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Close Encounters with Pakistan’s Taliban

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The view of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s Quaid-i-Azam (Supreme Leader) that an individual’s religion is no business of the state, might have prevailed had he lived longer (he died a year after Independence, in 1948), and had he and his successors not labelled their new nation an Islamic Republic. It was the military regime of General Zia-ul Haq (1977-88) who filled in the Islamic content of the title, and in the process fused the military together with talibs (students) at madrasas along the Afghan border to create a counteroffensive against the Russians, who invaded Afghanistan in 1980. The emergent Taliban, funded by the CIA and assisted by Inter-Services Intelligence – powerful and unaccountable to Parliament – has dominated both sides of the Pak/Afghan border ever since.

The speaker has lived in the border capital, Peshawar, for the last four years as principal of a university college, originally founded by British administrators and missionaries a hundred years ago, and has witnessed and experienced the progressive intensification of extremist activity in the region, including a personal death threat. But it remains possible to talk to the Taliban, and once the Coalition forces leave Afghanistan in 2016, he believes that there are tentative prospects for peace in the region.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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