The Underground Economy of Talibanization in Pakistan

talibanFor quite some time now, I have been writing about the rise of Taliban within the larger context of globalization{{1}} [[1]]”Neoliberal Dispositif and the Rise of Fundamentalism: The Case of Pakistan.Journal of International and Global Studies, Vol. 3 (1) 2011: 21-31[[1]]. I, however, never meant it to be an apology for the actions of Taliban: In my opinion what Taliban do to the children and women and soldiers of Pakistan is absolutely unforgivable and that is why I always condemn them in strongest possible terms. But I have always insisted that the rise of Taliban is ultimately connected, in the last instance, to the conditions unleashed by neoliberal capital.

During my conversations with my friends, some of them former commanders who served in FATA, I have now learned that my philosophical suspicions were true. I have also always insisted that the Taliban are not outside of the gambit of neoliberal capital, but, rather, a product of it. It is now evident to me that Taliban are also a commodity: a commodity for purchase as private militias to safeguard the interests of the powers that be.

For instance, the Americans “own” their own Taliban fighters to protect the long line of communication from Karachi to Khyber pass. Similarly, the Chines hire their own Taliban militias to protect their contractual projects in Pakistan. the list goes on: there are Indian, Iranian, and, of course, Pakistani Taliban. sometimes, I learned, it is hard to guess which group belongs to whom as the Taliban, in the true¬†entrepreneurial spirit of mercenaries, often switch sides to work for the highest bidder{{2}}[[2]]In a way this practice is no different from the hiring of private militias by western corporations in South America as well as Africa[[2]].

So to posit Talibanization of Pakistan simply in religious terms is no longer sustainable: Taliban are intricately connected to the privatization of violence in Pakistan. They are part of the logic of neoliberal capital, and the very powers that cry foul about every Pakistani action are deeply implicated in the process of creating more and more Taliban. In fact, according to some of my former colleagues, anyone can work for a particular Taliban group just as long as they grow a beard and let their hair grow.

So, it is sad to say that the creation of Taliban is also determined, in the last instance, by the economics. There is some food for thought here and, of course, we must also read our Marx more carefully.


By M R

Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja is an Associate Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies.
Raja tweets @masoodraja

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