May 1, 2009
State within a state
The Taliban in Orakzai Agency are reported to have occupied three homes and ten businesses belonging to Sikhs, to press for their demand that 'jaziya', a tax imposed non-Muslims, be paid. The militants had previously demanded a sum of Rs50 million, which they later reduced to Rs15 million. This of course is extortion. There is no other name for it. Over the past weeks it has become obvious the Taliban are engaged in a game of plunder. This too is how they inspire desperate young men to join them. The motive is base greed and not religious zeal. In Swat there are already stories of Taliban members who have -- almost overnight -- accumulated enormous amounts of wealth. Rugs, chandeliers and other items taken away from the homes of wealthy families forced to flee now adorn the homes of militants everywhere. This then is what the struggle is all about. Extortion is of course not new to the Taliban. For years, Maulana Fazalullah was reported to have collected money and jewellery from women in Swat to fund 'jihad'. Threat and coercion underlay these efforts.The tiny Sikh community still based in our tribal areas has often done well in terms of business and trade. The action against them is just another means to amass money. It is sad our legislators have not spoken up for the rights of the minorities who live in Taliban-controlled areas. Even in cities still outside Taliban rule, they have been targetted for violence and victimized. These most vulnerable of citizens need to be protected. The Taliban's efforts to create a state within a state, to set up their own rules that deviate from state laws, work against the interests of many not able to defend themselves. The question is if anyone will move in to help them and prevent the kind of abuse to which a peaceful community has been subjected to in Orakzai.