Window on Pak Press: ‘Swat deal not sign of weakness’

18 02 2009

Source: Indiatoday

As the liberals inside Pakistan and the Western governments felt that the Zardari-Gilani government has fallen into the deadly Taliban trap by signing the deal with the militants to allow Sharia law to be imposed in the Swat Valley, the two leaders clarified that it (the deal) should not be seen as a ‘sign of weakness’. The newspapers on Wednesday splashed the meeting between President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to review the Swat peace deal and hoped it would pave the way for permanent peace in the whole country.

The Dawn, Daily Times among others said that the two leaders were of the view that the deal signed with Tehrik Nifaz Shriat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM) should not be construed as a ‘weakness’ as it was inked to restore peace for benefit of local people.

Daily Times quoting President Asif Ali Zardari said the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations 2009 in Malakand division will not affect the government’s policy on the war against terror, President Asif Ali Zardari said on Tuesday. During a meeting with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, he said the agreement between the Taliban and the NWFP government was one part of an overall strategy for peace, a private TV channel reported.

Dawn explained that there have been mixed reactions from different quarters within the country and the international community over the deal. Some have termed it a ray of hope in restive Malakand Division and eventually in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) but some consider it a defeat for the government and security forces who. They say, are bowing their heads before militants and allowing them to implement their self-styled Shariat (Islamic laws) in the area.

According to Dawn, the President told Chinese newsmen that the government was pursuing a multi-dimensional policy in the war against terrorism and using economic, political and military options to eliminate the menace of extremism and terrorism. However, he added that, limited resources were compounding problems for the government.

He was of the view that force alone could not win the war against terrorism. “Maintenance of peace in Fata and the NWFP is the foremost responsibility of the government and providing protection to people is a challenge,” Zardari said.

But the Daily Times said Pakistan has gambled that an offer to implement Sharia in parts of the northwest will bring peace to the troubled Swat Valley, but analysts fear any lull won’t last long and appeasement is likely to embolden the Taliban.

Western officials fear Pakistan is taking a slippery road that would only benefit Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but Pakistani authorities believe the alternative of using overwhelming force on people who are, after all, Pakistanis poses a greater danger. The central government has said the Sharai Nizam-e-Adl – or the judicial system governed by Sharia – would be implemented in the Malakand division of NWFP, which includes Swat, unless the guns fall silent.

Islamic Law – Part of Constitution: Dawn also reported that the US State Department said on Tuesday that there’s provision for the Islamic law in the Pakistani constitution and the government’s decision to introduce religious laws in the Swat Valley was not an issue for anyone outside Pakistan. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was equally careful when asked to comment on an agreement between Pakistani authorities and the Swat militants that allows for the implementation of sharia in the valley.

She told reporters in Tokyo that the United States was studying the agreement and was trying to understand the Pakistani government’s ‘intention and the actual agreed-upon language. But the secretary warned that ‘activity by the extremist elements in Pakistan poses a direct threat to the government of Pakistan as well as to the security of the United States, Afghanistan and a number of other nations not only in the immediate region.’

The News on the other hand said the US State Department spokesman said, “We are in touch with the government in Pakistan, we are discussing the issue, but that is all I have for you at the moment.”

The News also reported that NATO too has expressed concern on Tuesday after Pakistan signed a pact with TNSM to introduce Islamic law in the Swat valley. “We would all be concerned by a situation in which extremists would have safe haven,” Nato spokesman James Appathurai told a news briefing. Nato heads an international force battling Taliban militants in Pakistan’s neighbour Afghanistan and Appathurai said he did not know if the pact would make its task more difficult. However, he added: “It is certainly reason for concern.”

But peace was still elusive in the militancy-ravaged valley. The Nation reported as many as eight people including two assailants were killed and 17 others got injured, many of them critically, when a bomb planted in a car blew up outside the house of Union Nazim Bazid Khel, Faheemur Rehman, in Badabair area here Tuesday, police said. As many as eight people including two assailants were killed and 17 others got injured, many of them critically, when a bomb planted in a car blew up outside the house of Union Nazim Bazid Khel, Faheemur Rehman, in Badabair area on Tuesday, police said.

The blast occurred a day after the NWFP government signed a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in Swat. The blast damaged outer walls of the Nazim’s house and two neighbouring homes, besides two other cars, however, the nazim remain unhurt.

The deceased included Zar Muhammad, Ali and Qari Khalid, while the names of the killed attackers could not be confirmed till the filing of the report. The attackers were killed when people sitting in the residence of Faheemur Rehman opened fire at them.

The police the local people had apprehended three suspected persons who were being interrogated. The police also said that no one had claimed the responsibility for the attack so far. Around 15 to 20 kg explosive had been used in the blast, he added.

