February 5, 2010 — David Rohde, two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for The New York Times and a former Shorenstein Fellow, spoke to the Shorenstein Center on “Pakistan’s Role in the Rise of the New Taliban.”
Having escaped from the Taliban after seven months of captivity in Pakistan, Rohde argued that the central problem is the regional dynamic among Pakistan’s tribal areas where “young people see themselves as part of a broader Islamic movement” in which “all that should matter is your obedience to God.” He sees them as closer to the al Qaeda mentality.
When asked about the possibility of using Pakistani law enforcement to secure tribal areas, Rohde explained that military forces must be used first, and then police forces could be effective in maintaining stability in the long term. “There has to be security to have progress,” Rohde said. “First military force followed up by political efforts, and most of all development and education efforts.” Rohde explained that there needs to be respect of Pakistani ideas on how best to make such efforts, instead of forcing “Western development–style projects.”
These tribal areas are a “fulcrum” of tension, but “building on those existing organizational strutures is one way to make progress.” The educational and training systems in Pakistan have been “decimated” by the Taliban, Rohde said, but can be rebuilt as long as tribal regions are secured with military forces. Without a secure region, Rohde argued, “all other efforts are going to fail: police reform, political reforms, economic reforms.”
Rohde said that there is a “growing campaign today in Pakistan against the independent media” in which Pakistani reporters are being accused by the Taliban of being CIA fronts — or “presstitutes” — and part of an American conspiracy.
Rohde still has hope for the country, and said that “good things are happening.” He emphasized that his kidnappers were not representative of most Pakistanis. There is “another side to Pakistan,” he said: moderates who do not favor an American-style democracy but who also don’t want Taliban rule. “They want a strong and independent Pakistan … and it’s more important than ever to support them.”
This article was written by Janell Sims and the photos were taken by Leighton Walter Kille, both of the Shorenstein Center.