The Good Taliban, The Bad Taliban

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By Naeem Khalid Lodhi (Lt Gen Retired)

There is a lot of discussion as to the definition of Taliban,  possibility of their segregation into good, bad, friendly, Afghan and Pakistani etc. While approaching this issue we need to analyze as to who is defining, with what purpose, biases, fears or mindsets ? How do the so called Taliban define themselves? Who owns greater media and propaganda prowess with the ability to force their views? etc. I cannot claim to be free of biases and distorted perceptions. However I wish to put before the readers a point of view, with the desire to initiate logical discussion to arrive on a general broad consensus, that may enable us to guide the Pakistani public and various stake holders to decide the relationship with the entities known as Taliban. I propose not to discuss  their genesis, evolution and role of various actors in their creation and then abandonment etc, as more than enough has been written and said about this aspect.

Pakistani Clarity on Al Qaeda

There seems to be no ambiguity in the minds of overwhelming majority of Pakistanis that Al Qaeda has no business to perch in our territories and challenge the whole world and in turn invoke a global bad feelings about our intentions and capacities. So they are our established enemies, they have challenged our sovereignty and need to be expelled , cleansed or destroyed . The effective methods of getting rid of them can only be evolved by those who understand the nature and methodology of this great menace. No more discussion on this in this paper as it requires a separate, detailed and serious treatment.

The Afghan Fighters( Taliban Category A)

Those Pashtun or non Pashtun fighters who as per their own perception are fighting against the occupation forces (US and NATO),  are not very keen to call themselves Taliban anymore. Mullah Omer and Afghan fighters under him prefer to be called mujahidin.  Gulbadin Hikmatyar and the likes are pure afghan freedom fighters and have nothing to do with Taliban. Most of them are sustaining themselves from within Afghanistan and are active in the entire length and width of the country. The western media and governments lump them with other Taliban for their own reasons. The fear in some quarters of Pakistan is not because of their present activities, but more due to their expected future attitudes if they win in their freedom struggle. In my humble opinion though they shall ultimately succeed in their freedom struggle but would not be able to form such an exclusive government capable of enforcing their type of system. We also hope they would have learnt from history and previous experience . Our fears of their ideology spilling over into our territories are misplaced. Threat to any system and ideology is always from a superior system and ideology. To prevent a defeat from Taliban Ideology we need to make our own systems efficient and just. Any vacuum always invites a storm. So let us call this group of Afghan fighters (composed of numerous sub groups) as Taliban Category A . This Category is vast in numbers and has no animosity with Pakistan except that they hate our policy of partnership with US. Their interplay with other states and non state entities can be deferred to be discussed later.

Those Operating in Afghanistan from Bases in Pakistan (Category B)

Before trying to understand this type, we must be very clear about the geography including demography and the tribal traditions along Pak-Afghan border. There are numerous tribes large and small that straddle on both sides of Durand Line. Some villages are physically loc and spread on both sides of the border, yet considered as contiguous one entity with a single name. Special status of these dwellings is further strengthened through a mutually agreed statute ( between Pakistan and Afghanistan ) known as ‘Easement Rights’ , that enable these tribes to move quite freely on either side of the border. Ironically all Pakistani efforts to convert Durand Line into a properly managed and controlled international border have been scuttled by Afghan Government and Allied Forces operating there. They are neither in favor of erecting a physical barrier in the shape of fence etc nor support mining of movement routes. Yet they keep blaming us for cross border ingresses. The problem with these dual nationality type tribal is that they are bound and forced by their traditions to support their kith and kin, fighting the battle of survival as per the local perception. They are avowed enemies of American and NATO troops just like Category A Afghans. For us they are a great embarrassment as we fail (just like NATO, US and Afghan Forces) to control their cross border movements. Let us call them Category B Taliban. The militant activities of this group will only cease with the end of struggle in Afghanistan. The moral authority of the State of Pakistan to stop their cross border movement can only be established by declaring Durand Line as international border and abolishing all easement rights. Then both countries become equally responsible to prevent any cross border activities. 

Tehrik-e-Taliban e Pakistan: (Category C)

This is a conglomerate of drug barons, gun runners, smugglers, angry youth, religiously motivated sectarian extremists and enemy abetted paid mercenaries. They are gelled together due to complementary interests as well as efforts of hostile intelligence agencies. Weak writ of the State, social and economic deprivation,  total absence of justice  and law enforcement are the main factors that has made our Country fertile for this crop. Indian, Afghan and US intelligence agencies are all using them to further their own interests. Some of these groups are also operating independently to pursue their own ideals. These Category C Taliban are the main and immediate threat to the integrity of our Country. Without a well chalked out and comprehensive national response focused on this Category we may not be able to survive for long (God Forbid). Americans are using them to raise the level of  hatred of Pakistani public against the Category A and B mujahidin. RAW is employing them to bleed us internally and weaken the morale and resolve of the nation. This will also keep our Armed Forces entangled in a long difficult war creating vulnerabilities on Eastern borders. Unless we have a general national consensus on recognizing our real enemies(Al Qaeda and Category C Taliban) we shall keep frittering away our resources and efforts in pursuit of ghosts.