The other side of the story: Meanwhile, Dawn headlined an Associated Press story as “Pakistani Taliban militants publicly flog an alleged narcotic smuggler in Charbagh in Pakistan’s troubled Swat valley”

The story said: Pakistan has gambled that an offer to introduce Islamic law to parts of the northwest will bring peace to the troubled Swat valley, but analysts fear any lull won’t last long and appeasement will embolden the Taliban. Western officials fear Pakistan is taking a slippery road that will only benefit al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but Pakistani authorities believe the alternative of using overwhelming force on people who are, after all, Pakistani posed a greater danger.

The central government has said the Sharia Nizam-i-Adl, or the judicial system governed by Islamic sharia law, won’t be implemented in the Malakand division of North West Frontier Province, which includes Swat, unless the guns fall silent.

The Taliban announced a 10-day ceasefire on Sunday, while the NWFP government has said that while the military will remain deployed in Swat, there won’t be any offensives, only reactive actions.

Amnesty International estimates that between 250,000 and 500,000 people have fled their homes since late 2007, when the Taliban revolt began in Swat, an alpine region 130 km northwest of Islamabad. Tens of thousands have fled since August last year after an earlier peace deal broke down.

Public Beheadings: Known as Pakistan’s ‘Switzerland’ and once a popular tourist destination, Swat has become associated with sickening sights.

People in the scenic valley witnessed public beheadings and summary executions by Taliban fighters administering their brand of justice.

Bombs have targeted security forces, schools have been torched as part of a campaign against female education, and aid workers running immunisation programmes for children have been chased away by militants.

“If peace comes through this agreement, then we wholeheartedly accept it. After all, we’re Muslims and want Islamic system,” said Mohammad Naeem, a teacher in Mingora, the main town in Swat, whose own school was destroyed.

Analysts, however, see the pact as little more than a tactic to buy time, as the government seeks a firmer foothold in a region over which it had lost control.

They fear reluctance to permanently deal with reactionary forces will lead to greater problems later on. That has certainly been Swat’s history in the last two decades.

“I think this is going to be another blunder by the government,” said Khadim Hussain of the private Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. “There may be a lull for awhile, but I think the government will again be trapped in more fighting. There will be more violence.”

Monday’s agreement was the third such pact signed by Pakistani authorities with Sufi Mohammad, a radical cleric who began a violent campaign for the enforcement of Islamic sharia law in the region in the 1990s.

The first agreement provided for the appointment of a Qazi, or an Islamic jurist, to assist a judge in deciding disputes in line with Islamic injunctions, though the jurist’s advice was non-binding.

In the second pact signed in 1999, the advice of the jurist was made binding though it was never enforced.

The latest accord, sets time limits on how long a court can take to decide a case, and establishes a designated appellate bench, meeting two key desires by the people for better justice.

Analysts say the government may be trying to drive a wedge between hardline followers of the elderly Mohammad and even more radical militants led by his young son-in-law, Fazlullah.

Bad precedent? They said: It is a risk.

Even if the laws being brought are far softer interpretation of sharia than the harsh Taliban version, giving ground to religious hardliners would set a ‘bad precedent,’ analysts said.

It could convince the most irreconcilable militants that their violent campaign was working.

“The present Talibanisation is not just a movement for enforcement of sharia,” Asad Munir, a former military intelligence official who served in NWFP and adjoining tribal areas wrote in a Pakistani daily. “The mullahs want power, authority and a defined role in decision-making in the social system of Pashtun society.”

Pakistani authorities have struck a number of deals in the past with militants in the tribal areas, known sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Generally, the violence dies down for awhile and then flares again. Analysts didn’t foresee Fazlullah and his fighters staying quiet for long.

“The militants are not going to give up their control…They will be getting more capability to launch more strikes, more violence if the agreement does not work,” Hussain said.





Window on Pak Press: ‘Taliban fighters moving towards Islamabad’

12 02 2009

Source: India today

As an old adage goes ‘you reap what you sow’, Pakistan is now terrified over the threat from Taliban. The News reported on Wednesday that the local Taliban leadership has decided to send its fighters to Islamabad as a reaction to the operations in Darra Adam Khel and Swat Valley and in this regard chalking on the walls of Islamabad are already appearing, forcing the Islamabad administration to whitewash these messages quickly.

Many religious scholars in Islamabad, the leading daily The News and Urdu daily Jang said, have also received messages from the Taliban that they have only two options, either to support the Taliban or leave the capital or they will be considered collaborators of the ‘pro-American Zardari government’ which, they claim, is not different from the previous Musharraf regime.

Taliban threat coincided with US President Barack Obama saying that he has sent his special envoy Richard Holbrooke to Islamabad with a message that the terrorists, who threaten the United States, also threaten Pakistan. In his first prime-time news conference as president, Obama sent forceful message to Pakistan: “Washington seeks a closer relationship with Islamabad, but there can be no compromise on the issue of terrorism.”

