Tuesday, February 17, 2009
SHARIA IN SWAT - VIEWPOINTS FROM PAKISTAN
Before we start looking at things from our perspective and start analysing, it will be prudent to look at this situation from the eyes of Pakistanis. Next article we can look at it from our perspective.
Pakistan agreed to restore strict Islamist law in the Swat valley to pacify a revolt by Taliban militants. The agreement was reached at talks between Islamists and officials of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government in Peshawar on Monday.
MIAN IFTIKHAR HUSSAIN OF ANP - IN A PENSIVE MOOD
"After successful negotiations ... all un-Islamic laws related to the judicial system, those against the Koran and Sunnah, would be subject to cancellation and considered null and void," said NWFP's Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, referring to the holy book of Islam and the saying and teachings of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).
The Pakistani Spectator is commenting: Well that is not a problem actually. As late as July 28, 1969 Qazi courts were operating in the Swat valley. Then English legal system was introduced by the government in the area which proved extremely inefficient and was rife with irregularities and it only delayed the justice. Government’s half hearted efforts in managing the Swat and FATA area (which is still largely governed by the FCR) made the matters worst over the years.
Abject povert and deprivation of the area, lack of justice and opportunities, apathy of successive governments, clueless Afghan war fighters and some of semi-literate so-called religious leaders are the main reasons behind Swat and FATA unrest. Like it or not, right now Taliban in the Swat region enjoy the support of local population who support the Taliban’s demand of Shariah promulgation in Malakand Agency.
Even the police officers of the area and secular politician have supported this demand. Chief Minister of NWFP Ameer Haider Hoti, Governor Awais Ghani and the Army high command have strongly recommended to enforce the long pending Sharia regulations, which will be called the “Nifaz-e-Adal regulation”.
There is only one solution to the Swat problem and that is political. Government should readily announce the promulgation of Shariah in the Swat region. It will leave Taliban with no plausible demand and they would have no option but to accept the Shariah and it would also place the local population on the side of government. Some Talibans would like to take control of Shariah, but that is not so much bigger problem and could be handled by the government.”
Dr Ghayur Ayub writing in Pak Tribune : Taliban’s Swift Justice.
Dr. Ayub writes - It was during a visit to Peshawar that I met a senior police officer. He narrated a story which was brow-raising. He told of a person from Bannu who lent Rs. 40,000 [approx. U.S. $500] to a man he knew, who promised that he would return it within a specified time. He told the borrower that he had saved up the said amount to help pay for his children's education. When the agreed time lapsed, he asked him to return the amount. The borrower started making excuses and after a few months he flatly refused and challenged the lender to do what ever he could. There is a Pukhtu word for it ‘Laas Da Azaad De’.
The man went from pillar to post to seek justice but with no result. The police proved incapable as the borrower was a powerful man with strong connections. When he tried to knock on the door of the court for justice he was dismayed to hear that it would take months for the case to come to a hearing and years to reach a final judgment. After all that, the chances were that the verdict would go against him as he was up against powerful people. To top it off, he was told he had to pay Rs 1000/ upfront every time he wanted to put his case forward for a hearing. This amount did not include the amount he was going to pay the lawyers. When he calculated it, the approximate amount turned out to be more than the actual amount he was going to seek justice for.
At the end of every day, he would go back home heart broken; cursing his luck to be living in a country where there was no justice for the middle or poor classes. He tried to persuade the borrower by pleading with him, explaining how desperately he needed the money for his children’s education. He even offered a discount or to split the amount into installments, but all in vain. It was like hitting a brick wall. He felt dejected, helpless and powerless to see his children suffering just because he came from a stratum of a society pushed against the wall.
One evening, he heard a knock on the door. He opened it and saw two strangers with bushy beards standing outside. Thinking they were there to collect charity, he asked with irritation what they wanted. They told him that they saw him crying in the mosque and on enquiry they were told that someone was refusing to pay his money back. With a surprised look on his face, he asked them who they were.