Lashkar-e-Taiba , Sipah-e-Mohammad, etc.

These are totally local phenomenon either Kashmir related or sectarian groupings. Some of their splinter groups have developed affiliations with one type or the other Taliban. They have flourished due to broken law and order, weak prosecution resulting in total absence of the writ of the State. It is American and Indian endeavor (for their own different reasons) to lump them with the mainstream Taliban and pitch the armed forces against them also. Any such attempt by Pak government may ignite a large scale civil war.

Steps Required to be Taken

Separate Own Strategy From US WOT . Our main enemies are Al Qaeda (common enemy) and TTP. We have nothing to do with Afghan freedom fighters within Afghanistan. We may not be in a position to help them diplomatically and morally that they actually deserve. The ones operating from within Pakistan must be managed. But we can clearly tell Afghan Government that prevention of these cross border operations is a combined responsibility and strict measures (abolition of easement rights, mining of possible routes and fencing etc ) are required on both sides of the border. Both countries should be responsible to prevent activities on their own sides rather than focusing across. US should operate against Al Qaeda within Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world (Yemen etc) and leave us alone to tackle the elements in Pakistan. We should make a comprehensive strategy (economic, social, political and military) against TTP, led by the political Government as per the wishes of the people of Pakistan as reflected through Parliamentary resolutions. There is no need for the military to spearhead the security policy unless clearly and openly mandated by the Government.

Take a Pause in Own WOT

All learned people understand that LIC and internal upheavals cannot be fought only through kinetic means. If other organs of the government and the society do not play their effective role these small long wars cannot be won. Armies due to their nature of training and capabilities can never win hearts and minds. They are not designed to do so. If Army keeps going alone pursuing this anti terrorist campaign, not only that we would not win but the entire burden of defeat will be dumped on Armed Forces. Please get out of this vicious circle immediately. If the Government and civil society cannot wage a media, political and economic campaigns against TTP, we stand no chance. Army is forced to raise local lashkars, carryout development works, institute political activities in war torn areas. Where are the people and institutions who are supposed to do all that? And on top of it they also blame that military doesn’t allow them to do their job! So let us stop fighting with everyone, reduce the number of enemies by talking some of them out.   Make an integrated LIC strategy clearly delineating responsibilities, ensuring that an equal or sequential progress  (as the case may be ) is made by each organ and instrument of the State and military should never be seen running alone to secure the first position. There can be no lone winners in this nature of conflicts. If others are incapable of doing their share of work, then it must be spelled out clearly and be known to all, specially ever alert media. Army may not be blamed for taking things in their hands at their own, it may rather be taken as a compulsion, ratified by the parliament and the government.

Create Harmony in National Aspirations, Government and Armed Forces. The confusion prevailing as to this is our war or US war has to be removed immediately. It is only possible if we segregate various militant groups, analyze their objectives and home onto real enemies of our State. Ask US to spare us and leave us alone to tackle our own issues the way we want to. The colossal US ingress in our polity, economy and society must be pushed back with wisdom but sagacity. We must politely inform them that it is politically no more possible for us to allow them drone attacks, logistic flow through our territories, and stationing of any additional personnel other than the normal diplomatic requirements. . No institution should try to carve out a separate relationship paradigm with any country outside the overall state to state relationships. If Government is seen to pursue policies in contradiction to the aspirations of the majority as enshrined in resolutions of the parliament, recourse must be made to Supreme Court or directly to the people (referendum) by appropriate quarters.  All said and done any effort at national level should be cohesive and inclusive and for that an effective National Decision Making Forum is also an absolute necessity that must accommodate all the stake holders. Policies must be made counting the national aspirations, national interests and own resources. The fallout of veering away from the American line is well understood. Their embrace is very tight, but in my opinion, fatal. The blame that Army runs the foreign policy etc is an insult to the government and foreign office. Why do they allow this ambiguity to exist? Let the foreign secretary and the foreign minister come on a talk show or go to the court and speak on oath what is that Armed forces dictate and for what purpose?

Enact and Implement Effective Laws, Ensure Social and Economic Justice. These factors cannot be over emphasized. Suffice to say that it is a matter of life and death for the Country. We have to put our house in order as a top priority, including strict accountability across the board (better starting within the armed forces).



My premises and conclusions may be wrong, but one thing is for sure, that our present policies and strategies need a comprehensive review and that too immediately, as the things are moving from bad to worse.

