COMMENT: The Swat deal is wrong —Shaukat Qadir

28 02 2009

Source: Dailytimes

The Swat deal amounts to the opening of a Pandora’s Box: where will it stop? The other chapters of the Taliban are only waiting to ask for their own ‘Islamic’ government. Is this the beginning of the real Talibanisation of the NWFP?

The Taliban in Pakistan are far from a monolithic structure. There is, at best, a loose union with a disputed leadership and undefined hierarchy. However, the undisputed Taliban leader in Swat is Fazlullah. Pakistan has attempted to strike a peace deal with the Swat Taliban, in return for the imposition of sharia — Islamic law — in Swat. The attempt has been heralded by some, viewed sceptically by others, and condemned by a few. Let us attempt to examine what is wrong with this deal.

To begin with, the government’s deal has been brokered with Sufi Muhammed, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, not with Fazlullah who, despite their relationship (or because of it), is not on the best of terms with Sufi. If Fazlullah accepts Sufi’s terms, it might result in Sufi becoming more powerful; else the endeavour could deteriorate to an internecine battle for turfs, doomed to fail from the outset.

If one vectors into this equation that the Taliban are hated by the population for all that they stand for and can rule only by force, it is obvious that the deal can, at best, offer a breather and no more.

The provincial government, having announced that it is prepared to go the extra mile to ensure the success of this deal, has now announced its intention of arming the local population to fight against the Taliban and that ‘arms not being used against the Taliban would be withdrawn’. How that will be discovered or how the arms, once given, will be recovered remains a mystery. The central government is having second thoughts anyway.

However, irrespective of whether it works or not, this deal is a recipe for disaster, unless we are prepared to hand Islam over to the Taliban and allow them to legalise their violation of every law of the land and every tenet of Islam.

The Quran states again and again that Islam is progressive; even Saudi Arabia that had been living with its archaic laws is attempting to change. Pakistan is, on the other hand, prepared to allow itself to be held hostage to these self-styled saviours of Islam.

I have persistently numbered among those who advocate negotiating with terrorists, though from a position of strength, and that the use of force alone is not the answer. I have continued to quote the IRA and Sein Fenn as an example of erstwhile terrorists who are today negotiating the fate of Ireland with the British government.

However, there is a line beyond which it is not possible for any state to cede its authority. While it is possible to negotiate a mutually acceptable form of government that reflects the aspirations of the people, no state should be prepared to accept a state within a state, which is governed by force, irrespective of the wishes of the governed.

One meaning of the word ‘Islam’ is peace; the Quran forbids its followers to kill innocent people or to take their own lives. However, the Taliban preach that to take one’s own life as a suicide bomber is not only the path to heaven for the bomber, but that he/she is also doing a favour to those killed for, unknowingly, they too will have died in the cause of Allah and will thus go to heaven.

Hazrat Bibi Khadija RA asked the Prophet PBUH for his hand in marriage. Islam permits each woman to choose her mate and seek divorce if unhappy, just as to the male. Yet the Taliban find justification for ‘honour killing’; the killing of disobedient female offspring, and women who choose their own mate or seek divorce against their parents’ wishes.

Islam asks its followers to seek knowledge and educate themselves; one of the most famous sayings of the Prophet PBUH is ‘seek knowledge, even if you have to travel to China for it’. Yet the Taliban condemn knowledge as being un-Islamic: they burn girls’ schools, throw acid on the faces of girls who defy them in persisting to seek knowledge, and murder persistent teachers.

Even if schools in Swat resume classes, what will they teach? If they have their own courts, what justice will they offer? Will not the next generation of Swatis be condemned to become Taliban?

They forget history and declare democracy to be un-Islamic. The first Caliph, Hazrat Abu Bakr RA was deemed to have been nominated by the Prophet PBUH, since he was asked by the Prophet PBUH to lead the Friday prayers when He fell ill. Yet, Abu Bakr RA did not assume his office until the Friday congregation following the death of the Prophet PBUH, when he was accepted unopposed and unanimously by the congregation. The same occurred following the death of Hazrat Abu Bakr RA when Hazrat Omer RA became Caliph. Following Hazrat Omer’s death, Hazrat Ali RA decided to contest the nomination of Hazrat Osman RA, but withdrew when he realised that Hazrat Osman RA was likely to win. What else is an election or democracy?

