The Lawless West

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We believe in federal structure and we don't want to intervene in that. But if law and order breaks down then it has to be seen what can be done. The BJP team members met the family members of the deceased and also spoke to several party workers who were attacked in the last few days.

This is the second visit of a BJP central delegation to assess the situation in the state. The first team in its report had said the violence could be state-sponsored and the border area with Bangladesh is the new home for Islamic fundamentalist groups that are being "patronised" by TMC government for vote-bank politics. Get the best of News18 delivered to your inbox - subscribe to News18 Daybreak. Follow News I agree to receive emails from News18 I promise to vote in this year's elections no matter what the odds are.

Please check above checkbox. Politics Movies Photos Pro Kabaddi. The mujahideen who warred against the Soviets had been a motley collection of seven Pakistan-based resistance groups, divided by region, clan, politics, and religious ideology. Worse, the resistance commanders inside Afghanistan had only the loosest of links to the seven groups. For them, party affiliation was merely a matter of access to weaponry—the groups were awash in guns and money, provided by the CIA through Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. Thus when the Soviet-backed Afghan regime collapsed in Kabul, the capital, in , Afghanistan became a writhing nest of petty warlords who fought and negotiated with one another for small chunks of territory.

Girls and young boys were raped and traded between commanders.

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The situation was especially bad in Kandahar. The road leading to it from Quetta was shared by at least twenty factions, each of which put a chain across the road and demanded tolls. But there were also honest commanders, backwoodsmen who lived by a primitive creed called Pashtoonwali—"the way of the Pashtoons," a code more severe even than Koranic law. While emphasizing hospitality and chivalry, Pashtoonwali demands blood vengeance on fellow Muslims for killing and punishes adultery based on hearsay alone.

In addition to these commanders there were hordes of young boys who had grown up in crowded refugee camps in Quetta and Peshawar, where they were educated in madrassas supported by Saudi Arabia. The schools taught a more ideological and austere brand of Islam than the ones practiced in the mountains of Afghanistan, where before the Soviet occupation religion had been a natural outgrowth of rural life.

In the mountains women need not always wear veils, for example, because in the course of a day the only males they encounter are their relatives. In the urban anonymity of Pakistani cities and adjacent refugee camps religion was reinvented in harsher form, to preserve values suddenly under attack. The communist ideology brought to Afghanistan by the Soviet occupation had required an equally harsh response, and throughout the s and early s the madrassas for Afghan refugees in Pakistan provided it.

The fierce brand of Islam they taught was not just a reaction to urban conditions but also a result of evolving and intertwining Saudi and Pakistani philosophies. In the Afghan refugee academies Saudi Wahabism merged as it did nowhere else with the Deobandism of the Subcontinent. Wahabism arose in the Arabian peninsula in the eighteenth century with the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab, who led a puritanical reaction against what he considered lax observance. Deobandism takes its name from the village of Deoband, outside New Delhi, where in the nineteenth century an Islamic academy developed an orthodox pan-Islam in reaction against British rule.

When the Muslim state of Pakistan was created, Deobandism was further radicalized by an Islamic theorist named Abdul A'la Maududi, who propagated a form of Islam with striking resemblances to totalitarianism. Maududi believed that the Koran had to be accepted in full and that many Muslims had corrupted Islam by letting themselves be influenced by the liberal West. Islam is perfect, Maududi asserted, and requires no judgment on the part of the believer. It should override all other laws of the state. There is no contradiction between the radical Islamists' hatred for the Russians in Chechnya and their hatred for the Americans everywhere else: both are reactions to a challenge from an impure West that is more proximate than ever before, because of technology.

As Afghanistan fell apart in an orgy of banditry, madrassa students in Pakistan came into contact with uncorrupted backwoodsmen inside Afghanistan; together they filled the vacuum in authority. One of the backwoodsmen was Mullah Mohammed Omar, a mujahideen commander who is said to have ignited the Taliban revolt, in early , by leading a small force in Kandahar that captured and hanged from the barrel of a tank a fellow commander guilty of raping two girls.

