By Nosheen Ali
Published initially in The News on April 7th 2009
The crisis in FATA and Swat has increasingly become reduced to a narrative of the evil Taliban versus the helpless state and society. That the Taliban have instituted a horrendous regime of terror is beyond question. But it is evasive and dangerous to think that the Taliban are the only bogeymen. We need to understand the ongoing crisis in terms of Talibanization as a historical process of Islamist moral policing and militancy, which has been an established part of state policy in Pakistan since its inception. Until we refuse to acknowledge this reality, and tackle it head on, we will be unable to address the existential mess in which we find ourselves today.
As early as the 1950s, senior government officials in Pakistan had begun to authorize hypocritical and intolerant religious policies in the name of promoting an Islamic identity for the new nation. For example, in The State of Martial Rule, Ayesha Jalal discusses how Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan issued an official injunction urging Muslims to fast, which subsequently paved the way for populist Islamist moral policing – mobs stormed restaurants that did not close during fasting hours, non-fasters were paraded through bazaars in NWFP with the support of the local police, and the judiciary in Haripur sentenced people for eating in public.