FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail