Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On TV 2100 Eastern Tuesday: "Children of the Taliban" in Pakistan

On PBS Frontline, April 14:

From the press release:
FRONTLINE/WORLD Meets Young Recruits to a Taliban Insurgency in Pakistan and Explores Internet Addiction in South Korea

As her country slips further into political instability, becoming perhaps the most volatile nation in the world, FRONTLINE/World correspondent Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy takes a dangerous journey along Pakistan’s fault lines, investigating the rising popularity of an insurgent new branch of the Taliban among members of the country’s next generation.

In “Children of the Taliban,” airing Tuesday, April 14, 2009, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS, Obaid-Chinoy also tracks down the militants themselves, coming face-to-face with a man who boasts of recruiting young suicide bombers for the Taliban — some as young as five or six years old.

“Children are tools to achieve God’s will,” the Taliban recruiter tells Obaid-Chinoy in their highly charged meeting. “If you are fighting, then God provides you with the means. And whatever comes your way, you sacrifice it.”

Throughout, Obaid-Chinoy encounters young people caught between a militant insurgency and a state struggling to preserve itself. In the city of Peshawar, she meets two young men, Wasifullah and Abdurrahman, who were driven from their homes by a Pakistani army campaign intended to root out Taliban elements that had settled there. In the aftermath of the fighting, Wasifullah and Abdurrahman — friends since boyhood — find themselves headed in very different directions, with Wasifullah pledging to join the Taliban and Abdurrahman wanting to join the army.

“Your friend Wasifullah wants to join the Taliban,” Obaid-Chinoy says to Abdurrahman. “If he comes in front of you, and you are wearing a Pakistan army uniform, are you going to kill him?” “Yes,” Abdurrahman says. “If he fights against the army, then I will retaliate fiercely.” Wasifullah is no less resolute when the question is put to him. “Definitely,” Wasifullah says when asked whether he would kill Abdurrahman on the field of battle. “If what he does is wrong, then I will fight against him.”

In Swat [see 2) Pakistan here], a resort town once known as the Switzerland of the east, Obaid-Chinoy finds two nine-year-old girls standing atop the rubble of their school, which has just been blown up by the Taliban. The girls are now forbidden an education. “It’s completely unfair,” one of them says. “My father has bought me a burqa,” the other girl says of the way life is changing under the Taliban. “I [don’t] have any choice. I have to wear it.”

In her hometown of Karachi, Obaid-Chinoy sits down with a young man, Shaheed, who is embracing the Taliban’s teachings, especially regarding the role of women. “Women are meant for domestic care,” Shaheed tells her. “The government should forbid women and girls from wandering outside. Just like the government banned plastic bags — no one uses them anymore — we should do the same with women.” When Shaheed ends his madrassa studies, he says he’d like to join the Taliban’s fight for control of the country. “Do you want to carry out a suicide attack?” Obaid-Chinoy asks him. “I would love to,” he says. His teacher later adds: “It’s in our blood. No matter how many Muslims die, we will never run out of sacrificial lambs. Someone who sees death as a blessing, who can defeat him?”

Near the end of her journey, Obaid-Chinoy travels to the lawless tribal regions, where the army maintains that its campaign against the Taliban will succeed, soundly and soon. “The human cost is undeniably a very, very grievous kind of a thing,” says General Tariq Khan, one of the architects of the army’s fight against the Taliban in the tribal areas. “But it’s better to die than to live under an environment where the Taliban are taking away your children.”


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