The Taliban rose and swept across late-twentieth-century Afghanistan much as Islam itself had swept across seventh-century Arabia and North Africa, filling the void left by the anarchy and decadence of waning Byzantine rule. In the process of overrunning 80 percent of the country, the Taliban captured Kabul, in There they carried out amputations and stonings and seized the Soviet puppet ruler of Afghanistan, Najibullah, from a United Nations compound, castrating and jeep-dragging him before hanging him from a traffic post. The atrocities demonstrated the Taliban obsession with the notion that the city, with its foreign influences, is the root of all evil.

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In the recently published Taliban the journalist Ahmed Rashid writes that because many of the Taliban are orphans of war, who have never known the company of women, they have retreated into a male brotherhood reminiscent of the Crusaders. Indeed, the most dangerous movements are often composed of war orphans, who, being unsocialized, are exceptionally brutal the Khmer Rouge, in Cambodia, and the Revolutionary United Front, in Sierra Leone, are two examples.

Of course, the longer wars go on, the more orphans are created. They are also an example of globalization, influenced by imported pan-Islamic ideologies and supported economically by both Osama bin Laden's worldwide terrorist network for whom they provide a base and a multibillion-dollar smuggling industry in which ships and trucks bring consumer goods from the wealthy Arabian Gulf emirate of Dubai less a state than the world's largest shopping mall through Iran and Afghanistan and on to Quetta and Karachi.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan also relied on crucial help from Pakistan. By Pakistan was tiring of its Afghan mujahideen puppet, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Throughout the s and early s its Inter-Services Intelligence had channeled more arms and money from the CIA to Hekmatyar's radical-fundamentalist faction than to any of the more moderate mujahideen groups.

Hekmatyar was young, charismatic, highly educated, and power-hungry. Yet his attraction for the ISI lay in the fact that he had little grassroots support inside Afghanistan itself and was thus beholden to the Pakistanis. The continuing anarchy in Afghanistan after the departure of the Soviets showed the fundamental flaw in the ISI's policy. Hekmatyar could never consolidate power to the extent Pakistan required in order to safeguard its land routes to the new oil states of Central Asia—routes that would create a bulwark of Muslim states that could confront India.

It was a democratically elected Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, along with her Interior Minister, the retired general Naseerullah Babar, who conceived of the Taliban as a solution to Pakistan's problem. Through the ISI the Bhutto government began to provide the Taliban with money, fuel, subsidized wheat, vehicles, weapons, and volunteers from Pakistan's madrassas. It also linked Afghanistan to Pakistan's telephone grid. But the Taliban won't play the role of puppet. And Afghanistan's religious extremism is accelerating Pakistan's, through the network of madrassas.

Furthermore, the future of the Taliban themselves is uncertain. They have restored security in Afghanistan by disarming much of the countryside, but they have built no institutions to sustain their rule—and 70 percent of working-age Afghans are jobless. Just as the Taliban rose and spread like Islam itself, they could also descend into disorderly power struggles, much like the medieval Muslim rulers who followed the prophet Mohammed. Ultimately, the Taliban are tribal Pashtoons from the southern and eastern Afghan borderlands—an anarchic mountain people who have ground up one foreign invader after another, defying attempts by the Moguls, the Sikhs, the British, the Soviets, and the Pakistanis to control them.

As Mahauddin, a white-robed Pashtoon cleric from southwestern Afghanistan, told me in Karzai's home, "We are thirsty for a pure Afghan government, a loya jirga [grand council of tribal chiefs] without Russia or the ISI to influence us. In fact, with mujahideen field commanders no longer getting CIA money and weapons through the ISI, power in Afghanistan is inexorably gravitating back to the tribal heads. For example, commanders of Popolzai descent who were loyal to Hekmatyar and the other mujahideen party leaders have returned to Karzai's fold, which is why he is so troublesome to the Taliban and their Pakistani backers—and why Quetta is dangerous for Karzai.

Several hundred miles north of Quetta lies Peshawar, at the eastern end of the Khyber Pass—the fabled gateway connecting Central Asia to the Subcontinent, which in our day means connecting Afghanistan to Pakistan.

