Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

Social and Political Background of Taliban

The Taliban’s sudden emergence in 1994, their swift military upshot and strange ideology brought surprise not only to Afghanistan but to the entire world. A number of political pundits believed that the Taliban – unlike the jihadi groups which came from the heart of Afghan society – were the product of strangers’ supports. The Taliban claimed to be national reformists and their movement was based on religious tenets to end injustice, moral turpitude and social-political chaos. The Taliban’s founder Mullah Muhammad Omar said that the establishment of the Taliban group was his personal idea. He said that he was studying in a Madrasah in Kandahar province but when corruption spread throughout the city, he sought to protest against the status quo. Therefore, according to him, he called on Madrasah students to take actions against the corruption and about 53 individuals resorted to arms, which were borrowed from the locals. Similarly, Mullah Ehsanullah, one of the Taliban’s high-ranking leaders, said that they launched their movement following their disappointment with the jihadi leaders and international community in stabilizing the country.
Historical and cultural commonalities are deeply embedded in Pashtun-dominated areas of Afghan-Pak border and more than three million Afghans, mostly Pashtuns, immigrated to Pakistan following the invasion of former Soviet in the country – this led to cultural, social, economic and political amalgamations. Since these areas were the instrumental part of Pakistan, rumors suggested the Taliban’s link to Pakistan.
It is believed that the Taliban are a self-born group and its members were constituted of Madrasah students who were discontented with the Mujahedeen’s wars and sought to end the civil unrests, but later supported by foreign powers. One cannot deny that the country’s social, cultural and historical backgrounds played key role in establishing the Taliban. In other words, the potential of an insurgent group existed in political and social fabric of society, though, later supported by foreigners.
Formerly, Madrasah students and mullahs were called “Taliban”. Taliban, not as an independent entity, were constantly involved with the state-local issues and individuals and were active in social and political issues in an unorganized way. Hence, they were not a unique and newly emergent group in the country. They were inclined to take part in political affairs and resorted to policy for implementing their religious understandings and ideology in ragtag manner.         
The Taliban’s systematized movement in 1994 was the continuation of a “social movement” and the product of country’s history – an Afghan political figure Jafar Mahdavi points out the same fact in his book entitled “The Taliban’s Political Sociology”. According to him, when Mujahedeen overcame the former Soviet, Madrasahs and mullahs were introduced as key institutions of Jihad. Subsequently, a number of clerics refused to involve in internal issues and resumed their jobs of teaching in Madrasahs but some believe that they formed the nucleus of the Taliban. Later, with the extension of this group, a number of multiple groups with different social backgrounds joined the Taliban. Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed on 20 September 2011, said that the Taliban are constituted of: (1) A group of communist officers in favor of Dr. Najib. (2) A group of Pakistani militias and members of Sepah-e-Sahaba. (3) A group of Afghan religious students. (4) A group of Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – who joined peace process few years back – and Hezb-e-Harakat Inqelab-e-Islami led by Mawlavi Muhammad Nabi. (5) A group of individuals engaged in drug trafficking. (6) A number of tribal leaders.  Seemingly, the Taliban were more religious individuals than being politicians and their knowledge of religion did not go beyond small number of books and their political worldview was restricted within some provinces and their political knowledge was gained only through media. The Taliban’s headquarter and their leadership council in Kandahar had 50 members with religious titles. The Taliban commanders were responsible to no one about their financial earnings and deemed them booty. Therefore, since peace talks restricted their financial and political exploitations, they were the first to turn down. Those who sought peace, without the permission of leadership council, were deemed against the Islamic Emirate of Taliban and called “insurgent” and fighting against them was declared a religious obligation.  On the other hand, the Taliban were in need of the forces to continue fighting without hesitation under Omar’s decree. Hence, negotiations with political opponents could lead to mistrust between the fighters and their leaders – that is why the Taliban refused to hold talks with the special envoy of international community and would negotiate only with the parties that intended to surrender to them.  Unlike ordinary members of the Taliban, their commanders hardly come from seminaries or former Mujahedeen. An officer from Abdul Rashid Dustoom’s group, who fought many battles against the Taliban, wrote that many expert officers, professionals and gunners of former regime were serving the Taliban. They mapped out and targeted precisely. Up to 1995, the tactical operation of artillery and ironclad belonged to the communist officers. In short, a large number of those officers were members of Hezb-e-Democratic Khalq-e- Afghanistan and some were devoted to former Minister of Defense Shah Nawaz Tanai – who was also high member of the Hezb. Moreover, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar once said in an interview with Frontier Post Newspaper that 1600 communist officers served in the Taliban group.