Reading Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashi…

Reading Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid’s “Taliban” the much-praised book about the ‘student movement’ that was published just prior to Sept. 11th.

An observation: It’s interesting to note how different the Taliban are as an Islamic movement in control of a population from other Islamic movements with similar responsibilities. Hizbollah and Hamas essentially made their names and established their ‘street credibilty’ through focus on social welfare and improving a population’s well-being.

Hamas funds schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues. “Approximately 90 percent of its work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities,” writes the Israeli scholar Reuven Paz. The Palestinian Authority often fails to provide such services, and Hamas’s efforts in this area—as well as a reputation for honesty, in contrast to the many Fatah officials accused of corruption—help to explain the broad popularity it summoned to defeat Fatah in the PA’s recent elections.

The Taliban, in contrast, were distinct for their extraordinary lack of interest in the social welfare of the populations it came to control. Here’s Rashid’s description of events after the Taliban kicked the NGOs out of Kabul in the summer of 1998:

With more than half of Kabul’s 1.2 million people benefiting in some way from NGO handouts, women and children were immediate victims when aid was cut off. Food distribution, health care and and the city’s fragile water distribution network were all seriously affected. As people waved empty kettles and buckets at passing Taliban jeeps, their reply to the population was characteristic of their lack of social concern. “We Muslims believe God the Almighty will feed everybody one way or another.”

Since the Taliban had dubbed Mullah Omar Amir of all Muslims, not just Afghans – demonstrating transnationalist aspirations – I guess they felt they could use the ‘royal we.’ Tagging this post ‘Muslim-on-Muslim violence’ since the Kabul victims of Taliban indifference were probably all Muslims.