The death of Mullah Nazir in a US drone strike in Pakistan yesterday fuels an argument that has been pursued to the point of death, metaphorically and literally. This argument says that there are two kinds of Taliban --- those who murder people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and are "enemies" of Islamabad, and those who murderpeople in Afghanistan and Pakistan but are Islamabad's "friends".
Mullah Nazir, some have told us, is the latter. He might be roaming on Pakistani territory with his armed gangs, terrorising local populations, stopping aid workers from immunising Pakistani children from diseases like polio, and adding to the insecurity in the nation, but still.... He does most of his dirty work in Afghanistan, and since Afghanistan and Pakistan are "enemies", he should not have been harmed. Indeed, he should have been protected.
I have not seen those making the argument explain how it is good to leave Pakistani children vulnerable to polio or to have gangs threatening Pakistan's citizens. I have not had an explanation why more weapons, more bombs, and more killing of civilians is positive. The reality is that people like Mullah Nazir do not just seek to kill Afghans, but to make life miserable for Pakistanis as well.
This idea of the "good Taliban" is not just illogical. It is dangerous.
How exactly did these militants gain a foothold in Pakistan? Could it be that they insisted to the Pakistani military establishment, "We are good" as they jumped the border from Afghanistan, pursued by the US military from 2001?
People like Mullah Nazir are good to Pakistan in their own minds, the same way their Taliban friends in Afghanistan believe they are good for Afghans. To them, being good means a make-over of all civil, military, and bureaucratic institutions and then installing themselves as the Government, the military, and the bureaucracy.
It is time the Pakistani government stopped making distinctions. Any armed group of fundamentalists that operates outside the law is bad for the State --- whether they claim to love Pakistan or hate it. Islamabad must act to stop them and it must act now.
Because Pakistan is --- at this point --- a far better place than Afghanistan in the late 1990s.