NEW DELHI: Lahore is 48 km from Amritsar, closer than Gurgaon is from Ghaziabad. From Lahore, Islamabad is another 260 km and 160 km north-west from
there is the tiny town of Buner. Beyond that, begins the state of ‘Talibanistan’. Its ever expanding boundary is just 430 km from India’s Wagah border.
The Taliban’s creeping advance in Pakistan now makes it closer than Lucknow is from Delhi (497 km), Goa is from Mumbai (594 km) or Coimbatore from Chennai (491 km). In other words, Talibanistan, where girls can’t study or women work, where the ruling Islamic militia has vowed to kill modern jurisprudence, science, culture and all other faiths, is closer than what most of us think.
The wellsprings of terror that threaten most of the world and, in particular, India, are no longer located in the remote mountains of Pakistan or in the caves of Afghanistan. They are a six-eight hour drive from India’s border in a sedan on reasonably good roads.
And this distance is getting closer every day because the Pakistan government has virtually capitulated before the Taliban’s widening influence and forward march. More and more areas of Pakistan are having to submit to the Taliban’s twisted way of life and its complete intolerance of any other world view.
The widening influence of Taliban was dramatically illustrated recently at Buner, south of Pakistan’s Swat valley. The Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) of Baitullah Mehsud — prime accused in Benazir Bhutto’s assassination — sent a car bomber to a polling station and killed 40 people. This was an act of reprisal for the town taking on Taliban militants.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, in the province of Wardak, just 48 km from Kabul, Taliban handed out “exemplary”, if by their standards somewhat mild, punishment to a bunch of thieves who had their faces blackened. The Taliban in Wardak have their own governor, set up road blocks, a religious court and routinely capture Afghan soldiers.
Some seven years after US drove out the Taliban and al-Qaida from Afghanistan, the world’s most potent terror group has not only recouped but could be within hitting distance of forming their own state, seriously compromising the integrity of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is the undeclared, but very real state of ‘Talibanistan’, a massive maze of mountains and high plateaus where the Taliban plans jihad against the West and India.
Taliban no longer a distant threat
NEW DELHI: Taliban’s expanding sphere of influence is of direct concern to India. The Lashkar-e-Taiba fidayeen who attacked India are very much a part of the global jihad visualised by the Taliban and al-Qaida. As the Taliban moves south into the Pakistani heartland, it is also linking with Punjabi-dominated groups like LeT.
Today, the Taliban holds complete sway over all seven FATA agencies. They have also run through the northwest frontier province (NWFP), helped by an inept government of Islamic religious parties. Quetta, its largest city is a well-known Taliban hideout, home to Mullah Omar and his clique. Peshawar has begun to resemble a Taliban town, with no women on streets. Taliban signboards have even come up in Karachi, more to make a psychological point, but not without significance.
In other words, the Taliban is no longer a distant threat. In areas controlled by the Taliban, all girls’ schools have been shut, women are not seen in public, polio vaccinations are banned as they are seen to be a western plot to make Muslims infertile and beards are mandatory. Modern jurisprudence is shunned and other faiths stamped out.
Talking of people in these areas, The News International, one of Pakistan’s biggest newspapers said, “They
will obey orders of the Taliban because the Taliban are more powerful than the government that is supposed to protect and sustain them.”