Friday, May 13, 2011

Quetta Shura looks beyond Osama bin Laden

The Taliban took full six days to comment on the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. The statement throws light on their thinking.

Nowhere in the statement is there any reference to the killing having taken place in Abbottabad on Pakistani soil. The killing has been described as “martyrdom” following “a sudden attack by the aggressive American forces” and comes as a “great disaster to the entire Islamic Ummah, and to the martyr’s family, followers and all the Mujahideen.” The statement recalls OBL’s “loyalty and bravery” and “great sacrifices” in the Afghan jihad of the 1980s against the Soviet intervention; “he was from the greatest Mujahideen” in the resistance to “Zionist-Crusader aggression” against the Muslim world.

However, OBL’s death will not weaken the Afghan resistance and instead only strengthens the resolve of the Afghan resistance; this will manifest in the coming period. Because, the resistance is indigenous “born from within the Afghan people”.

Obviously, this is a carefully considered, well-drafted Taliban articulation of position in a structured tone, deliberated within the Quetta Shura and most probably carries the personal stamp of Mullah Omar. Pakistan could well have been consulted in its drafting. The striking point is that Pakistan doesn’t figure in it at all – positively, negatively or even in a neutral, factual way. Taliban are hard-pressed to take a stance on how OBL could have been killed on Pakistani soil. So, the statement simply fails to mention where the “martyrdom” took place.

Again, what stands out is that the identification with OBL is at a personal level and not about the ideology he represents or with the al-Qaeda.

Most significantly, Taliban have insisted on their “Afghanness” against the backdrop of OBL’s killing. The statement does bear out that the relationship between Taliban and OBL was very much a personal one between Mullah Omar and OBL rather than organisational. The statement contains no affirmation of solidarity with the al-Qaeda ideology – not even remotely. In short, Taliban duly pay their tribute, but life moves on. There is no threat of any revenge attacks, either.

Arguably, OBL’s death makes it easier for the Americans to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, although given the worsening security situation, talking and fighting will proceed alongside for some more time. This also appears to be the general drift of thinking in Washington.

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