The United States government has stipulated that it is quite certain the Pakistani Taliban leader being confirmed dead leaves a void in the Taliban leadership. In a statement by James Jones, the White House national security adviser, the void left by the death of Baitullah Mehsud will weaken the terrorist group, as there is bound to be struggle of succession.
The death is attributed to a CIA strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where the Taliban congregated.
Mehsud supposedly met his fate fatale Aug. 5 at his father-in-law’s house. Obviously, his people think he has attained martyrdom and has gone to heaven as a result of dying in the name of Allah. More rational thinkers are happy to be rid of a renowned psychotic terrorist who used Islam as a venue for brutal and senseless killings inside and outside Pakistan.
On public television, Jones spoke of the Taliban leader without mincing his words. He said: “Mehsud was a very bad individual, a real thug.”
He said the U.S. “put it in the 90 percent category” that Mehsud was killed.
“This is a big deal,” he said, though Taliban commanders have vehemently denied claims of their leader’s death.
Since I know Pakistan well as a woman born and raised there and exposed first-person to Taliban politics, it is my humble opinion that whether Mehsud is dead or not will make little or no difference in the long run as far as terrorist activities are concerned.
They say you can cut off a snake’s head, but it does not really die. In this case, if you cut off one head, many grow back to replace it.
The reason is simple. It lies in demographics and the strain of thought which incites Taliban-ization.
Pakistan has one of the largest and fastest growing populations in the world. It is also one of the poorest countries in the world. It has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Combine this with fanatical thought, poverty and vested interest groups paying for terrorist training camps in Pakistan. Season it with a generous sprinkling of hate for American foreign policy, vis-a-vis American partisanship toward Israel and Palestine.
Now set this mix in a rugged tribal area in which a mother wants to send her young sons to madrassas so they can learn the Holy Quran. The Qari, who teaches the Quran, tells the impoverished, starving family that they will not only train the child to be a good Muslim, but feed him, pay him and make him an honorable man of God — a true instrument of Islam.
Three meals a day, clean clothes, years of training, and by the time the child is a teenager, the mother has a grown and well-fed son. And the Taliban have a new warrior.
Now multiply this by the tens of thousands of poor village folk who have no access to proper education, food or resources. What you have is an army, a band of brothers called the Taliban.
My fear, based on what I recently witnessed first-hand in Pakistan, is that Mehsud’s death means squat. It is a mere cosmetic victory. The roots of evil have spread way beneath the tree’s trunk — they are spreading like spider veins. You can cut all the trees you want and burn down the forest. It will not make the problem go away.
If I could have a word with President Obama, I would tell him the only way to root out the evil of terrorism is to understand it and begin systematically destroying the conditions that make it grow.
Provide books, not bombs, to the Pakistani children. Provide modern educational institutions, not madrassas, which are breeding grounds of vested interest groups. Do not support corrupt government leaders in Pakistan. Encourage liberal-minded people who understand Pakistan and are committed to its growth to join forces with the U.S. Talk to real people from Pakistan — students, teachers, working women, writers, artists — in order to liberate Pakistan from the clutches of social and political poverty.
Only when you liberate a people of a land can you conquer the land. Killing one bad guy is a start, but isn’t nearly enough.
• Samina Masood is a four-year resident of Tracy, and her writings appear frequently in the Tracy Press. She is a mother of two who has master’s degrees in both journalism and clinical psychology.