Let us stand up, unite and move forward confidently, without being over awed by the enormity of the obstacles. Let us give in to each other rather than to some foreign powers. All Taliban are not one homogenous entity and we need not fight all of them, specially when some of them our misguided, misunderstood and many of them are having sympathizers in large numbers. Whether we like it or not, this is a time for reconciliation with own people, and bifurcating with Americans, who in any case, surely, have their sights on something else.

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  • Nazia  On July 5, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Some of the point in this article are unsubstantiated and the repetition of the old army establishment’s line. Charges against RAW behind TTP have no substance. Let’s not try to blame others for our blunders. We need to be clear about a few points.

    1. We should not support any militant group on any ground whatsoever. If we have not learned this, it is a huge disappointment.

    2. We should NOT interfere in Afghanistan or Kashmir. They are not part of Pakistan. Therefore, we can’t allow groups who operate from Pakistan’s territory. Neither we should allow Americans to operate from Pakistan.

    3. Only a political approach can improve our relations with Afghans. We along with the Americans have tried military solution for a decade and look where we are? Military minds, American or Pakistan, can only fight wars.

    Sent from my magic Iphone Powered by Vodafone

    • Naveed Tajammal  On July 5, 2011 at 7:17 pm

      Raw or it’s Brain,’Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sang (RSSS) has used and will continue to use all means to destabilize our country,therefore it would be ‘Ludicrous’
      for us not give something back in return,Kashmir has been and remains our integral part,as is Eastern part of what has been coined by the British ,Afghanistan.
      in any case ‘indians’ had no business signing Tripartite Agreements with.Karazi and Tehran.kindly read the terms of this agreement.

  • N Malik  On July 5, 2011 at 9:01 am

    This is comprehensive discussion and includes what the general public had been voicing all along; but were belittled by our gibberrish english sewn burgar group as the public being the consipracy theorists or self denial fellows. But I do not understand why Mullah Umer and his followers would not like to called Talibans any longer? Is it because the western media has bad mouthed talibans to en extent that they would prefer being called with a more respectable and acceptable name of the yester years – as Mujahideens? Should this be the case then definitely they are responding in accordance with the enemy designs.

  • Z.T Minhas  On July 5, 2011 at 9:02 am

    every article i read about Pakistan’s relationship with America never states the obvious. I don’t know if Pakistanis are afraid of saying it. We know that American’s are duplicitous, but why can’t any Pakistani analyst state what is most obvious? America and Pakistan are ENEMIES….

    Z T

  • Mubaschir Inayet  On July 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Seems as if it is not that Talibaan cross the border over to Afghanistan and hit their targets and run back. Recently a bunch of them crossed the border into Pakistan and killed Pak forces.


  • S. Cadri  On July 5, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Sirji There are No Good Taliban. All are intolerant, ideological, brainwashed hard core die hards who stop at nothing. We have to guard ourselves well otherwise our cause is lost.

    • Azzam Abdo  On July 5, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      R u showing the same thing that described Taliban?
      Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

  • Bashir A. Syed  On July 5, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    In the first undergraduate PHYSICS course students are taught about REFERENCE FRAMES in order to understand MOTION of objects. In a similar way in order to understand EVENTS in our world, we always use History. The best source of History for mankind is Qur’an, in which our Creator has provided us guidelines in order to avoid PROBLEMS that arise from people of known attributes, because of their Hypocrisy, and Arrogance. In Surah Al-Maida #5, has two specific Ayats (51 & 57) related to extending friendship (in general not in individual cases) and seeking PROTECTION from those people who mock at ISLAM. Then Ayat # 82: is very specific to warn the BELIEVERS: Strongest among men in emity to the Believers wilt thou find the Yehud and Pagans (idol worshippers such as Hanud); and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say: “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to “learning” and men who have “renounced” the world, and they are not ARROGANT. (as Arrogance is an attribute of IBLEES or SATAN, who refused to bow to Adam, when Allah ordered all the Angels to follow His orders, which they did except IBLEES. When asked, Iblees in his arrogance replied that his disobedience was based upon Man, created from CLAY, considered by him was inferior, as he was created from FIRE. This one Ayat ought to serve as FRAME OF REFERENCE to understand between Friends and Foes of Believers in the Modern world. Thus the whole image of a horrible Monster called Al-Qaeda was invented by these folks to create perpetual trouble amongst the Believers. And Qura’n cites many events in History emanating from these folks, and presents in one Ayat like the Newtons Laws of Motion in Physics.

    Bashir A. Syed

    • DIL  On March 27, 2014 at 8:44 am

      Well penned, unfortunately the persona at the helm of the affairs always been at the twists of the nose as per their own personal interests rather than the Islamic, national or the common person’s life. All bad guys are nothing but hatchback by selfishness, ,,, the solution to all the problems is social justice under a very strict laws as was done in Singapore, ,, let someone like mullah Disel, Altaf mohajer sitting in land as paradise, Loha Chore’s descendants, kiani type post greedy, all such parasites shall be taken to the task in the requisitional courts and be punished then n there on the public places to whome these type of bad person had been depriving, ,,

  • Mubaschir Inayet  On July 5, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Mr Cadri is not showing the same thing. However, his post seems to be helping force some of us to emerge from the shadows and get our true selves recognised.


  • khan saheb  On July 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I recall the old classic western of 1966 The Good, the Bad and The Ugly with Clint Eastwood and his jing bang. Take a few minutes off from the Talibans and click below to hear its unmistakable theme.

    Talibans are not crossing borders any more. PK has its own home-grown version. You may consider some as good and some as bad, but I wish they would consider themselves Insaan before qualifying as a Taliban and then perhaps I would not be so inclined to consider them ugly.


  • Khan Zia  On July 6, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Thanks. It would be a shame not to acknowledge and commend Gen. Lodhi for his astute and incisive observations and a conclusion that no one can reasonably dispute. Only a few minor observations are offered.

    Al-Queda is a red herring. No less a person than erstwhile British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, admitted in a piece in The Guardian that it was just a name given to the CIA data base of Arab volunteers who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. Both Gen. Petraeus and Leon Panetta testified before Congressional committees that there were less than one hundred of them left in the area.

    The West may have its reasons to keep the bogey alive and its people fearful. We don’t have to go along for it is no more than a euphemism for anyone who is actively opposed to western designs in Muslim lands. Something that doesn’t exist can’t be our enemy nor is an enemy of the West necessarily our enemy as well.

    To lump all the disruptive elements in Afghanistan and Pakistan as ‘Taliban’ is a crude attempt to create the impression that they are all the same and enemies of Pakistan just as they are of the West. The so-called Afghan Taliban need Pakistan’s sympathy and support to survive now and in the future as well. They would have to be mad, which they are not, to harm Pakistan.

    For the sake of clarity the disparate groups that operate against Pakistan should not be called ‘Taliban’. Each of these has its own identity and agenda and should be referred to in these terms. Some of these have undoubtedly been infiltrated; others have sold their souls to the Devil and are little more than guns-for-hire by anyone willing to pay.

    Gen. Lodhi is very right in stating that dealing with terrorism is not the exclusive preserve of the armed forces. Bad politics and poor civil administration gave rise to it in the first place and the solution to the problem also lies with them. The military should not be called upon to perform roles for which it is not designed.

    The situation becomes abundantly clear if we were to ask, who stands to gain the most from instability and chaos in Pakistan? Afghan Taliban have nothing to gain from it and everything to lose nor is it doing any service to Islam. It can only benefit the enemies of Pakistan. The persons who engage in these activities need to be exposed and isolated and their monetary and other support severed. It can only be done with the help of active public involvement and participation which is not a task for the military.

    We are facing a far more serious situation than is generally realized. It is not simply the explosions and the killings. Investment has stopped and capital is leaving the country. Diversion of resources to the war has brought the economy to the brink of ruin. Factories are shutting down and hundreds of thousands of people have already been laid off due to power shortage. Water storage capacity has been halved and no new dams built to make up the loss. It can only lead to progressive reduction in agricultural output, massive population shifts as peasants abandon their farms and, ultimately, famine and societal breakdown that will affect everyone.

    We have seen little action from both the previous military and present civilian regimes. Oblivious of the impending disaster they have kept themselves busy with their petty little games. Either deliberately or out of sheer ignorance and stupidity they have and continue to do more harm to Pakistan than any enemy ever could. To expect anything different from them is futile. If there is to be change it has to be forced by the people. The sooner they do it the better — if only for their own sakes.

    • DIL  On March 27, 2014 at 8:53 am

      Al Quaida in nothing than Saudi+USA Intelligencia’s money invested masonry.

      • DIL  On March 27, 2014 at 9:03 am

        Well penned, unfortunately the persona at the helm of the affairs always been at the twists of the nose as per their own personal interests rather than the Islamic, national or the common person’s life. All bad guys are nothing but hatchback by selfishness, ,,, the solution to all the problems is social justice under a very strict laws as was done in Singapore, ,, let someone like mullah Disel, Altaf mohajer sitting in land as paradise, Loha Chore’s descendants, kiani type post greedy, all such parasites shall be taken to the task in the requisitional courts and be punished then n there on the public places to whome these type of bad person had been depriving, ,,

  • khan saheb  On July 6, 2011 at 3:13 am


    For the US in 2001, it was project Al-Qaeda. The Pakistani leadership, first in uniform and later in black suits, have done their best to turn that into project Al-Faeda. The consequential madness that we see now is not going to go away any time soon. I hope I am wrong.


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