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Ahmed Rashid and the Mirror Image
Secularist who twisted the story of
the Taliban and gave a
"moral" purpose to the
for the assault on Afghanistan.]
Dr. Kaukab Siddique's
book RETURN TO PAKISTAN.
Any interested publishers out there?]
cannot get through to the
real Pakistan. The people
they meet on arrival are Pakistan's secular
elite. Every Pakistani city has a
secular enclave which is a world in itself, quite
satisfied with itself. The
Pakistani secular elite keep up with what goes on
in "the states" and often know
more about America than the average American. It
may not be an exaggeration to
say that just about all the young and many of the
older people in these
enclaves look forward to the day when they can
(and will) leave Pakistan to move to
"the states" (or if that doesn't work out, then
or "if worse comes
to worse" to England).
The secular Pakistani buffer between the
American public and the
Pakistani masses has had tragic consequences in
the form of the U.S. assault on
Afghanistan. One of the most important books
which came out of secular Pakistan was
Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil & Fundamentalism in
Central Asia by Ahmed
Rashid. Extremely popular in America, the book
was picked up by the major American
media and publicized worldwide. It provided
America the perfect excuse for war
against the Taliban.
Ahmed Rashid's book was the toast of the
entire Pakistani secular
establishment. He raised the specter of
"Talibanization" of Pakistan (see page 187
and page 194 of the book, for instance, for his
use the term). His friends in
publications like Herald, Dawn and other
Pakistani periodicals picked up this
alarm. The Pakistani ruling class, in particular
the entrenched bureaucracy and
segments of the military, were infected by this
fear (and image) of
medressa-trained young men carrying automatic
weapons who would force every Pakistani
woman to wear the top-to-toe burqa and every man
to grow a long beard. [The
beard would be measured by "religious police"
carrying a foot ruler for the
I want to look briefly at Rashid's book to
bring out its blind spots.
In particular I want to show why Rashid should
have been the last person
western readers should have paid attention to.
Taliban is a 274 page book packed
with gossip, rumors, hearsay and some facts about
Afghanistan. In America, we
are familiar with the methodology Rashid uses.
The New York Times
is quoted by
magazine and the
is quoted by Christopher
Hitchens. Larry King interviews Ted Koppel and
refers to Haaretz in
best it is an incestuous relationship.
Ahmed Rashid admits that he got his idea of
the danger of
"Talibanization" of Pakistan from Olivier Roy.
His guru was the Pakistani leftist Eqbal
Ahmed. If that didn't work, Rashid had no qualms
about quoting himself. Most of
the chapters contain footnote references to
Rashid's own articles in the Far
Eastern Economic Review where he was a reporter
for 16 years.
Rashid appears to have worked out a good
working relationship with
his Hindu supervisors at the Review. He gives
"enormous thanks" to his editor
Nayan Chanda and points out that doubts about his
abilities were removed by the
foreign editor of the paper, V. G. Kulkarni. [
Preface to Taliban, page x.]
One cannot blame Rashid for his blind spots: his
heart was not with the Islamic
peoples. He tells us that his wife's name is
He does not include even one Islamic source
in his "acknowledgements."
In the text he quotes some of the Taliban but
out of context, and sometimes
the quotes seem to be apocryphal or even
My purpose is not to analyze Rashid's book
but to let my readers see
the kind of "buffer" this type of person creates
between Americans and the
masses of Pakistan. He produced a book which
suited the needs of America's power
structure. Both the front and back covers of the
book have this recommendation
on them: "[A] valuable and informative work."
Richard Bernstein, New York Times.
Evidently, the people who run America's
media loved Rashid's version of
2003-06-01 Sun 09:46ct