July 27, 2011

madrassah-lal-masjid-burn-dvds-cdsLooks like the Tehrik-i-Taliban has set its sights on a new target: un-Islamic kapra.

An attack on cloth merchants in Wana on July 26 was motivated by a desire to crush the production of “clothes that don’t properly cover the human body,” i.e. clothes made of thin, see-through fabric.

What this represents is the TTP’s blatant disregard for consideration of others’ property as they pursue what they see as a holy mission. With the economic downturn in Pakistan dragging down profit margins from Karachi to the Karakoram cottage industry, attacks such as these make doing business even harder.

Less business means less money. Which means more anger and, perhaps, in a supremely ironic move, more support for radical elements. Meanwhile, the Pakistani economy bleeds and more aid becomes necessary. Cue further anti-American hostilities. A self-destructive cycle is being created.

This is not the first time the Taliban’s temperamental nature has led them to intrude on residents’ lives and livelihoods. Some of their barbaric actions, including perverse justice, have been caught on video. Moves to make beards mandatory in Bajaur and ban women from shopping in public areas preceded this latest move, and thus it is safe to assume other demands are inevitable.

How much control the Taliban wants over the unfortunate residents of the areas it occupies remains unclear. But perhaps it’s time to invest in some good lining?

Professor Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University, Washington, DC and author of The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror became a Global War on Tribal Islam.