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Here the religious disputes that run parallel to tribal divides come more clearly into focus. In the late s Peshawar went from being a quaint backwater whose bazaars were interspersed with stately lawns and red-brick mansions in Anglo-Indian Gothic style to becoming a geopolitical fault line.

Afghan refugees poured through the Khyber Pass by the millions, escaping the Soviet invasion. At the same time, the Iranian revolution closed off an important route for drug smugglers, who began transporting locally produced heroin eastward through the Khyber Pass and down to the port of Karachi. Peshawar's population doubled to a million. Throughout the s war, crime, and urbanization generated an intolerant religiosity. Returning to Peshawar for the first time in more than a decade, I found an even more crowded, poor, and polluted city than the one I remembered.

It was also more Afghan. In the s Peshawar's Afghan population consisted of refugees from the rural hinterlands. But from to , when a civil war among the mujahideen destroyed Kabul with mortar fire and rocket-propelled grenades, the sophisticated urbanites of the Afghan capital migrated to Peshawar. Unlike the rural refugees, these people had an exportable cosmopolitan culture, and this added another layer of change to Peshawar.

Now there are many more Afghan restaurants and carpet shops and nightclubs for Afghan music—especially owing to the Taliban ban on music in Kabul. There are also many Afghan prostitutes, fairer-skinned and reputed to be more compliant than their Pakistani counterparts. The presence of educated Afghans made me realize that the very element of the population most averse to Taliban rule was now absent from Afghanistan, reducing the likelihood of an uprising.

In the s traveling outside Peshawar into the tribal agencies of the North-West Frontier Province was easy for journalists, because the Pakistani regime encouraged news coverage of the mujahideen struggle against the Soviets in Afghanistan. This time it took me several days to get a permit to travel from Peshawar into the Orakzai and Kurram tribal agencies, which in recent years have been plagued by communal violence between members of the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. The permit was valid only provided that I was accompanied by an armed escort of local tribal militia. The road south and west of Peshawar runs past squalid mud-brick and wattle stalls crowded with bearded and turbaned Pashtoon men; the women, concealed under burkas, resemble moving tents.


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The sky is polluted by a greasy haze of black smoke from tire-fed fires, used to bake mud bricks. The odor in each town is a rich mixture of dung, hashish, grilled meat, and diesel oil—and also cordite in Darra Adam Khel, where Pashtoons work at foot-powered lathes producing local copies of Kalashnikovs and other assault rifles.

In one shop, whose glass cases were filled with rifles, pistols, and bullet magazines, I met Haji Mohammed Zaman Khan, a local tribal leader. Haji Zaman wore a bulbous red cloth hat with an ostentatious bow around it—the signature of the Afridi, a branch of the Pashtoons thought to be descended from Greek soldiers of Alexander the Great's army, which came down the Khyber Pass. Here, as in Quetta, all the stores had been closed in protest against the military government's plan to tax the smuggling trade.

Haji Zaman explained, "The government tries to stop production of opium poppies, our only cash crop. It wants to ban the transport of guns, which will make thousands jobless. Smuggling is the only means of survival we have left. Why doesn't the government raise money from the corrupt? When we see that the corrupt are being punished, then maybe we will trust the government.


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By "the corrupt," Zaman meant officials of previous democratic governments who are under investigation for taking billions of dollars in bribes and depositing them in foreign bank accounts. Throughout Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier, I heard calls for revenge against those officials. No one with whom I spoke voiced any interest in national elections, which are very tentatively scheduled to take place in three years; political analysts in Islamabad call them a dead issue among the masses, though only for now.

Beyond Darra Adam Khel the landscape consisted of naked rock, heat, and haze. I saw women in burkas searching for water trickling through otherwise dry gravel beds. Throughout the tribal lands of Pakistan people are naming their newborns Osama. It is the American government's promotion of Bin Laden as a formidable enemy that helps to give him credibility here. To the poor, he embodies the idea that only strict Islam has the power to vanquish the advancing materialism of the West.

