to justify development of weapons of mass destruction. But given that India’s primary military belligerent, Pakistan, also possesses a nuclear capability, we can sympathise with a desire for nuclear deterrent.

The space programme meanwhile is about much more than prestige. The primary focus of the program is the development of space technology, which has applications in telecomms, media and scientific research. These sectors are a big part of India’s emerging technology focused economy, and so the program could be itself an alleviator of poverty in the long term.

Furthermore the cost associated with projects like this are a drop in the ocean in comparison with the level of poverty in India. For instance the space program costs just 0.14% of India’s GDP. One would imagine that on a national level this amount of money would have a negligible impact on poverty alleviation.

Ultimately the real question is whether you distinguish between the people of India and the Indian government. While the comfortable and monied leaders of the country may be “squandering” money on unnecessary projects, this is hardly the fault of the Mumbai slum dweller or the poor sugar farmer in Uttar Pradesh.

Even if we consider the Indian government to wasteful and misguided, The Department for International Development should work with charities and NGOs to deliver aid directly to those people who endure severe hardship every day.

Why do lefties keep ignoring the threat of the Taliban to Pakistanis?

by Sunny Hundal     October 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

The New York Times made a poignant and very worrying documentary in 2009 on how the Taliban were ruling parts of Pakistan and had issued a command that all girls should stop attending schools.

The documentary has resurfaced because the NYT then interviewed an 11-yr old Malala (see box) saying she really wanted to go to school and become a doctor.

Malala Yousafzai is now in critical condition and yet the Taliban have vowed to kill her anyway.

A 15-year-old girl who was wounded alongside Ms. Yousafzai described how easily the Taliban had been able to attack the school bus. “A young man in his early 20s approached the bus and asked for Malala,” the girl, Kainat Riaz, said in an interview at her family’s home in Swat. “Then he started firing.”

What frustrates me about all this is that while left-wingers in the US and UK constantly criticise US drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan – there is virtual silence on what to do about the Taliban.

Let me be clear: I think the drone attacks are counter-productive and also end up hitting a lot of innocent people. And they set an awful precedent for other countries to also use them in foreign territory.

But the Taliban always have been and always will be a much greater threat to Pakistanis than the US.

The Taliban aren’t just a threat to Pakistanis but the entire region. Controlling Pakistan would mean controlling its nuclear weapons and outright confrontation and war with India. And I’m not exaggerating either.

So here’s my question: once the US withdraws from Pakistan by 2014 (assuming Obama gets re-elected, rather than Romney) – do we just ignore the Taliban? Because that is what lefties seem to want to do.

Do we ignore that the Taliban want to subjugate and control Pakistan and Afghanistan, through funding from extremists groups in the Middle East. Do we ignore the fact that they want women banned from public life there and deny them even education?

Of course I’m not calling for an invasion of Pakistan to root out the Taliban. But I’m asking: should we ignore them and leave the region at it? What happened to solidarity with the Pakistanis against the Taliban? Do we ignore them until the region blows up into a nuclear stand-off?

We focus on US actions because we can influence them more than Pakistani govt action. But this is the easy way out for two reasons: the US will never be a threat to Pakistanis on a scale like the Taliban. Secondly, it ignores the longer term threat to Pakistanis.

The Taliban were there before 9-11, so the argument that without the drone attacks they would melt away is fatuous.

They are religious extremists and want Pakistanis subjugated to their extremist version of Islam regardless of who the Prime Minister is. The United States did not create them. And they will be there a long time after the United States leaves. What then?

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