“We are local Taliban,” they said. Then they asked if he would let them have his side of story. He saw a ray of hope and ushered them in. After listening to his story, the Taliban told him that the borrower had committed an un-Islamic act, and if he wanted they could persuade him to return the said money. “We want your permission”. His heart jumped with flickering optimism and immense joy and without any hesitation, he gave them his consent. Before they left the premises they asked for 72 hours.
According to the police officer, the Taliban went to the influential man and told him it was un-Islamic not to pay the amount he had borrowed from the man. They threatened that if he did not pay the debt back within 48 hours; he would bear the consequences. They also told him how Taliban had previously dealt with people like him. Shivers went through the spine of the ‘powerful’ man as he knew what their threat meant. With a dry mouth, frightened face and shaking body he nodded his head in agreement, promising he would return the amount. The next day, he went to the house of the lender and paid back the full amount he had refused up until then. He apologized for the delay and requested him to tell the Taliban not to harm him or his family and to let them know that he had returned the money. The Taliban never went back to ask whether he got the money back, but they must had been watching the development. From that day on, according to the police officer, that man became a strong supporter of Taliban. Could anyone blame him?
Another related story about quick and effective justice comes from the Bugti tribe of Balochistan. According to electronic media, a man named Nazim Ali was refused his share in a dispute. According to him, he spent a lot of money to get justice from the court but failed because of corrupt practices. So he went to the tribal chief who referred him to the Jirga. The Jirga decided that he should walk on fire and if he was telling the truth he will not be burned. Nazim Ali agreed to it and in front of onlookers he walked on red hot coal. After the walk, people saw that his soles were not burned. The chief decided in his favor and he was given his due share.
There are countless other stories of parallel justice systems running in Pakistan in the present day. These systems seem to be nippy and effective satisfying their poor clients. Some are Taliban style, others tribal style, sharing one commonality; they are swift, just and not stained with corruption.
In my discussions with different walks of people living in the troubled parts of FATA and NWFP the vast majority agreed that the justice provided by Taliban is fair and quick. They might not agree with other activities related to Talibanization such as discouraging western education, burning of schools, gender discrimination etc; but they do appreciate the provision of justice served at the doorsteps with efficiency, audacity and honesty. Swift justice is the major achievement which attracts the poor people of Pakistan to Taliban.”
A comment from a Pakistani to the above article:
“This is the time when we have to strive to preserve our national interests, we should clearly tell USA that Taliban are our friends, they have never been a threat to Pakistan and they don't have any international agenda like Al Qaeda. We should also clearly tell USA that Afghanistan can only be handled if its administration can be given to Pakistan because we know how to handle afghan issues. At the same time, we should try to make arrangements with Pakistani Taliban, we should tell them that we are not their foes and we do not want them to lose but for this they have to do some overhauling in their ranks and they need to find some hidden hands in their armament supply and they should also seek those people who are using their anger on the state of Pakistan and its forces, we should also tell them that they are unwittingly playing in the hands of our and their foes. "Pushtoon-Nationalism" of anti-Pakistan elements like ANP can only be defeated by the help of Taliban and for this purpose we need to build new relations with them and there should be win-win approach to it.”
Ahmed Quraishi – a well known commentator in Pakistan who sometimes hosts show with the infamous Zaid Hamid had this to say:
“I must say first that this classification, the good Taliban, the bad and the ugly, is to simplify a very complex situation. This classification is a good way to begin to understand the situation. Note that the good Taliban in this classification is the Afghan Taliban alone. The bad and the ugly are the Pakistani Taliban.
The Afghan Taliban is based in Afghanistan and is fighting in Afghanistan. They have not engaged in fighting inside Pakistan. So the question of them fighting the Pakistani Taliban, the bad the ugly, does not arise. Also, the good Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, are focusing their resources on fighting the occupation forces in their own country, Afghanistan. They are not concerned with saving the Pakistani state and fighting Pakistan's own enemies inside Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban are using whatever resources they have to focus on Afghanistan.
