Part Four — Part Three — Part Two — Part One
Welcome back in this fifth installment of my own personal journey in education, and in Shakir’s travels which crossed the path of one Malala Yousafzai. In the previous episode, we saw how Shakir came to know Khalil and Ziauddin, and shared Ziauddin’s desires of educating the Pushtuns. I also noted his struggle for making every Pushtun like Malala. This segment brings you face-to-face with the Taliban in the Swat valley of Pakistan, and the atrocities they committed in the name of religion.
It was 2008. I had passed my MBA with distinction from the KDI School, Korea, returned to Pakistan and started working as a lecturer of finance at the Institute of Management Sciences. I had moved to Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, for my job. My family was in Swat, and Ziauddin was running the same school in the region. It was at this time I started to hear the stories of a radio cleric named Mullah Fazlullah. With his platform on the air, Fazlullah attracted quite an audience on account of his calls for easy, cheap justice. There is an old adage of “knowing your opponenet” so I decided to listen to him, just to see for myself how he became so influential. After a few of his speeches, I failed to find any credit or factual worth in his talks. In most cases, Fazlullah talked nonsense, ridiculous hypothetical situations steeped in fantasy rather than fact, and citing sources that did not exist in any texts. I discussed his ideas with a few Muftis, learned Islamic scholars, to debate his scholarship but could not find anyone who agreed with his views and the way he wanted to bring about this change to make our country better. Make Pakistan great again, if you will.
While his words had little to no worth, Fazlullah did receive recognition and support from the common people of the area because of his call for justice, his own personal provision of easy and free justice to the people. He reached people who could not get what they perceived as justice through the normal years-long judicial process, a process rifled with corruption and nepotism. He knew exactly what to say to reach them, and he also knew when. This was the time when the government was gradually losing control, getting replaced by the Taliban’s informal but brutal judicial and administrative system. These informal and mobile courts delivered what they called true and quick justice, tending to cases that had been pending for decades. The Taliban, in a very simple, clever way, were giving the people what they wanted, what they craved.
The problem which the Taliban seemed to have a solution for, had been borne from neglect in the government. Our courts were overtaxed, and while there were rare cases that favored people of basic means, mainly in land disputes, the government remained unable to obtain ownerships of their lands because the opposing parties were stronger. The justice offered by the Taliban was impressive. They were able to provide land won yet denied to a poor man in a dispute when the opponent, a powerful landlord, took a stand against the Taliban, he found himself in danger. The landlord conceded, and soon it was accepted that no one could challenge the Taliban’s decision. Any opposition to the Taliban meant death for that person.
The Taliban’s success in the region was based in their justice system, and their pledge against the American war on terror. There was no one to question why the same Taliban once assembled, trained and financed by the US government to fight the Soviet Union now turned on the United States. Sadly, the answer could be found in the US foreign policy of that time. Once the Afghanistan War was done and the Soviet Union fell, the United States withdrew from the region, leaving behind the monsters it had made, not knowing how their assets would haunt them in decades to come. What the United States left in their wake at the end of the Cold War touched us all, and spilled blood in this region.
And when the Cold War became a War on Terror, that bloodshed included the blood of the Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai.
Join us for in the next episode where Shakir describes how Malala and her father stood up against the Taliban despite the fact that any such act used to be fatal for one’s self.
Dr. Shakir Ullah is currently working as Professor of Finance at Stratford University, USA. Earlier, he taught at the University of Southampton, UK, and Institute of Management Sciences, Pakistan. Shakir has also worked as Global Business and Financial Analyst with different companies including Microsoft, Honda, MasterCard, Walt Disney and Jaguar, just to name a few.
Shakir holds PhD from UK and MBA from Korea, both earned with distinction. He has also published several research articles in reputed international journals.