ANALYSIS: Goodbye Noor Malik —Farhat Taj - Saturday, January 29, 2011

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All lashkar leaders, have been repeatedly telling me that the state is in collusion with the Taliban. They all feel trapped between a deceitful state and the brutal Taliban. The state has abandoned them to the reposeful Taliban

Noor Malik was one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban lashkar in Adeyzai, the last village in southern rural Peshawar on border with FATA. Villagers in Adeyzai say he committed suicide due to some domestic dispute. His family insists he died when a bullet accidentally came out from his own pistol that he was holding in his hand.

Noor Malik, 24, was just like ordinary Pakistani young men. He loved cricket and used to play it a lot before he joined the lashkar. Shahid Afridi was his favourite player. He joined the lashkar after his father, Haji Abdul Malik, the leader of the lashkar was killed by the Taliban in a targeted suicide attack in November 2009. Noor Malik, who was with his father at the time of the attack, was also injured in that attack. He told me he missed the normal life of a young man of his age but also insisted that his personal preferences come after the cause — to defeat the Taliban — his father gave his life for. He was adamant to carry forward his father’s anti-Taliban cause. He said he would go to the Middle East to work as a driver to support his family just like his father, who was also a driver in Dubai, after the Taliban have been defeated.

A visit to Adeyzai could be a heartbreaking journey, especially the sight of so many young Adeyzai men of tender age guarding their village with weapons around the clock. These young men should have been in high schools or colleges instead of holding weapons for the defence of their village. Noor Malik was such a young man. He told me in an interview that he wished to tour the world. A wish that he added may never materialise due to the responsibility of the anti-Taliban struggle that befell him after his father. The Taliban attacked Adeyzai with five rockets — that luckily killed no one — following the burial of Noor Malik. “This was the Taliban’s way of celebration of his death,” said his brother who has now taken Noor Malik’s place in the lashkar.

Regardless the immediate cause behind his death, one thing is for sure: like other Adeyzai lashkar leaders he was under constant mental pressure due to the terrorism-related police cases against them. The cases against the Adeyzai lashkar leaders reflect the state’s ambiguous dealing with the Taliban. The police registered those cases against several family members of Noor Malik, including himself, his father, brother, uncles and cousins due to some alleged link of Haji Malik, Noor Malik’s father, with the Taliban. The police arrested Haji Malik.

It was the time when there was resentment against the Taliban in Adeyzai because they had bombed schools for girls in the village and had beheaded policemen in the area. The villagers were ready to defend their area against the Taliban. At that time the police released Haji Malik on the condition that he would lead the anti-Taliban lashkar in the village. On the one hand Haji Malik agreed to lead the lashkar in line with the village jirga’s decision and on the other hand he kept asking the police to take the cases back or proceed according to the law.

I have explained in my column, ‘An invitation to the ICG’ (Daily Times, December 25, 2010) that there was a specific context of Haji Malik’s link with the Taliban. That context shifts the responsibility to the police to explain why did it not proceeded as per the law if there was serious evidence against Haji Malik and his relatives’ involvement in terrorism. And why were the cases not taken back when the police released and trusted him with the responsibility to lead an anti-Taliban lashkar? In his life Haji Malik used to insist that the police never explained to him why did they arrest and then release him. Moreover, strangely, the police also have terrorism-related charges registered against those members of the lashkar who had never been publicly known for links with the Taliban.

The Adeyzai lashkar has a remarkable record of cooperation with the police and the military. The lashkar courageously stood up to the Taliban for two years despite great human and material losses. No moral or material help has been provided by the state to the Adeyzai lashkar, which is made up of local drivers and farmers. All lashkar leaders, including Noor Malik, have been repeatedly telling me that the state is in collusion with the Taliban. They all feel trapped between a deceitful state and the brutal Taliban. The state has abandoned them to the reposeful Taliban. The state would immediately arrest them under terrorism charges, already registered with the police, if they made a deal with the Taliban whereby the former would refrain from crimes inside Adeyzai and the lashkar would allow the militants to peacefully pass through their area for any attacks inside Peshawar. They would be put in jails where the lashkar leaders are afraid the Taliban would kill them. The jails, they told me, are filled with the Taliban where they have a comfortable life and torture to death any anti-Taliban men put together with them in the same jail.

Noor Malik was especially concerned about the possibility of being killed in jail by the Taliban. He told me in a recent meeting that he might not withstand the Taliban torture in jail for long because his body has not fully recovered from injuries he sustained in the suicide attack and that he could be killed with a couple of kicks in his stomach. The state’s collusion with the Taliban and its thinly veiled aversion that an anti-Taliban Pakhtun may have had contributed to Noor Malik death, regardless the immediate cause of demise. Noor Malik has passed away now. But there are many other young men in this anti-Taliban village who might be waiting in line for violent deaths. These young men are part of the collateral damage that our state seems to comfortably accept in its strategic pursuits in the region through jihadis.

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

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