Educating the Taliban

by

Pakistan’s Tribal region is the assumed headquarters of one of most dangerous militant organizations, Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which began an insurgency against the state in 2007.  During the ongoing security forces operation “Zarb-E-Azb” against TTP, Pakistan’s army celebrated on Friday, August 29, when Professor Ajmal Khan, vice-chancellor of Islamia College University, was freed after four years in Taliban captivity. But the keys to his freedom involve not only governmental actions or the protestations of Pakistan citizens, but also Khan’s own secret, powerful weapon: Education.

The Pakistani Taliban abducted Khan from Peshawar in September 2010, and for four years he wondered at what moment the TTP would simply shoot him and release video of his killing as a warning to others.

Khan appeared in several TTP-orchestrated video messages asking the government to negotiate his release. Government officials said that, despite many rounds of back-channel talks in the past, the Taliban had refused to release Khan and demanded the release of important militant commanders held by Pakistan security forces. Pakistan human rights activists, university teaching staff and students in the Northwest had protested Khan’s kidnapping many times but all efforts to recover him were futile.

During his time in captivity, Khan started teaching two children of the Taliban. As time passed, other children came to learn, and by the time he was released, Khan was teaching English and math to 32 children of Taliban members.

On his return, Khan wore a long beard and appeared in good health despite his long captivity. The militants had treated him well, giving him medication for his heart condition and a radio so he could keep up with current affairs. Perhaps one effective effort toward Khan’s relatively favorable treatment and release was his own – a dedication to education, despite and because of the threat of imminent violence.

Education is one critical investment we can make as a global society toward the eradication of organized violence and terrorism, and Khan’s investment in his education and that of 32 children may have kept him physically unharmed during his four-year tenure as a Taliban prisoner. Inside the lion’s den, Khan planted seeds of self-actualization and critical thought that may grow in coming years, but we’ll need to water those seeds as a global community.

Khan was willing to improve the world – especially the world of those 32 children – while under threat of violence, and we should follow his example despite and because of the epidemic of violence we currently face. Khan, like many around the world, was surrounded by weapons of destruction. But it is the weapons of construction and transformation, such as education, which are the most powerful of all.

Rizwan Zulfiqar Bhutta (@rizbhutta) is an International broadcast journalist and regional affairs expert for South Asia, and works for peace and stability in the region.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Karl Grossman
The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press
Cesar Chelala
Cultural Treasures Are Also Victims of War
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz