TALIBAN – Its Origin And The Historical Background By R. Upadhyay Etymologically, the word Taliban, the plural form derived from the Arabic word Talib meaning student. Therefore, in linguistic sense Taliban means a group of students. However, in modern context it is a chaotic group of Islamist student militia which emerged in the last decade of twentieth century as a Jihadi movement in South and Central Asia with the joint assistance of Mullah-Military alliance in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and tacit support of America. In the absence of any respectable job opportunity, the frustrated youths from Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan set up by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam who opted for Jihad as career were recruited by ISI to fight against Soviet army in Afghanistan. Darul Uloom Haqqania, a prominent Deobandi madrasa which is about 45 kilometres south of Peshawar and about two hours drive from the border in North West Frontier Province of Pakistan played a major role in educating these youths. Maulana Abdul Haq, teaching Hadith at Darul Uloom Deoband in India founded this madrasa in 1947 on the pattern of Deobandi ideology. His son Maulana Samiul Haq, the former Senator (Member of Upper House in Pakistan) and head of his own faction of Jamiatul Islami is presently the VC of this madrasa. His son Hamidul Haq has also been teaching religion in this madrasa since 1993. Known as university of Jihadis, this madrasa is said to be producing about 300 Islamist warriors every year who dedicated their lives to Jihad. It accommodated a large number of refugee students from Afghanistan during Soviet invasion in 1979 and also issued a fatwa declaring Jihad against the invasion. Responding to the call, the extreme Islamist establishments from other Muslim countries like Bangladesh, Libya, Sudan, Egypt and Gulf nations also sent youths to join the Jihad against Soviet army. According to the findings of Times on line on Persian Gulf about 90% of Taliban leadership including Mullah Omar were the students of Darul Uloom Haqqania. Brainwashed by Deobandi Mullhas with Jihadi ideology and trained in terror war crafts by Pakistan army this group of Sunni Deobandis predominantly Pashtun youths fought during Afghan war of 1980s. With high morale after their success in throwing out the Soviet army from Afghanistan, these jobless, faction-ridden and chaotic Jihadis who called themselves Taliban emerged as an indigenous movement in 1994 against the warlords indulged in loot rape and murder in Afghanistan. Pakistan being their handler during Afghan war re-organised them with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia, direct or indirect support from USA and made them an effective political and military entity. Emerging as a brute Jihadi movement with hot pursuit and proactive spirit killing thousands of innocent people, Taliban also provided a jihadi vigor to all the homegrown terror groups in the region. After tasting power with southern and western Afghanistan with the backing from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan they could gradually control a majority of provinces in this country and their brutality reigned Afghanistan for five years from 1996 to September 2001 until they were thrown out of power by US army, its NATO allies and the Northern Alliance. However, despite their best efforts, they failed to put them back in the bottle. Instead, Taliban regrouped in 2004 and revived their terror war not only against the present regime in Afghanistan but also in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. It is said that these Jihadis are the “de facto rulers of the province”. In the third week of February 2009 they forced the Government of Pakistan to sign an agreement for Shariat based administration in Swat valley. With a series of explosions in Pakistan including the attack on the cricket team of Sri Lanka and on a police training camp in Lahore, the Taliban has now been found to be dictating terms with Pakistan government. Ironically, both Pakistan and America are found in a mood to negotiate with the so called moderate Taliban. However, so long as the financial assistance from Saudi Arabia and Mullha-Military alliance of Pakistan to meet their respective ideological needs of promoting Wahhabism and strategic needs against India and Afghanistan remain their policy in South Asia of taming their Frankenstein monster Taliban is a remote possibility. To understand the geo-political interest of the co-founders of Taliban, it is necessary to understand the inspirational link of the latter with the prominent Islamic revival movements since the collapse of the hegemony of Islamist warlords in South Asia. Believing in strictly radical interpretation of Islam and with objective to establish Islamic political power all over the world particularly in South Asia, Taliban draws inspiration not only from the long march of Islamist conquests by Arabian warlords from seventh century AD onwards which created the bloodiest history of world but also from all the Islamic revival movements after the fading glory of Islamic power since eighteenth century AD. One of the latest additions in the chain of the relay of long march of various Islamist groups led by leaders, institutions and organisations like Maulana Abdul Wahab, Shah Waliullah, Syed Ahmad Barelavi, Darul Uloom Deoband, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan of Aligarh Movement, All India Muslim League, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Tablique Jamaat and Jamaat-e-Islami, Taliban too like their ideological fathers believe in Arabisation of Muslim world as a true service to Islam. Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) was the most radical Islamist who launched a militant movement to cleanse the Islamic powers from deviated versions of Islam. With an uncompromising campaign against Sufi tomb-worship, Shiaism and those who were not committed to his austere interpretation of the Sunnat (the customs, practices and traditions of Prophet Muhammad and his companions in Medina) he stressed upon the need for return to the same practices for establishment of Islamic power all over the world. He believed in strict adherence to the ways and practices of seventh century adopted by the Prophet. Any amendment in those practices was not tolerated by him. Although, he died in 1792, his followers carried forward the movement which eventually led to the formation of the present kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His followers were so fanatic that in 1802 they captured the Shiite city of Karbala in Iraq and even destroyed the tomb of Imam Husain, grand son of the Prophet. With uncompromising ideology they continued on rampage throughout Arabian Peninsula. They even smashed the tombs of many Muslim saints and Imams including the tomb of Prophet’s daughter Fatima. It is a historical irony that the same Wahhabi spirit inspired the Taliban just after two centuries to destroy the idols of Buddha in Bamiyan in Afghanistan. Like Wahhab, Taliban too believes in returning to Prophet Era and strict application of Sharia for restoration of Islamic glory and Muslim power as established by the Prophet, his companions and other Islamist warlords in different parts of the world particularly South Asia. Shah Waliullah (1703-1762) was a great Muslim thinker of his time. Claiming his lineage from Quraysh tribe of Prophet Mohammad and the second Caliph Umar, he stressed upon the need of unity in Muslim community against the political rise of Marathas, Jats and Sikhs. Upset with the political disorder and fading glory of Muslim power he reminded the contemporary Muslim rulers of their holy duty of Jihad and raised the slogan that Islam is in danger. Although he was in agreement with his contemporary Mohammad Wahhab, his ideology was more a political strategy against the rising power of Hindus led by Marathas, Jats and Sikhs than against the Sufi-tomb worship and Shias. He supported the uncompromising Islamic thought of Wahhab for strict compliance of the custom and practices of the Prophet but he floated a theory of rational evaluation of Islam which was nothing but a sugar-coated version of Islamic fundamentalism. He is therefore known as a great Islamic strategist for the political power of Islam. At his invitation Ahmad Shah Durrani a ruling warlord of Afghanistan launched Jihad in Delhi in 1760 and defeated the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat. Highly regarded as a vibrant political Islamist among the Muslim community of South Asia, Shah Wali Ullah is also known as one of the ideological co-fathers of all the Islamist movements including Deoband, Aligarh, Muslim League, Jammaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, Tabligh Jamaat, Jamaat-e-Islami and Taliban. Like Shah Wali Ullah who regarded the rise of the political power of Hindus a danger to Islam, Taliban is not only against the rise of Crusaders, Jews and the Hindus but also against the Muslim powers not following the custom and practices of the Prophet Era. Syed Ahmad Barelavi popularly known as Syed Ahmad Shahid (1786-1831) was a disciple of Shah Abdul Aziz (son of Shah Waliullah). Inspired with the Islamic strategy of Shah Wali Ullah, he dedicated his life to Jihad. Like Shah Waliullah, he was also upset with the fading glory of Muslim rule. The focal point of his Jihad from 1826 to 1831 was North West Frontier Province presently in Pakistan and then under rule of a non-Muslim ruler Ranjit Singh. Since 1831 when he was killed in the battle of Balkot of this Pashtun dominated province, he is revered by Sunni Muslims as a great martyr for the cause of Islam. Balkot where Sayed lies buried is also an inspiration for Taliban. ‘To this day Balakot where the Syed lies buried is a spot that has been greatly revered, not only by militants in contemporary Pakistan, some of whom have set up training camps near Balakot, but also by anti-colonial nationalists who interpreted the movement as a prelude to a jihad against the British in India’ (Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia by Ayesha Jalal, page 61, Lahore 2008- Source: