Feature

Pakistan: Repackaging the Taliban as allies

The U.S. wants an end to the AfPak conflict, and that means making peace with the Taliban, said Rafia Zakaria in Dawn.

Rafia ZakariaDawn

The U.S. and Pakistan are giving the Taliban an image overhaul, said Rafia Zakaria. The talk is no longer of bloodthirsty zealots who behead critics and abuse women. That kind of rhetoric was appropriate to describe a Taliban that was the enemy. But now, the U.S. wants an end to the AfPak conflict, and that means making peace with the Taliban. So U.S. and Pakistani officials have begun promoting a new theme, stressing that the Pakistani Taliban is “increasingly at odds” with al Qaida. By distinguishing between the two groups, officials are trying to underscore “that the Taliban can indeed be rehabilitated and transformed into potential partners in peace, unlike al Qaida, which must be eliminated at all costs.”

But there’s a glitch in this scenario. Saying you can make peace with the Taliban doesn’t make it so. Many Pakistanis remember the more than “200 girls’ schools bombed, the scores of beheaded villagers, the blast-stricken markets, and the many thousands of dead civilians that the Taliban have left in their wake.” It’s going to be a tough job to make the ostensibly “good” Taliban members palatable “to a Pakistani public ravaged by their brutality.”

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