In fact, Islam is the first democracy in which not only was the Caliph appointed in accordance with the wishes of the people, he was accountable to the people during his rule. Numerous instances are recorded in history when common people challenged ruling Caliphs and had to be satisfied.

Finally, the Swat deal amounts to the opening of a Pandora’s Box: where will it stop? The other chapters of the Taliban are only waiting to ask for their own ‘Islamic’ government. Is this the beginning of the real Talibanisation of the NWFP?

If so, does no one realise that if they are permitted to take over a province, they will find time to consolidate and, some day in the not too distant future, threaten Islamabad, something they are incapable of doing, now or ever, unless the state gives them such an opening in Swat.

This article is a modified version of one originally written for the National

Advertisements




PAKISTAN: Timeline on Swat Valley turbulence

12 02 2009
Source: IRIN


Photo: Kamila Hyat/IRIN
Schoolgirls even in veils are not allowed to continue their education in Swat

LAHORE, 11 February 2009 (IRIN) – Understanding the humanitarian situation in turbulent Swat Valley, some 160km from Islamabad in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), requires some knowledge of the political background to the current tensions and violence.

In 1995 radical clerical leader Sufi Muhammad Khan, leader of Tehrik-e-Nifaz e Shariah-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in Swat Valley, demanded imposition of Islamic law in the area. Violence followed as the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force, began an operation against Khan. Tourism, a major source of income, was disrupted and 13 militants died in fighting.

After the operation, the NWFP government agreed to enforce Shariah law in Malakand Division (in Swat District). TNSM’s main demand – the replacement of regular courts with Islamic courts – was partially met, but arguments over the peace deal led to sporadic violence.

In 2001 Sufi Muhammad Khan took a force of some 10,000 people from Swat and the tribal areas to fight against US forces invading Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 were killed, while others were jailed in Afghanistan or sent back to Pakistan, including Sufi Muhammad Khan, who was imprisoned. The TNSM was banned by the government.

In 2002 Sufi Muhammad Khan’s son-in-law, the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazalullah, emerged as a force in Swat and set up his headquarters at Imam Dehri. Linked to the militant Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he stepped up efforts to impose hardline Islam.

In January 2003 incidents of violence began to increase in Swat. The Afghan writer Fazal Wahab, whose work was viewed as being critical of Osama bin-Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, was shot dead in Swat by unidentified assailants.

Between 2004 and 2007 Maulana Fazalullah set up at least 30 illegal FM radio stations to get his message across. Girls’ education and any active role for women in society was opposed. Several schools, music shops and barbers’ businesses were attacked.

2007

July 2007 – Violence in Swat increases after Fazalullah urges his followers to launch ‘jihad’ (holy war) to avenge an operation carried out by the Pakistan military against the Lal Masjid (mosque) in Islamabad, where clerical leaders were accused by the government of harbouring “terrorists”.

4 July 2007 – Four civilians are killed and two police wounded by a roadside bomb. In a separate incident a policemen is killed and four others injured in a rocket attack on a police station in the Matta area of Swat District.

12 July 2007 – A suicide bomber kills three police.

13 July 2007 – President Pervez Musharraf approves a plan to deploy paramilitary forces in Swat to crush growing militancy. Troops are positioned in Swat.

15 July 2007 – At least 13 paramilitary personnel and six civilians, including three children, are killed and more than 50 people injured at Matta in Swat District when two suicide bombers ram two cars packed with explosives into an army convoy.

August 2007 – NGOs and international humanitarian organisations are asked by the administration to leave Swat after threats by militants. Attacks on several girls’ schools are reported.

30 August 2007 – Seven security forces’ personnel are killed as militants attack a checkpoint in Swat. Owners of video centres and barber’s shops receive threatening letters.

