This is a guest post by Shiraz Maher
Little over two weeks ago the Pakistani government invested great hopes in the Taliban by agreeing to implement Shariah law in parts of the North-West Frontier Province. Their reasoning was simple: the state would make concessions to the Jihadists in return for security.
Here’s how the Taliban respond:
Gunmen have attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team on its way to play in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
At least five Pakistani policemen escorting the team bus were killed, while seven cricketers, and their assistant coach, were injured.
Pakistani officials said about 12 gunmen were involved and grenades and rocket launchers have been recovered.
However, this isn’t the first time the Taliban have attacked public figures they don’t like.
Singer Sardar Yousafzai and his band were driving from a wedding gig when the gunmen burst onto the road, firing without warning.
Yousafzai survived, but a harmonium player died and four others were wounded. He is now in hiding — the latest of many entertainers whose lives and livelihoods face an escalating threat from Taliban-led militants in northwest Pakistan.
Attacking musicians and sportsmen just about sums up everything the Taliban hates: those who do not share their fanatical interpretation of Islam.
But these attacks are also about something more. They are an attack on everyday life in Pakistan, in a country where cricket is a religion itself. It was a bold statement from the Taliban signalling that, even with Shariah law now imposed in parts of the NWFP, they will not stop until the whole of Pakistan succumbs.
This should come as no surprise. Engaging on a concessionary basis with fascist groups is almost always an exercise in futility. Yes, their rhetoric may appear hyperbolic from time to time – but then, this is how they see themselves. Add to that their belief that God is on their side and you can quickly see why a few concessions mean nothing to them.
Pakistan is now locked in a battle for its own survival. Asif Zardari and Nazaw Sharif will need to set aside their factional bickering and jockeying for position to meet the grave challenges facing their country. They really only have one choice – to crush the Islamist threat which has already colonised one-fifth of Pakistan.