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Exceptional Pashtuns? : Class Politics, Imperialism and Historiography

Causes of radicalisationRegionsWorld

Front cover of book 'Beyond Swat'This chapter uses a very different frame of analysis from Edwards (1996) Heroes of the Age, challenging us to re-examine our preconceptions about Pashtun history and society in general and the Taliban in particular. Lindisfarne encourages us to look beyond ethnicity, tribalism, and religion in trying to understand developments in southern Afghanistan and FATA. Instead, she argues we should look at issues of socio-economic class and imperialism. Responding to imperial competition over Afghanistan, she suggests that the Afghan Taliban have combined ‘Islamist ideals and class politics’ (p.124) to fight foreign occupation and internal corruption. Similarly in the valley of Swat for example the Pakistani Taliban’s rhetoric had considerable appeal because of the division of society into wealthy landlords and landless tenants, and the movement became a party of the rural poor. Her argument that in order to understand the Taliban we need to go beyond the stereotyped images of Pashtun exceptionalism and Islamic fanaticism is an important one.

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