Initially the Afghan Taliban were encouraged by the sudden emergence of the Pakistani Taliban. However, they became skeptical when the Pakistani Taliban began to get engaged in suspicious activities, like attacking China's interests inside Pakistan, attacking the Pakistani government and military, and abducting Pakistani civilians and brutally murdering them. That's when Mullah Omar is reported to have publicly rebuked the so-called Pakistani Taliban and distanced the Afghan Taliban from the Pakistanis.
Once again, this is not about secularism or modernity, or liking or disliking the Taliban and their style of governance. This is about proxy wars at the level of intelligence services of several countries. The Pakistani Taliban, the so-called, are good in our books only because they are part of the overall political and military resistance to the occupation in their own country. They have never before or now indulged in terrorism anywhere.
The Pakistani Taliban is an amalgamation of criminal elements, opportunists, and hired sabeteurs leading a bunch of misguided people. They need to be eliminated. Pakistani government and military have ample evidence that shows that suspicious elements, including foreigners with possible links to intelligence agencies of several countries, have been fighting as part of the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan can decisively eliminate these people.
But these criminals have deliberately entrenched themselves in populated areas in order to provoke the Pakistani military into retaliation resulting in massive civilian casualties. This is a known guerrilla warfare tactic. It aims at discrediting the regular forces at the level of propaganda. Also, another reason why the Pakistani military is not using all-out force is to avoid a possible bait. There is reason to believe that the increased insurgencies in western Pakistani regions since 2005 onwards is deliberate and one of its objectives could be to attract the Pakistani military into an expanded internal civil war in the tribal belt. The Pakistani military might be trying to avoid this large scale war, keeping in mind that the foreign-trained and funded insurgency is tied to the situation in Afghanistan and the role being there by India and the United States, and possible a couple of other European countries that have established intelligence outposts there.”
Another Pakistani’s response to Ahmed Quraishi’s (AQ) reply above :
“Sorry, but this article is a load of toss! there can be absolutely no justification for the actions of these so called taliban. Pakistani, or local or whatever u wanna call them. as for AQ's reply, there are several very confusing contradictions, at one point you are calling the pakistani taliban to not be engaged in any terrorist activity, and in the next line you are saying that they are comprised of criminals, hired saboteurs, terrorists, that they are a problem!!!! pakistani army had gained a clear edge in the early stages of operation rah-e-haqq, if it wasnt for those ANP idiots making peace treaties, we'd trapped them and brought enough firepower on them to wipe them out for good. yes, i personally know that we came this close to victory but then stopped short of delivering the killer blow. not once, but twice. now they have re-organized and re-equipped themselves, knowing full well how the army fights, and how to counter it. Things are getting out of hand. and no one is coming forward to accept the responsibility, FATA, Swat, and most likely the NWFP WILL get out hand if ruthless, swift and decisive measures are not taken. It may sound hooliganistic, but there is a need for launching a sustained air campaign in those areas, i am talking about PAF bringing its autonomous firepower to bear against these talibans. Soften them up, then wipe the slate clean. The ground forces should take a secondary role. PAF has the capability to accurately hit these guys. if they are indulging in psy warfare and terror tactics by chopping the heads off and hanging the bodies, then we should pay the favour back in kind. and i tell you, no enemy, no matter how hardcore, can stand against the disuasive effect air power has. Aside from that, i am disappointed to see such an article appearing on AQ's website, the last place I’d expect to see such nonsense glorifying these barbarians.”
Another Pakistani response: The government is claiming this to be a big victory. Under the agreement Sharia law is being formally established as the law in the Swat and Malakand region, provided the TNSM helps establish stability there, and also supports a new local administration which will be established in Swat, operating under Sharia law, with the consensus of all players in Swat. The TSNM's militant wing, the Swat Taliban, has also agreed to a 10-day ceasefire and to cease burning down schools. This agreement may I add, has almost no chance of working.