In the nearby tribal agency of Waziristan, Pakistani members of the Taliban have been destroying television sets, videos, and other reminders of the West. Bin Laden's terrorist organization, with operatives on several continents, is both a symptom of and a reaction against globalization. Parachinar, the largest town in the Kurram tribal agency, was a small market center twelve years ago. Now it is a crowded city of ,, characterized by brutal concrete, electricity outages, water shortages, battles over property rights, and terrorism powered by guns that are filtering back into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

When I asked the assistant political agent for Kurram, Massoud Urrahma, if military rule had made a difference, he replied dismissively, "Whether the government in Islamabad is military or democratic doesn't matter. We have no civil law here—only Pashtoon tribal law. The Pashtoon population of Kurram is split between Sunnis and Shias.

In September of a gun battle among teenage members of the two rival Muslim sects escalated into a communal war in which more than people were killed and women and children were kidnapped. A paramilitary official said that the atrocities were out of "the Stone Age"; militants even executed out-of-towners who were staying at a local hotel. Now the situation in Parachinar is peaceful but extremely tense. Paramilitaries guard the streets around the Sunni and Shia mosques, which stand nearly side by side, their minarets scarred by bullet holes.

Only a few weeks before my visit seventeen people had been killed in violence between Sunnis and Shias in another tribal region of the North-West Frontier. He told me that Sunnis cannot buy land from Shias—"so how can we consider them our brothers? A high birth rate and a flood of Afghan refugees have intensified the property conflicts. Population growth has also weakened the power of tribal elders and created extremist youth factions. The lack of water and electricity has increased anger. Meanwhile, the government schools are abysmal—often without teachers, books, and roofs.

The poor, who form the overwhelming majority, cannot afford the private academies, so they send their children to Sunni and Shia madrassas, where students are well cared for and indoctrinated with sectarian beliefs. Every person I interviewed was sullen and reticent. One day a crowd of men surrounded me and led me to the back of a pharmacy, where they took turns denouncing America and telling me that the Taliban were good because they had restored security to Afghanistan, ending mujahideen lawlessness.

The "external hand of India" was to blame for the local troubles between Sunnis and Shias here, I was told. Conspiracy theories, I have noticed, are inflamed by illiteracy: people who can't read rely on hearsay. In Pakistan the adult literacy rate is below 33 percent. In the tribal areas it is below that. As for the percentage of women in Parachinar who can read, I heard figures as low as two percent; nobody really knows.

Tribal and religious unrest in Pakistan is aggravated by terrible living conditions and divisive nationalisms. These are most clearly seen in Karachi, far to the south, on the Arabian Sea. Traditionless, dysfunctional, and unstable, Karachi is an unfortunately apt metaphor for Pakistan's general condition. Only a quarter of the 14 million residents are native to Sind, the region around Karachi, and are themselves migrants from the drought-stricken interior.

The rest are immigrants from elsewhere on the Subcontinent. At least a quarter of the populace lives in katchiabaadis, "temporary houses" built haphazardly of corrugated iron, cinder blocks, wattle, burlap, and cardboard, with stones and tires anchoring their rattling roofs. Vistas of these houses go on for miles. Some katchiabaadi neighborhoods have existed for decades; they have shops, teahouses, and makeshift playgrounds. Goats wander everywhere. Children and adults sift through mounds of garbage in search of items to recycle.

Most Third World cities manifest dramatic contrasts between rich and poor. But in no other place have I seen rich and poor live in such close and hostile proximity as in Karachi. On one street a grimy warren of katchiabaadis lay to my right, and a high wall guarding luxury villas and a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet lay to my left. Karachi's villas look like embassies, with guards, barbed wire, iron grilles, and beautiful bougainvillaea and jacaranda trees adorning stucco ramparts.

The villas, with their satellite dishes for watching CNN, MTV, and other international channels, symbolize a high-end kind of globalization; the katchiabaadis —so much like the slums I have seen throughout the developing world—a low-end kind. During the week that I was in Karachi in May, seven vehicles, including a bus, were set afire by rampaging youths, who also broke windows at a McDonald's and a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Seven other vehicles were carjacked. Bombs exploded near a police station and in the central business district, killing one person and injuring six others. Three people were murdered by unidentified assailants.