21 September 2007 – Maulana Fazalullah urged his supporters to attack government officials after a demand to release three militants held after a hotel bombing incident was rejected by the authorities.

October 2007 – Fazalullah sets up his own Islamic courts.

21 October 2007 – Eighteen soldiers and two civilians die and 35 others, including nine civilians, are injured in a bomb blast aimed at a vehicle carrying paramilitary personnel at Nawan Killi, about 1km from Swat city.

26-29 October 2007 – Fierce clashes erupt between troops and militants in Swat, leaving at least 29 dead. Thirteen security personnel are executed by militants.

1-2 November 2007 – Fighting resumes after a brief ceasefire. 60-70 people die after a clash in Khwazakhela town; 48 troops who surrendered to militants are paraded in public.

3-6 November 2007 – Militants extend their hold over Swat, capturing key towns including Madyan and Kalam.

November 2007 – The Pakistan military intensifies its operation in Swat. Helicopter gunships pound villages. Thousands flee the valley. There are conflicting accounts of casualties, but dozens are feared dead.

28 November – 6 December 2007 – Security forces say militants have been forced out of Swat and many key leaders arrested. Key centres such as Imam Dehri are seized. Hundreds are feared dead in the operation; 500,000 of Swat’s 1.8 million people are reported to have fled.

23 December 2007 – Fourteen die in a suicide attack on a military convoy near Mingora, Swat’s main city. Sporadic violence continues in Swat, including attacks on shops, schools and government buildings.

2008

January 2008 – Low-level violence between troops and militants continues in Swat.

29 February 2008 – Forty killed and more than 75 wounded when a suicide bomber targets the funeral of a police officer in Mingora.

1 March 2008 – Militants behead a 22-year-old man accused of passing on information to the security forces.

April 2008 – NWFP government launches a fresh peace process, setting up a committee to initiate dialogue with different groups of militants. Militant leaders, including Fazalullah, re-enter Swat. Maulana Sufi Muhammad Khan of the banned TNSM is released.

21 May 2008 – Taliban militants operating under Fazalullah in Swat District sign a 16-point peace agreement with the NWFP government and agree to disband their militia; they also denounce suicide attacks and stop attacks on the security forces and government buildings.

June-July 2008 – Attacks on schools and other buildings continue in Swat. Militants say the government refused to keep its part of the peace deal by retaining troops. At least 50 girls’ schools are reported to have been attacked by militants in 2008. Thousands of girls quit school, fearing for their safety.

27-30 July 2008 – Fierce clashes erupt again, after incidents involving the killing of military personnel.

August-December 2008 – The military moves tanks, heavy artillery and helicopters into Swat to combat militants. Hundreds are reported killed in heavy clashes. Reports of atrocities by militants increase – including the killing of women who decline to stop work and public beheadings of those accused of spying. Human rights activists say 60 percent of Swat’s 1.8 million people have fled. Thousands of homes are reported to have been damaged and 150 schools destroyed.

December 2008 – Press reports say the militants control 75 percent of Swat. Fazalullah announces a ban on education for girls.

29 January 2009 – Pakistan’s government announces a new strategy to combat militancy in Swat and pledges to ensure girls resume schooling. Schools for girls remain closed in Swat after the winter break leaving 80,000 girls out of school. Militants are reported to have seized control of almost all of Swat.

31 January 2009 – Fazalullah, leader of the TTP in Swat, says he will relax the ban on education to allow girls to attend school up to grade 5. The ban had been met by a nationwide outcry.

February 2009 – Renewed military offensives are reported against militants as the Pakistan Army pledges to regain control of Swat. Mingora said to be under government control. Fierce fighting continues and more people flee.

(Sources: Dawn, The News, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan State of Human Rights in Pakistan annual reports, and the South Asian Terrorism Portal, run by the Institute of Conflict Management, New Delhi)

kh/cb





Forget GAZA care about SWAT

12 02 2009

Source: The news
Thursday, February 12, 2009
By by Fasi Zaka
I think it would be absolutely inhuman not to care about the massacre in Gaza, the flagrant violation and cruelty demonstrated by the Israelis. But after talking to an old friend of mine, I can see how someone would be unmoved by the plight of the Palestinians.

A friend of mine called recently from the UK to announce the birth of his son. He was with me in university in Peshawar, and is a most amiable fellow. He is from Swat, and I had a good number of friends from that place during my student years.

The people of Swat are an extremely good looking people, and of a much more demure nature than most Pakhtuns, who are known to be boisterous. Several years after the completion of my education I went to Swat on a research project for the first and only time looking into the value chain of apple growers for the export market. I met many farmers, intelligent family men who were seeing hard times in agriculture but were optimistic about the future. Despite their hardships, they conformed to the gentleman farmer mould. If you had asked me at the time what would be the main concerns of Swat several years into the future I would have said it was the decimation of the population of bees due to pollution that was affecting the pollination of fruit-bearing trees. How wrong I was.

My friend who just had a son is in the UK, working; his wife and newborn are still in Swat. When he called he told me he was going to a protest in London to urge for action in his city. Several of his extended family had been murdered by the Taliban, and others threatened. The beauty of the valley is now irrigated by the blood of its slain innocents.

He asked me with what conscience could Pakistanis protest Gaza and be vocal about the atrocities there while remaining silent on Swat. He is right, it is unconscionable. More than the trouble in the tribal areas and FATA, Swat is problematic because it is indigenous Taliban without the benefit of being close to Afghanistan. When Swat goes, only a matter of time before Peshawar, and ultimately Islamabad too, if not the rest of the country, if the government does not detain these people.

How hard is it to take out a radio station there that Fazlullah uses to terrorise the citizens every night, announcing the roster of targets in his bloody workweek? What are the army and government thinking on this? There is already a report in the press that one of the ministers in the NWFP took out an advertisement in the local papers of Swat asking the Taliban to forgive him. Why is he still in office. The government has been shameless in only lauding Afzal Khan Lala, an octogenarian, the only resistance there is in the valley. Why is the burden of Swat on this old man?

The press has been irresponsible. Many commentators have romanticised the movement. But what is the core of the demands of the Taliban, other than regression of progress? Despite the horrific violence of the Communists, at least they gave their people education and quality healthcare that eventually helped undo the totalitarianism. The only way to undo the Taliban if they ever take over will not be education because there will be none. We will hark back to the days of brutes, leading short violent lives. There will not even be a noble savage amongst us. The moral relativism needs to end. They are massacring the people of Swat; the people live in terror every day while the army and the government watch on.

The Taliban have already issued their hit list to the media of politicians from the once serene valley. How long before they become even more ambitious and issue death verdicts to members of the legal fraternity, human rights lawyers and media men? Expect that soon. Where we can negotiate we should, no need for loss of life, even if it is enemies of the state, we need to preserve the sanctity of what is living. But sadly, we have moved beyond that phase because of the inaction of the both Musharraf and the current government.

The killing machine that the Taliban have become has created a new theatre of blood lust. They exhume graves of people to put corpses on display, they publicly kill people for minor offences, they fear education and ostracise it, they cut off people’s noses and ears. What kind of humanity is that? It’s not Islam, that’s for sure. It is an aberration.

Of all the coverage I have seen, the best came from unexpected quarters and in a totally different setting. While Hamid Mir is often criticised for being sensationalist, his reporting from Gaza was an unbelievable tour de force of mature and thought-provoking reportage. While surveying the damage in Gaza, he looked at the schools that were destroyed by the Israelis and pondered about Swat and the same that the Taliban manage to do with impunity. Without thinking everyone will denounce Israel, but hesitate to denounce what is happening in Swat. Why?

Gaza has been covered well by the world media and for the first time from both the west and the east there is tandem consternation over Israel, concentrating on it and ignoring our own plight is not sensible. The tragedy of Gaza doesn’t need to be replicated in Pakistan. We need to heal Swat, for the people of the valley and as a duty to our fellow citizens. The next generation will not forgive us for our silence.

The writer is a Rhodes scholar and former academic. Email: fasizaka@ yahoo.com