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Political idiocy

A type of Pakistani leftists is indulged in premature and idealistic analyses of critical issues such as Islamic radicalisation. Our insignificant left is majorly divided over the issues of religious fundamentalism and the war on terror.

While the viewpoint that terrorist forces were formed by the United States as a Cold War tactic is shared by a majority of leftists, there are still others who have a soft corner for the former in the ongoing battle against the latter. The notion that the Taliban are some sort of ‘rural, poor, struggling for the betterment of their material conditions, while battling US imperialism’ is no less than some bizarre political joke from the Cold War era which glorified the mujahideen just because they were resisting the Red Army.

It is surprising to see several self-proclaimed Marxists considering the Taliban as some sort of anti-imperialist radical force of our time. They fail to recognise the difference between Islamists’ anti-Americanism, a prejudice against a country and its people – in isolation of its economy – and the leftist theory of anti-imperialism, an intellectual resistance against the global hegemony of capitalism.

Most of these left intellectuals refer to themselves as ‘internationalists’ and are based in western countries. Some veterans, including Tariq Ali, even left the country during the 60s and the 70s and hardly visit home. Yet, they are seen as experts on Pakistan and their confused opinion on these matters is appreciated with great respect.

Furthermore, we have several smaller leftist groups and parties who don’t hesitate even a little bit in declaring the religious militants as self-styled revolutionaries. For instance, an international Trotskyist tendency in Pakistan has similar views about the Taliban whose opposition of the US gives them a hope against western imperialism. One of its activists shared his opinion on this:

“Our educated middle class did not fight the ruling class’ oppression and did not champion the cause of the rural and urban poor. In such a vacuum, another segment of society mustered the courage to fight back against the ruling class and took up the cause of the Pakhtun rural poor, under religious symbols and language, but actually for its material interests and championing due share in economic and political power for the underprivileged and excluded Pakhtun lower classes.”

Many new leftists even see Malala’s appraisal by the UN as the ‘white-man’s burden’ and ‘capitalist propaganda’. Some of them even have some misconceived notions about the ‘justice system of the Taliban’. A Pakistani Marxist – a doctoral candidate in Canada – said, “The Taliban have often fought against Khans (feudal lords) and have established quick justice systems. Are those objectively in the interests of subordinated classes? Of course they are.”

If one starts seeing things through their prism, the situation would seem quite revolutionary in Pakistan: The poor, downtrodden, workers and peasants, long suffering under neo-colonial and neo-liberal oppression, have begun to unite. The proletarians and rural peasantry of Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have identified the ugly face of US imperialism and are marching forward to overthrow its tyranny.

Our armed comrades in the tribal areas are aware that the west lives on the sweat and blood of the east. So what if their language and symbolism is religious, their objectives are very material and they’re fighting for social equity. The Pakistani bourgeoisie, liberals and far-leftists support the war on terror because they oppose the people’s resistance against imperialism. Pakistan is ripe for a people’s revolution.

This mindset is not very different from the ludicrous thinking of Maoists who used to refer to the Pakistani military dictator Ayub Khan as ‘comrade’ just because of his comradeship with Chairman Mao!

Indeed, it is political idiocy to consider the Taliban as a nationalist-reactionary force battling imperialism. Both prevailing narratives – this and that if you oppose either the US or the Taliban, you support the other – are nothing but a logical fallacy. The left needs to oppose both if it wants to change anything at all.

The writer is a documentary filmmaker. Email: ammar.azziz@gmail.comTwitter: @ammar_aziz

Ammar Aziz, "Political idiocy," The News. 2013-07-23.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social theology , Cold war , Armed forces , Religious issues , Taliban , Terrorists , Mujahideen , Tariq Ali , Malala Yousufzai , Gen Ayub Khan , United States , Pakistan , Canada , Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , FATA