“There is no doubt that in the Fata region of Pakistan, in the mountainous regions along the border of Afghanistan, that there are safe havens where terrorists are operating,” he said.

“It’s not acceptable for Pakistan or for us to have folks who, with impunity, will kill innocent men, women and children,” he declared.

President Obama said that he has tasked his special envoy, now in the region, “to deliver a message to Pakistan that they are endangered as much as we are by the continuation of those operations.”

Besides, India asking Pakistan if it needed any help in the investigation into 26/11 Mumbai attack probe and Pakistan and the United States agreeing to jointly review the policy to counter extremism and terrorism to ensure peace in the region, dominated the Pakistan media on Wednesday. Several papers including Daily Times quoted India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee criticising Pakistan on Tuesday for leaking reports to the media concerning its investigation into the Mumbai attacks, saying Islamabad should have communicated any information through official channels.

Meanwhile, The Nation on Wednesday morning said, “India, Pak keen on South Asia trade; mum on bilateral ties”. The paper said India and Pakistan came together on a SAARC platform, discussing ways to mitigate the impact of the global downturn on the South Asian region, even as the two neighbours have snapped bilateral trade talks after the Mumbai attacks. As the commerce secretaries of the eight-nation South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) met in New Delhi, officials from both India and Pakistan remained focused on giving a boost to the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), but remained silent on bilateral ties even on the sidelines.

“We are at the moment talking about SAARC. I think it is important to concentrate on the matters in hand … Multilateral forums are very important and we need to strengthen those,” Pakistan Commerce Secretary Suleiman Ghani said when asked about the fate of India-Pakistan trade ties.

Presiding over the meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation, Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai said, “Our resolve to initiate the review of the sensitive list is a pleasant (happening) in a depressing regional environment.”

This is for the first time that trade officials from Pakistan travelled to India after the Mumbai attacks in November. Officials agreed to work on pruning their sensitive lists to enable increased trade flow under SAFTA.

Daily Times also reported that a three-member team of the Indian Crime Branch investigating the Mumbai carnage has left for the US to meet FBI officials and share details of their investigation, a private TV channel reported on Tuesday. The channel quoted an unidentified Indian police official as saying that the team headed by Additional Commissioner of Police Deven Bharti had left for the US on Monday night. “They will discuss and share the details of the probe and also take input from officials of the FBI,” he said. The police team is likely to spend a week in the US. Meanwhile, Daily Times said Hindustan Times quoted unidentified sources in the Indian Crime Branch as saying that the investigators would collect, analyse and finalise the evidence gathered on the Mumbai case by both agencies in order to compile a comprehensive chargesheet.

The News reported that Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday agreed to jointly review the policy to counter extremism and terrorism to ensure peace in the region. It was the crux of meetings of the visiting US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday.

Holbrooke agreed with Pakistan’s proposal to form a parallel group to review the new US strategy towards Afghanistan, Pakistan and terrorism. In the meeting held in the Presidency, US Ambassador Anne W Patterson, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Information Minister Sherry Rehman, Law Minister Farooq H Naek and Adviser to PM on Finance Shaukat Tarin were also present.

Besides terrorism and extremism, the meeting discussed the regional situation in the wake of the Mumbai incident, the Kashmir issue and the situation in Afghanistan. According to sources, during the meeting, President Asif Ali Zardari presented some new proposals for peace in the region. But it was the Taliban threat that attracted attention. The News went on to say that it was also surprising that the Taliban of Swat and Bajaur have included the names of some religious and Jihadi leaders, who are not ready to fight inside Pakistan against their own countrymen, in their hit lists.

The Taliban have accused some militant leaders of the tribal areas and some leaders of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkatul Mujahideen and Hizbul Mujahideen of trying to stop youngsters from fighting the Pakistani forces. Taliban have declared all these “pro-Pakistan” Jihadis as their enemies.

The names of Maulvi Nazir from South Wazirastan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur from North Waziristan, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Maulana Farooq Kashmiri and Syed Salahudin have been included in the hit lists of the Taliban, who have threatened some Hizbul Mujahideen leaders in Swat and Dir to leave the areas as soon as possible.

Another Taliban leader in the Mohmand Agency Maulvi Omar Khalid has threatened boys belonging to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba to leave the tribal agency or face death. Omar Khalid has claimed that these boys are only interested in fighting against the foreign troops in Afghanistan or against India, which means that they don’t want an Islamic government in Pakistan.

“This complicated situation has forced the government to take some extreme steps against the Taliban in Darra Adamkhel and Swat, who had killed a Polish engineer as a reaction to the operations in their areas,” the paper said.

“Some diplomatic sources have revealed that initially Pakistan was ready to release some arrested Taliban fighters in exchange for the abducted Polish and Chinese engineers but the US authorities raised objections and a deal could not be finalised,” the paper said.