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of arming the local population to fight against the Taliban and that ‘arms not being used against the Taliban would be withdrawn’.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

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Pakistan paid 6 million dollars to Taliban for ceasefire

25 02 2009

Source: Rediff.com

February 25, 2009 03:30 IST
The Taliban [Images] in Pakistan’s restive Swat valley received US $ 6 million in compensation from the government after agreeing to a ceasefire with security forces for an indefinite period, a media report said on Tuesday.

The militants agreed to lay down arms and endorse a peace deal between the government and religious hardliner Sufi
Mohammad to impose Shariah or Islamic laws in Swat in exchange for the payment, Italian news agency Adnkronos International reported quoting security sources.

“The amount has been paid through a backchannel,” a senior security official told AKI on condition of anonymity.

“It is compensation for those who were killed during military operations and compensation for the properties destroyed by the security forces. In fact, negotiations for this package were finalised well before Maulana Sufi Mohammad signed a peace deal.”

The security official said the amount was delivered from a special fund of President Asif Ali Zardari [Images]. All of Pakistan’s tribal areas come under President’s jurisdiction and a special aid package, including a donation from the US, was designated for the region by the President’s office and distributed through the Governor’s office in North West Frontier Province, the report said.

“Some other smaller amounts are also under negotiation, which shall also be delivered soon,” the official said. The Taliban in Swat today extended for an indefinite period a 10-day ceasefire announced by them last week. An agreement for enforcing Shariah in Swat was reached between authorities and Sufi Mohammad’s group, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e- Shariah Mohammadi, last week.

The deal came after months of fierce fighting in which hundreds of civilians and militants were killed and 500,000
people displaced. The Taliban endorsed the deal after Sufi Mohammad held discussion with militant leader Maulana





Pakistan Taleban in Bajaur truce

24 02 2009

Pakistani soldiers in the north-west

Pakistani soldiers launched an operation in Bajaur in August

Source: BBC News

A senior Taleban figure in Pakistan’s Bajaur district has announced a unilateral ceasefire.

Faqir Mohammad made the announcement in a radio speech.

Faqir Mohammad is thought to be the deputy of Baitullah Mehsud, who the Pakistani authorities say is the main Taleban commander in the region.

The military says it has seized the strategic Bachina heights in Bajaur and it remains to be seen whether it will agree to a ceasefire.

The military began its operation in Bajaur last August and has used it as proof of its commitment to tackle the Taleban in the restive north-west.

The truce move comes a week after a deal was signed between Pakistani officials and Taleban representatives to end an insurgency in the Swat region in return for the imposition of Sharia law.

Alliances

Faqir Mohammad said in his 30-minute speech: “We made this announcement of a unilateral ceasefire in the interest of Pakistan and our region.

“We advise our people not to take action against security forces.”

He stressed that “Pakistan is our country and the Pakistan army is our army”.

Tribal areas map

Faqir Mohammad said: “We don’t want to fight the army, but some elements have been creating misunderstandings between us.”

He said there were no foreign fighters in Bajaur.

“However, if we found any foreigners here, the Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) would take action against them.”

He warned that if drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas continued “we will avenge them by attacking Western troops inside Afghanistan”.

The announcement comes a day after the security troops dislodged militants from the strategic Bachina heights.

Military action has been lessening in Bajaur with the capture of several strategic points by the military.

It also came two days after the head of the TTP, Baitullah Mehsud, announced a new strategic alliance with two important non-TTP groups in Waziristan.

One is led by Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan and the other by Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan.

The announcement did not specifically mention the militants of Swat, Bajaur and Mohmand as forming a part of the new alliance.

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says many observers take this to mean that the Waziristan groups have decided to fend for themselves.

The Swat chapter of the TTP has already called a truce and the cleric, Sufi Muhammad, is brokering the peace talks between the Taleban and the government.

Our correspondent says observers believe some militants are on the retreat due to people’s war fatigue, the recent realignments within different groups in anticipation of the new US strategy in the region and increasing international pressure on Pakistan to eliminate militant sanctuaries.





Mother of captive American issues appeal

22 02 2009

21 Feb 2009, 1730 hrs IST, AP
Source: Times of India

QUETTA: The mother of an American kidnapped in Pakistan appealed for his freedom in a message released on Saturday, describing her son as a “verygentle person” devoted to his humanitarian work.Rose Solecki asked for help from the people of southwest Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, where her son John Solecki was serving as the head of the regional UN refugee office when he was taken captive Feb. 2. The UN has been trying to establish contact with the kidnappers, who have threatened to kill John Solecki.

The kidnapping has underlined the overall deteriorating security situation in nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is battling al-Qaida and Taliban-led militants in its northwest. In her message, Rose Solecki expressed bewilderment at her son’s predicament.”I simply do not understand why this is happening to our dear John,” said Rose Solecki, 83. “I cannot begin to explain the sorrows and pain that I am going through right now. My husband and I are old. We want to be with John again.

We cannot bear losing John.”The audio message was released through the United Nations along with a photo of Solecki and his parents.The UN has said the matter is very urgent because Solecki has a medical condition. In a 20-second clip released by his kidnappers on Feb. 13, a blindfolded Solecki said he was “sick and in trouble.”Rose Solecki noted that she and her 91-year-old husband Ralph are both archaeologists and that she had lived in Baluchistan many years before. The couple visited their son in the provincial capital of Quetta last year, she said.”This recent happy memory quickly turned into a nightmare,” she said. “To our friends in Baluchistan, please help us find John and have him returned safely to his family, friends and colleagues.

John has helped many people in Baluchistan, and now my son needs your help.”In the Feb. 13 message, Solecki’s captors threatened to kill him within 72 hours, but later said they would extend the deadline for a “few days.” It was unclear exactly when the new deadline would expire.The kidnappers have identified themselves as the previously unknown Baluchistan Liberation United Front. The name indicates the group is more likely linked to separatists than to Islamists. The kidnappers have demanded the release of 141 women allegedly held in Pakistan, but Pakistani officials have said no such group of women are being held.Earlier Saturday, a suspected Shiite gunmen killed two members of the rival Sunni Muslim sect in the northwest city of Dera Ismail Khan, police said, a day after a suicide bombing at a Shiite leader’s funeral killed 36 and set off sectarian riots.

Three other Sunnis were wounded Saturday when the gunmen rode by a market on a motorbike and fired, area police chief Miran Shah said.The attack occurred despite the presence of troops sent to patrol the city after Friday’s suicide attack at a funeral where about 1,000 people had gathered to mourn Sher Zeman, a local Shiite leader gunned down the day before.After the bombing, angry Shiites fired on police and a public bus was torched. Three people were shot dead in the melee, officials said. A mass funeral was planned Saturday for victims of the Friday bombing, which also wounded more than 60.Extremists from the majority Sunni community view Shiites as heretics, and the two groups have long engaged in tit-for-tat killings in Pakistan. Attacks have increased in recent years along with violence by al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are also Sunni groups.Taliban-led militants have seized control of pockets of northwest Pakistan despite military offensives and analysts say they are likely directing or supporting the sectarian violence.

On Monday, Pakistan announced it would agree to the imposition of Islamic law in the northwest’s restive Swat Valley as part of a deal aimed at restoring peace there. The pact was spearheaded by hard-line cleric Sufi Mohammed who is negotiating with the Taliban in the valley to give up their arms.The government has rejected criticism that the pact would create a Taliban sanctuary less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the capital, Islamabad. But US and European officials are worried the deal could be a major concession giving the Taliban a safe haven.