This is not the first attempted peace agreement in Swat. In 2008 a deal was struck with the TNSM, requiring them to “hold the local government…in high esteem, work for the peaceful implementation and enforcement of Sharia law, condemn attacks on the government, and cooperate with the government to establish the law and restore peace." We see, here that this is not the first time we’ve offered them Sharia law as an olive branch. The logic of the Pakistani government would seem to be that, under the new system, the TNSM will get their demand for Sharia law, but this will be Sharia law, to the extent it falls within the limits of the Pakistani constitution, as this region would still be part of the Pakistani state. Hence, this would not be much more than a change in appearance, as all that will happen is, in exchange for peace, judges within these areas, will move from having the title ‘Judge’ to having the title ‘Qazi’, a nominal difference at best. They have attempted this kind of compromise before, and it will not work.
This is because these people do not have any interest in falling under the control of the state and constitution of Pakistan. These are not simple clerics, who feel their religious imperative urges them to establish an Islam-based legal system in Pakistan. This is an armed revolutionary movement bent on control and establishment of their own system under their own supervision.
Moreover, they’ve seen this tactic from the Pakistani government before, and they are wise to it. Sufi Mohammad, the leader of the TNSM has already made clear, that the condition must be added that Sharia court decisions in Swat cannot be verified by or appealed in the courts of the rest of the state judicial system. This, of course, means that without any supervision or provision for appeal, the courts will run based on whatever law the strongest group within Swat, that being the TNSM/Taliban, chooses. The constitution would be irrelevant. This, of course, is a condition that the Pakistani government would never be willing to accept. If it does, they would effectively be partitioning Swat from Pakistan. If it doesn’t, well, the TNSM/Taliban will claim that the government is not committed to true Sharia, and not committed to following with their deal, just as they claimed in the last peace agreement of 2008, and thus will be “compelled” to take up their arms once more, and the terror will resume.
Only this time, it will prove to be even worse. With this level of acceptance from the government, these Jihadis will gain more public legitimacy than ever before. With the government itself accepting their fight as a struggle for Sharia, and further, publicly declaring their demand for Sharia legitimate through this deal, the government is allowing them to shape the public appearance of this conflict. So, when this agreement will fall through, as it inevitably will, the TNSM and Taliban will be able to use the public legitimacy their cause is being given, to blame the government for betraying their legitimate cause of Islamic law, and further fuel public opinion in the rest of Pakistan against the government. Many feel one of the main reasons the government is being driven to this agreement is that the government itself is incurring massive losses and yet does not even have the support of a public mandate for fighting the Taliban militarily. Therefore, they are driven to other solutions. However, this option is doomed to failure. The agreement will not only fall through soon enough, but the agreement will give the Taliban and the TNSM’s position further legitimacy, and give them an opportunity to turn the public opinion even further against the government’s armed solution.
I implore President Zardari to abandon this unwise strategy. You have tried these tactics before. They have not worked. In fact from Musharraf’s countless failed peace deals, to the failed treaties last years, the state has always been weakened further in relation to these terrorists in these deals. Watch their activities. Listen to their rhetoric. They have no real interest in compromising with the government. They have no intentions of subordinating to, or even coexisting with, the Pakistani state. For them, such agreements are only stepping stones towards further legitimacy and further control, and only help ease their path towards the dominant position they wish to take, piece by piece, over the whole of this tottering nation, Pakistan.