Internet). Like Syed Ahmad’s Sunni Jihad against a non-Muslim Sikh Ruler, Taliban has also launched a Sunni Jihad against Crusader and its trusted ally Pakistan. It is an irony of fate that like Syed Ahmad who killed more Muslim subjects of Ranjit Singh than the Sikhs, Taliban too are killing more Muslims of Afghanistan and Pakistan than the Americans. Darul Uloom Deoband: After the fall of Mogul Empire the frustrated Islamic priestly class who lost their power and positions they had enjoyed during Islamic rule revisited the religio-political concept of Khalifa Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi (1564-1624), Maulana Wahab, Shah Wali Ullah and Syed Ahmad Barelavi and formulated a strategy for institutionalisation of the Islamic revival movement with an objective to restore Muslim power in the subcontinent. Accordingly, prominent Islamic theologians like Mawlana Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi (1833-77/1832-1880) and Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (1828-1905), who had acted as commander and Qadi (Judge) of the fighting force respectively in Shamali rebellion in 1857 against the British set up a madrasa at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh on 30 May 1866. Gradually, this madrasa became a centre of higher Islamic learning and assumed the present name of Dar-ul-Ulum(Abode of Islamic learning) in 1867. Over the years this radical Islamic institution spread a network of madrasas under its administrative and ideological guidance not only in India but also in a number of Muslim countries. It is now the second biggest Islamic seminary in the world and is only next to Azhar in Cairo. Its strategy to produce clerics for mobilizing the community was not only to keep the Muslim masses under mental blockade but also a subtle attempt to convince them that Islamic power was the main ingredient for the revival of resurgent Islam. Upholding the principle of immutability of the Shariat, eschewing the practice of tomb worship and projecting the golden vision of Islam, its aim was ‘to resuscitate classical Islam: to rid the Muslims of the theological corruption and the ritual degradation. Mohtamim Maulana Marguhul Rehmani, Vice chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband while replying to a question—Why Dar-ul-Uloom is called Taliban factory? (Pioneer, 21 October 2001) said, ‘True, Dar-ul-Uloom is the ideological fountainhead of Taliban.’ .Deoband is however, now propagating that Terrorism is un-Islamic but not criticizing Taliban which is getting full support from Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan and other Islamic countries in the world. Darul Uloom Haqqania, a madrasa located in Akhor Khattak on Pakistan border with Afghanistan which is known for producing most of the Taliban fighters including their leader Mullah Omar was founded in 1947 by Maulana Abdul Haq, a teacher of Darul Uloom Deoband. Khaled Ahmed in his article ‘Th e Grand Deobandi Consensus’ published in The Friday Times of Pakistan, dated 4-10 February 2000 said, ‘The civil war in Afghanistan and the jehad in Kashmir have gradually veered to a Deobandi consensus.’ He also maintained that the Taliban of Mulla Umar, which enjoys popularity in Pakistan, was trained in the traditional Deobandi jurisprudence and that Harkat-ul- Ansar (Movement of Islamic warriors), a terrorist outfit in Kashmir is of Deobandi persuasion. He also quoted John K. Cooley in his book Unholy Wars that ‘Mullah Umar and Osma bin Laden first met in 1989 in a Deobandi mosque, Banuri Masjid, in Karachi.’ Aligarh Movment: Depressed with the plight of the Muslim community after the failure of the Sepoy mutiny of 1857, Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan (1817-98), scion of a Mogul family who was ‘acutely sensitive to the ending of Mogul dominance’ established Madrastul Ulum at Aligarh in 1873 for imparting education to Muslims in modern branches of learning, which later became Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. Drawing inspiration from the tactical moderation of Islam from Walli Ullah, and getting help from the British his philosophy was a synthesis of progressive and orthodox Islam. In fact, the sole objective of Aligarh movement was to restore the Islamic superiority over the Hindus the former subjects of Muslim rulers for which Sir Sayed had a tactical alliance with the British. Taliban had a similar objective to restore Islamist power not only in South and central Asia but also its supremacy all over the world through militant Jihad. Accordingly, they had tactical alliance with America against Russians as Sir Sayed had with the British. The discussion therefore suggests that Taliban is nothing but a practical and political manifestation of all the Islamic revival movements in South Asia. Muslim League, Jamaat-Ulema-e-Hind, Tabligh Jamaat and Jamaat-e-Islami - all the by-products of Aligarh and Deoband are also having direct or indirect ideological link with Taliban. As far as the respective geo-political interest of the co-fathers of Taliban is concerned, we may examine it one by one.