Miratha Manic Mullahs!

ANALYSIS: A gender-blind ‘neo-miratha’ —Farhat Taj

Tribal leaders in FATA have been killed along with their female relatives. The aim of such attacks seems to be to wipe out any possibility, no matter how remote it may be, of the female heirs taking up the anti-Taliban struggle

Miratha is a Pashto word that refers to the now obsolete practice of killing all males, adult and minors, in a family so that there are no male heirs left to inherit the family property, which is taken over by the executer of the miratha along with the female members of the family, who are considered as part of the property in the patriarchal Pakhtun society. One may find people in FATA who have know-how of the notion of miratha, whereas people in the settled districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) abandoned miratha so many decades back that many today do not even know what the notion implies. Thus, for the Pakhtun, whether in KP or FATA, miratha is a thing from their past and irrelevant to their lives today.

But lo and behold! Miratha is back in the Pakhtun land in the form of targeted killings of anti-Taliban families all across FATA and KP. All over FATA, anti-Taliban people have been target-killed along with their male heirs. Recently, Mian Rashid Hussain, the one and only son and male heir of Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of KP, has been killed. The ANP circles express the fear that next in line might be the only male heirs of the top party leaders Asfandyar Khan and Afrasiab Khattak, who both have one son each.

The neo-miratha is more robust and all encompassing than the traditional Pakhtun one. The latter excludes women, but the former entangles them. There has been a life attempt on a sister of the ANP leader, Asfandyar Khan. Mian Iftikhar has already said that the suicide bomber who attacked near his home within days of his son’s targeted killing intended to go inside his house to attack his female relatives. It is also reported that the mother and wife of Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti were at the home of Mian Iftikhar when the blast took place. Tribal leaders in FATA have been killed along with their female relatives. The aim of such attacks seems to be to wipe out any possibility, no matter how remote it may be, of the female heirs taking up the anti-Taliban struggle.

Secondly, the traditional miratha used to hit a single family. The neo-miratha is obliterating all those across all walks of life who oppose, symbolically or tangibly, the Taliban and Talibanisation

The question is: who is executing this gender-blind neo-miratha? The militants, Taliban or al Qaeda? Seemingly, it looks like this. The Taliban have been accepting responsibility for most such attacks. But do the families all over FATA and KP who suffer such attempts of neo-miratha also believe so? No, they do not understand this to be like that. They hold the ISI responsible for the neo-miratha.

They argue that in the state policy of Afghanistan-specific jihad, any anti-Taliban Pakhtun simply do not exist. The Pakhtun have to be presented to the world as the Taliban. Pakhtunwali (the way of the Pakhtuns) and Talibanisation have to be projected as one and the same thing. Anti-Taliban Pakhtun spoil the whole game of jihad in Afghanistan. Anti-Taliban Pakhtun would be least interested in promoting the state’s jihadi policy in Afghanistan. Thus they have to be eliminated through the state-engineered Taliban.

Privately, several ANP leaders and workers express serious complaints against the Pakistani generals. Out of frustration they call the generals our niakan (lords). The PPP government and President Asif Ali Zardari, they say, are helpless in front of the powerful military establishment. The president announced on August 14, 2009 the extension of the Political Parties Act to FATA, but a formal notification never followed the announcement due to opposition from the intelligence agencies. The presence of political parties in FATA does not suit the military establishment’s strategic games in the area. FATA has to be exclusively left to the natural allies of the military establishment — the murderous jihadis and the foxy political mullahs. And as far as the people of FATA are concerned, well, their blood or sufferings do not matter at all in the state’s jihadi pursuit in Afghanistan. They can go to hell.

Why then is the ANP not quitting the government if it cannot function as it wishes under the generals? The general perception is that the ANP is in a fix. It would become much easier for the executers of the neo-miratha to eliminate the leading ANP families in case they leave the security arrangements that they have in place and are entitled to due to their presence in the government. The other view is that the ANP must quit the government and stand with the people of Pakhtunkhwa against the generals. In that case, there will be many more killings among the leading ANP families. But at least they will be standing by their own people. Now the party leaders are constantly sacrificing and still their people see them as part of the exploitative Pakistani elite class led by the generals. This would also be a better opportunity to expose to the world how the intelligence agencies of Pakistan are misrepresenting the Pakhtun as the Taliban to the world.

The writer is a PhD Research Fellow with the University of Oslo and is currently writing a book, Taliban and Anti-Taliban

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