Salman, a Pakistani, is an astronomer and Assistant Professor of Integrated Science & Humanities at Hampshire College, Massachusetts. In his blog – Science and Religion News he writes:
The news is bad for three main reasons:
a) The deal was struck after the failure of the military to defeat the militants. Lets be clear: The government was forced into making this deal by people who have been bombing schools and beheading people for the past few months. In return, the militants have a declared a 10 day cease fire. Prior peace deals in the tribal areas have mostly resulted in a stronger militancy - and many doubt that the outcome will be any different here. But this deal primarily gives us a status report of Pakistan army's fight against the militants.
b) Taliban expert, Ahmad Rashid, has been warning about Swat for a while. He suspects that, because of the success of drone attacks, Al-Qaeeda and Taliban leaderships are moving into the Swat district. This area has highly developed infrastructure and is only a 100 miles from Islamabad. But most importantly, it is quite far away from the Afghan border and the tribal areas and so may be safe from the drone attacks. Even if the drones are flying from bases in Pakistan, as Diane Feinstein recently stated, it will still be harder to attack on areas inside main Pakistan. If the Taliban and Al-Qaeeda leadership are indeed moving to Swat, this deal will further allow then to take control of the area.
c) This may be considered a model for other areas. Granted Swat has a peculiar history (all areas in Pakistan have their own peculiar histories), the strategy of terrorizing the population may be implementable in conservative enclaves in major cities, especially in Peshawar and Quetta, not to mention in other smaller districts of NWFP. Thus, the slow march of Taliban toward the more populous areas of Pakistan will continue. Remember, if Iraq with a population of 26 million was hard to control, then what hope do we have in a country of 170 million.
All of these reasons make Swat a crucial test for the battle against the Taliban. But things are not that simple. The people of Swat are relieved at the peace deal. They have been stuck for months between the brutal Taliban and an indiscriminant brute-force Pakistan military. For them, this is the only hope for peace and many are greeting this development with optimism ( And some of them are not spared respite even in New York - see this story about Swati's in New York feeling the Taliban heat. ).
Kamran Shafi writing in DAWN laments: "Let all of us Pakistanis hang our collective head in sorrow and in shame at the dreadful and downright evil and cold-blooded murder of Piotr Stanczek, the Polish geologist who was prospecting for oil in Attock district and who was kidnapped by the so-called Taliban and cruelly beheaded. What has gone wrong with us, I ask? Is this the country I was born in? Is this cruel and ugly place the Pakistan I knew whilst growing up, and going to college in Lahore where boys and girls would cycle to their schools and colleges as a matter of course? Is this tortured land that same land I called mine?"
Incidentally I have been informed that if anyone wants to know about SWAT - he has to read this exceptional article SWAT - A CRITICAL ANALYSIS, written by Dr. Sultan-i-Rome Assistant Professor of History and teaches at the Government Post Graduate Jahanzeb College, in Saidu Sharif, Swat, Pakistan.
PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN - ASIF ZARDARI stating: Pakistan fighting for survival against Taliban.
President Asif Zardari said the Taliban was trying to take over the country after having established its presence in "huge amounts of land" much beyond the tribal areas that form the terror group's original habitat. The official acceptance of the creeping takeover by Taliban would discomfit the powerful Pakistan army-ISI complex that is loath to admit its failure to control territory and has been at loggerheads with Zardari.
HOW CAN I LEAVE OUT THE ISI VIEW POINT:
ISI Directorate chief Lieutenant-General Shuja Pasha hailed jihadist leaders Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah, whose depredations have claimed the lives of thousands of Pakistanis, as true patriots for offering to fight India.
Der Spiegel which carried an interview with Shuja Pasha comments: "Many Pakistani military officers do not see the Taliban as their enemy, but rather as a group that secretly promotes Pakistan's interests in its resistance against Kabul and the United States. India, on the other hand, has already been Pakistan's enemy in three wars."
Shuja Pasha also defended the Taliban in an interview with Der Spiegel, stating: "Shouldn't they be allowed to think and say what they please? They believe that jihad is their obligation. Isn't that freedom of opinion?
What else can we expect from the ISI which created the Taliban in the first place?
SWAT - ONCE MORE UP CLOSE. (Switzerland of East or HELL?)
I dont know what you see, but I see that Taliban (ISI proxies) in SWAT is just a hop, skip and jump away from KASHMIR.