The general perception in Pakistan among many intelligencia is that Afghan Taliban are an ideological group of fighters fighting against outside oppression of, first the Soviets and now the NATO and ISAF. They started off as a mercenary group in 1991, the Taliban (a movement originating from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-run religious schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan) also developed in Afghanistan as a politico-religious force. Mullah Omar started his movement with fewer than 50 armed madrassah students in his hometown of Kandahar. The most often-repeated story and the Taliban’s own story of how Mullah Omar first mobilized his followers is that in the spring of 1994, neighbors in Singesar told him that the local governor had abducted two teenage girls, shaved their heads, and taken them to a camp where they were raped. Less than 50 Taliban freed the girls, and hanged the governor to death. Later that year, two militia commanders killed civilians while fighting for the right to sodomize a young boy. This indeed was a good start. Justice should be swift.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is a group of people fighting to disrupt Pakistan’s infrastructure. Well to admit most part of the perception might even be true but difference of opinion is the right of the people.
They have one important thing in common and that is sharing the same idea about any other sect and religion contrary to theirs. They have their own interpretation of the Holy Quran and they do not want it to be questioned. They believe that any other human does not have the right to live if he/she has a view point contrary to theirs. The focus here will be on the Afghan Taliban.

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A breath-taking view of the Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Its most evident examples came when the Massacre at Mazar-Sharif took place in August of 1998. Name it whatever you like it. But it was indeed cold blooded murder of the people of the city having contrary beliefs to them, the “Shia” Belief. Even the shrine present in the city was targeted. According to the Human Rights Watch report, the Taliban’s capture of the city in August 1998 marked “one of the single worst examples of the killings of civilians in Afghanistan’s 20-year war”.  Witnesses described the first day of the occupation of Mazar-e-Sharif as a “killing frenzy” as the Taliban “shot at anything that moved”, killing hundreds of civilians. The killing of the civilians is never justified. The Taliban instigated a house-to-house search to round up male Hazara’s, a Persian-speaking Shia Muslim minority, for summary execution, Human Rights Watch says. According to statistics the Hazara population of the Afghanistan account for 10% of total population. Within days, the city’s new governor, Mullah Manon Niazi, reportedly made speeches in Mazar-Sharif’s mosques describing Hazaras as “infidels” and calling them to convert to the Sunni Muslim faith or be killed. Apart from the executions, men taken prisoner by the Taliban died of suffocation or heat exhaustion inside metal lorry containers. The US-based rights organisation added that farmers from the Sunni Muslim Pashtun community and nomads were allowed to take land around Mazar-Sharif that had belonged to the communities persecuted by the Taliban. In a few days more civilians were killed – and murdered and raped – than at any time in the previous 20 years of war in Afghanistan. Taking Mazar-Sharif gave the Taliban control of every major city and important territory in northern and central Afghanistan. Taliban soldiers killed 4,000 people, many of them found in house-to-house searches. Others were cut down indiscriminately on the streets and at markets. Taliban soldiers sought out male members of the ethnic Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek communities. The Persian-speaking, Shia Hazaras were the prime targets, as the Taliban consider Hazaras infidels. Soldiers and civilians were killed, their bodies dropped in wells. Others were loaded into container trucks, driven to the desert and left to die in the sun.

As Ahmad Rashid writes in Taliban, the best book on the subject: “What followed was another brutal massacre, genocidal in its ferocity, as the Taliban took revenge on their losses the previous year. A Taliban commander later said that Mullah Omar had given them permission to kill for two hours, but they had killed for two days. The Taliban went on a killing frenzy, driving their pick-ups up and down the narrow streets of Mazar-Sharif shooting to the left and right and killing everything that moved — shop owners, cart pullers, women and children shoppers and even goats and donkeys. Contrary to all injunctions of Islam, which demands immediate burial, bodies were left to rot on the streets. ‘They were shooting without warning at everybody who happened to be on the street, without discriminating between men, women and children. Soon the streets were covered with dead bodies and blood. No one was allowed to bury the corpses for the first six days. Dogs were eating human flesh and going mad and soon the smell became intolerable,’ said a male Tajik who managed to escape the massacre.”

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A heart wrenching site: Cemetery of Martyrs of Mazar Sharif

The capture of the city also included 10 Iranian Diplomats. Iran assumed the Taliban had murdered them, and mobilized its army, deploying men along the border with Afghanistan. By the middle of September there were 250,000 Iranian personal ready to fight on the border. Pakistan mediated and the bodies were returned to Tehran towards the end of the month. The killings of the Diplomats had been allegedly carried out by Sipah-e-Sahaba, a Pakistani Sunni group, famous for its anti-Shia sentiments. Moreover late in the 2011, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, Taliban’s former Ambassador to Pakistan, showing no regret whatsoever, said that cruel behaviour under and by the Taliban had been “necessary”.

People may say that they did some things right and this is only half of the picture. Yes this is the other half of the picture. Killing innocent civilians only because they do not agree to your version of Islam, these have never been the teachings of Islam. The Talibans knew only one way to gain control of the power in a diverse sectarian and multicultural state and that was by force, killing everything that opposes them or stands against them. Islam is and always will be a religion of tolerance. Even the Holy Quran states that there is no compulsion in the religion and the choice of the religion. But this does not mean that one is allowed to change the contexts, contents and interpret the religion according to one’s own will. The religion is complete and a complete code of conduct for the Muslims all over the world. There is no room for anyone to devise their own meanings into the religion.

The Afghani Taliban are hence no saints and should not be thought of as liberation fighters. They are pursuing their own agenda and that is to take control of Afghanistan by HOOK or by CROOK, from foreign oppression or internal aggression.

Written by Muhammad Ajwad Ali

The writer is a telecommunication engineer by profession. He tweets @m_ajwad and can be reached at majwad@gmail.com

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