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Taliban, adopt ballots not bullets

March 19 2014




For once, the militant Taliban should listen to religious scholars, especially in India, who are urging Indian Muslims to embrace ballots ‘wholeheartedly’.

The talks between government representatives in Pakistan and the Taliban broke down earlier when the Taliban insisted that they did not recognise the Constitution of Pakistan. The Taliban have also reiterated several times in the past that they did not believe in electoral democracy because these systems of governance conflict with what they believe is the divine law.

According to the Press Trust of India, the chief rector of the Darul Uloom in Lucknow, Maulana Rabey Hasan Nadwi, encouraged Indian Muslims to participate in elections. “All I can say is that Muslims should participate wholeheartedly in the electoral process. They should support the best candidates and hope for the best. They will suffer if they remain aloof from the political system,” said Maulana Nadwi in an interview in Aligarh.

To be fair, the Taliban are more closely aligned with Darul Uloom in Deoband, which is more radical in its religious and social outlook. Still, even the religious leaders in Deoband do not discard electoral democracy for the Muslims.

The Ulama of Deoband recognise India as a democracy and urge Muslims to vote for those who are good for Muslims and also for India. Responding to a question, the Deobandi scholars observed that while “India is not an Islamic country but it is a democratic and secular country… However, one should vote to (sic) the party and leader who are better in the favour (sic) of Muslims and the country.”

Almost all religious parties in Pakistan have also embraced electoral democracy. Jamaat-i-Islami and various versions of Jamiat-i-Ulama-i-Islam have participated in several elections in the past. They are expected to do so in the future as well. Why then, do the Taliban reject electoral democracy and refuse to recognise the Constitution of Pakistan. If elections are good for Muslims in India, why can’t they be good for Muslims in Pakistan?

Is electoral democracy the only modern construct rejected by the Taliban? What about education and, more recently, polio vaccination? Over the past several years, the Taliban have destroyed several schools in the areas they controlled. Girls’ schools were much more likely to be destroyed than the school for boys. The Taliban have reluctantly consented to allow only young girls to attend school. From Karachi to Pakistan’s remote tribal areas, the Taliban have been busy attacking volunteers and government functionaries who were running campaigns for polio vaccination.

The Taliban’s rejection of electoral democracy could be seen in the larger context of post-colonial opposition of systems of governance that were borrowed from Western sources. However, destroying schools and murdering vaccinators are hard to justify from any political vantage point. In fact, such acts reveal the ugly reality that the Taliban may lack any comprehension of modern-day statecraft. Hardly literate and inexperienced in governance, the Taliban are in no position to run even a village, let alone a country.

It may also be true that the Taliban were smarter than other politico-religious outfits in Pakistan, where such outfits in the past have attracted only a small fraction of votes. Knowing that victory will always elude them if they adopted ballots, the Taliban have therefore adopted bullets and bombs.

The Taliban should know that violence cannot be substituted for a valid political ideology. At the same time, the establishment in Pakistan should be mindful of the fact that not much could be gained from talks with the Taliban who refuse to listen to religious scholars in both Pakistan and India.

Originally published by Dawn Pakistan 

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