Indo-Pak talks and Taliban provocations

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There are reports (February 23) in Indian media that two Sikhs were killed by Pakistan based Taliban militants in Khyber and Orakzi areas near Peshawar. These Sikhs were part of a group of many Sikhs who had been kidnapped by the Taliban over a month ago. The Taliban had demanded Rs 30 million as ransom for the release of this group and killed two of them after the expiry of the deadline for the payment of the ransom, Jizya. Two persons, Gurvinder Singh and Gurjit Singh amongst others are still believed to be in the custody of the militants.

Indian Government has reacted strongly to this mindless act by Taliban. A group of Muslim intellectuals has condemned this barbaric act. The group in their statement point out, "The inhuman and un-Islamic act of killing innocent civilians has once again exposed the true face of the terrorists whose only aim is to use the name of Islam, the religion of peace and mercy, for their nefarious designs, ulterior motives and worldly pleasures. These are the people who denigrate the name of Islam and bring disrepute to all Muslims of the World. No civilized Muslim would accept the logic of killing innocents in the name of religion. Safeguarding the lives of its minorities from lawlessness, mayhem and protecting their lives and property is the paramount duty of an Islamic State. The continuous pressure on the Sikh community in Pakistan is alarming and demands urgent attention of civil society, religious leadership and the establishment in Pakistan."

The other aspect of this brutal act is that it is coming just in the wake of the Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan to begin this 25th . Earlier also there has been a correlation between the improving Pak-India relations and such acts of insanity which put a great amount of pressure on Indian Government to put off the talks. One can recall numerous such incidents. The first such major incident was the Kargil occupation by Pakistan army under Pervez Musharraf in the wake of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Bus Yatra which aimed to break the ice  between the two neighbours. This was done without the knowledge of Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister

The second major act had been the Mumbai 26/11, 2008, before which Asif Ali Zardari had been giving positive signals of improving the relations between India and Pakistan. Today one is clear that there are multiple power centers in Pakistan. The democratic Government is trying to establish its writ, but the army and Taliban are doing their best to thwart the return of democracy, democratization process in Pakistan and betterment of Pak-India relations. One must compliment the Indian Government for keeping its cool, and firmness in the face of these deliberate provocations. The need to distinguish between the civilian Governments, and the army-mullah-Taliban complex is mandatory if we want to understand Pakistan today.

From the decades of 1980s multiple processes have gripped Pakistan and these had adverse impact on the whole of South Asia, India in particular. One recalls the rise of Zia Ul Haq with the support of US and Maulanas, led by Maulana Maududi. The formulations of Maulana Maududi provided ideal foil to the military dictatorship in Pakistan. At the same time US could merrily support Madrassa's which were training Muslim youth as cannon fodder for its plans to boost anti-Soviet forces during Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. These anti-Russian forces, joined the Taliban/Al-Qaeda and are creating havoc. Not only in India, they have also wrecked the life in Pakistan, several terrorist attacks, one of which killed the former Pakistan Prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Today Taliban/Al Qaeda types are like cancer eating into the vitals of Pakistan. Their impact is also felt here in India. Pakistan in a way is caught in a pincer movement, on one hand the Al Qaeda-Taliban creating havoc and on the other Army trying to remain as the major power center. India has a tough task to remain calm and firm in the face of this massive turmoil in the region.

We must see clearly that in this situation Pakistan civil government's hand must be strengthened so that it can deal effectively against the army highhandedness and terrorist strikes in the region. One also must make it clear that what Taliban is doing has nothing to do with Islamic teachings as such. As per Islam, there can't be force or compulsion in matters of religion. To force somebody to convert by force is not acceptable to Islam. Also to kill innocent people also goes against teachings of Koran.

As far a Jizya is concerned it was a tax levied on non Muslims under Muslim rule. This was in lieu of exemption from military duties and was a small proportion of the income of the person. It was mostly lesser than the Zakat, which is mandatory in Islam. Today to talk of Jizya is a political abuse of worst order; those using this language need to be restrained in the democratic society. The million rupee question remains, will civilian rule prevail over the fissiparous forces operating within Pakistan. and Indian Government must take up the issue of protection of minorities in Pakistan without any compromise. (Issues in Secular Politics)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 March 2010 on page no. 13

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