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The Taliban Come To Town

By Fram Dinshaw Right now I’m listening to some pretty tasteless pop music, a love song just in time for…

By Fram Dinshaw , in Asia's Weimar Republic Blogs , on February 6, 2008

By Fram Dinshaw

Right now I’m listening to some pretty tasteless pop music, a love song just in time for Valentine’s Day, and I’m probably just going to take it for granted I can indulge that simple pleasure whenever I want without anyone stopping me – after all, this is the free and easy West Coast.

It’s certainly a lot more than can be said for the residents of Pakistan’s North West Frontier. There, the Taliban are, among other things, banning music as ‘un-Islamic’. Sadly, that’s going to be the least of their victims’ worries.

Over the last 30 odd years, these long suffering people have struggled to cope with refugees fleeing war in Afghanistan, grinding poverty, and Western scrutiny over the presence of al-Qaeda terrorists using their mountainous land as a haven.In the towns and villages nestling in the valleys of the North West Frontier, women have been forced into head to toe burqas, singers who perform in public are now breaking the law, and one music shop near the city of Bannu was bombed. The owner survived to learn the hard way that you don’t want to sell anything except Islamic prayer chants.The rot has now spread to the capital Islamabad.

When the Red Mosque was seized by militants last year, female Islamists formed their own vigilante mob who roamed the streets kidnapping prostitutes, while the men busied themselves burning a pile of DVDs – no doubt because they offended their ‘morality’.

This was a slap in the face for a Pakistani Government who were already deeply unpopular with secular and religious Pakistanis alike. Just to rub salt in the wound, the militants denounced Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar, just for hugging her paragliding instructor when visiting France.

As Musharraf’s Government slowly loses its grip on Pakistan despite – or perhaps because of – American support, a void is being left behind, firstly in the North West Frontier, and now in the rest of the country. The result? A field day for terrorsts, extremists, and criminal gangs.Enjoy those pop songs and movies before the Taliban comes to town.