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As in Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province, political, ethnic, and religious reasons are given for the violence. But the evidence is often murky. Seeing how people lived in Karachi, I wondered if sheer rage might have much to do with it. I consider it a triumph of the human spirit, in fact, that there is not more violence here: the day that the youths went rampaging was the tenth in succession without water for part of the city.

The wealthy have their own private water tanks, water-distribution network, and generators. More than 4, people have been killed and more than 10, wounded in Karachi since the mids, when the city began to overflow with weapons from the Afghan war and communal fighting broke out between Pashtoons and two generations of mohajirs, Muslim refugees from India. In the late s and the s mohajirs and Sindhis fought each other here and elsewhere in Sind. In the first ten months of there were murders in Karachi committed by what a local magazine called "unaffiliated contract killers"; none was solved by the police.

Mobile phones were banned in the s, because urban guerrillas were using them. Wire services dutifully report all the violence in Karachi, and in Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier, too.

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The reports are rarely picked up by the American media. Just as the yearning for an independent Pashtoonistan is ever present in the Afghan borderlands, in southern Pakistan some Sindhis long for an independent Sind. Sind has been inhabited for 6, years, and although the Sindhis are a mixture of Arabs, Persians, and other passing conquerors, they retain a strong cultural identity. But the idea of a stable, independent Sind is ludicrous, given the enmity between Sunnis and Shias that I saw in Karachi.

I drove through a mishmash of gleaming high-rises, katchiabaadis, and sloppily constructed overpasses to arrive at a guarded house where a man introduced himself as a "retired school principal" and a "moderate Shia. General Musharraf, Pakistan's new ruler, "is a serious, humane man, but he has arrived too late to save Pakistan," the Shia leader explained. He gave me several books that laid out the Shia view of Muslim history—doctrines, he told me, that had gotten his friends murdered. Nothing he said seemed offensive or narrow-minded.

Rather, it was the obsession with Shi'ism itself that was the problem. His orthodoxy conflicted with others in a land where poverty is stark, ignorance and conspiracy-mongering are widespread, and the state itself is weak. Next I visited the Sunnis. I drove through another succession of katchiabaadis to a bleak industrial zone, where I left the car and banged at an iron gate.

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Inside was a complex of school buildings with armed security guards. One of the guards led me to a room with a wall-to-wall carpet that had just been vacuumed. People sat on the floor with cushions behind them, in the traditional Oriental fashion. All had beards, skullcaps, and spotless white robes. The low glass coffee tables had just been polished. After the filth of so much of Karachi, I couldn't help being impressed. I noticed security cameras mounted over all the doors. After removing my shoes, I was brought an ice-cold Pepsi.

Then I was ushered into another spotless room, also with a vacuumed rug. Behind a low glass desk in a corner I saw three closed-circuit television screens, a speakerphone, headphones, a VCR, and a computer. A tiny, pudgy man with a gray beard and fashionable glasses, wearing a skullcap and a white shalwar kameez, entered the room. I waited as he knelt on the floor and prayed.

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Then he sat down behind the desk, turned on the television screens, put on the headphones, and proceeded to observe two classes in progress, giving orders to the teachers over the speakerphone while monitoring the entrance on a third screen. Speaking in a finely enunciated blend of Urdu and Arabic, he seemed both meticulous and relentless.

Mufti Mohammed Naeem is the rector of the Jamia Binoria, a "society" of Islamic madrassas linked to the extreme Wahabi and Deobandi traditions. Masood Azhar, a militant whom India jailed for fanning Islamic separatism in Kashmir and was forced to release after an airline hijacking last December, studied in one of these academies. Mufti Naeem rattled off statistics for me: the Jamia Binoria has 2, students, ages eight through twenty, from thirty countries, including the United States.

The twelve-acre campus includes a hotel and a supermarket. Separate accommodations and cafeterias are provided for boys and girls. Yes, he had a Web site. As he spoke, he fielded calls and kept checking the television monitors. One, a teenage American boy from Los Angeles, explained, "We only study those sciences—such as grammar, Arabic linguistics, and jurisprudence—that help us understand Islam.