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Book Review: Taliban

This is a “book”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0300089023/jksobservat-20/103-6452404-6211035 is a comprehensive look at the Taliban movement, both in terms of their history and from the angle of various players involved in Afghanistan. The author Ahmed Rashid was based in Pakistan covering the region for many years and the book is the result of his interviews with various members of the Taliban.

The book covers the story of the Taliban from their origin in refugee camps in Pakistan to their takeover of Afghanistan, with some generous help from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It details the autrocities committed by the Taliban against other ethnic minorities and is also very critical about the various edicts issued by the inexperienced Taliban like the ones which made women prisoners inside burqas.

According to the book, even though the Taliban implemented a strict Islamic Law for their citizens, they were involved in many anti-Islamic activities. For one, they revived the cultivation of Opium Poppy. According to Rashid, even though it is against Islam to consume or produce intoxicants, the Taliban justified it saying that Opium was consumed by kafirs and Afghanis consumed only heroin which was banned. Another point that Rashid makes in this book is that even though Islam does not allow a dead body to rot in public, the Taliban did not allow the bodies to be buried when they went around butchering people in various cities they conquered.

The last section of the book talks about the new great game in the region. The area around Caspian Sea has a large reserve of untapped oil. But that region is landlocked between Russia, Iran, and the Central Asian Republics and present transportation issues. There was lots of money to be made if the gas could be transported to the Arabian Sea. But for that to happen there had to be a regime in Afghanistan which would ensure safe passage of the gas.

California based Oil Company UNOCAL proposed the construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan. Their competitor was Bridas from Argentina. Both the companies tries to woo the Taliban. The Taliban mullahs were invited to visit United States and Argentina. While in the United States, the Taliban also visited the State Department and asked for recognition of their Government.

UNOCAL would have gone ahead with its plan but for the feminist movement in United States. The feminists were opposed to the an American company supporting a regime which ill treated their women. At that time President Clinton who was having a large women vote bank also did not want to lose it. As a result the UNOCAL project fell through.

This is one book which should be compulsory reading for all Indian diplomats and media personnel. There are many points they can emphasize in their presentation of India’s case and to point out the specifics regarding the role of the Pakistani Government and their Intelligence Agencies in the creation of this monster. This is a book which should be read by any one interested in Afghanistan and the politics of the region. With so much money at stake, there is going to be lots of political re-alignment and action in this region for many years. This book will provide all the background information required for understanding the politics. I sure am going to buy this book.

One Response to Book Review: Taliban

  1. Anonymous November 22, 2003 at 2:44 pm #

    This book says most things true. But the Pakistani government was the only one to recognize the Taliban at the end of their regime. You must know that Afghanistan and Pakistan are always close, so they couldn’t not recognize it. You won’t understand. I’m an Indian Hindu, but I promote Pakistan-India friendliness. You mustn’t be so hard on them. I have said the same to Pakistani sites.

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