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.

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Who’s winning?

15 02 2009
Source: Timesofindia


15 Feb 2009, 0036 hrs IST, Shobhan Saxena , TNN

When you are locked in a war of nerves with an old adversary, you can’t wait for him to blink. But that’s what seems to have happened. All of a

Who's winning?

Who’s winning?

sudden, Pakistan looks like a changed entity — not plotting and scheming against India, but cooperating in the war on terror by hunting down the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan’s generals are unusually quiet; the politicians are saying the right things and there is not even a murmur of media protest about “giving in to pressure from India”. Islamabad’s tough knees would appear to have buckled under India-led international pressure. The world community, led by the US, is patting Pakistan on the back for this “positive development”.

So far, so good. But security experts and international analysts are asking a further pertinent question: Is there really a change of heart in Islamabad? Or is this just a break in its old diplomatic games with India?

First things first. Something extraordinary happened on Thursday, when Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s advisor on interior affairs, Rehman Malik, made a series of important statements in full view of the world’s press, accepting the role of some Pakistanis in the Mumbai carnage and promising tough action. The same day Pakistan’s foreign secretary gave a list of 30 questions to India’s high commissioner. The future of Pakistan’s investigation into the matter now lies in India’s answers to these questions. It could be a trap for India.

“We made a mistake by focusing too much on Mumbai, forgetting that it was one of the hundreds of terrorist attacks on India in the past few decades. Now, Pakistan says it has caught six guys for the Mumbai attack and what do we do?” asks Ajai Sahni, executive director of Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management. “It has been a miscalculation in our diplomacy because even if Pakistan hangs these six men, the larger issue of terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Al Badr operating from its soil remains unaddressed. And what about the involvement of the ISI and army?”

Calling Pakistan a “minimal satisfier”, Sahni says it’s a ploy. “They have been handing over to the US some of the peripheral terror elements since 9/11 and yet they have been supporting the groups fighting the international forces in Afghanistan. So, if we think that by arresting six people, Pakistan has changed its course on terrorism, we will be deluding ourselves because the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan remains intact and its supporters in the government are still active,” says Sahni, who tracks terror networks in South Asia.

Former diplomats and Pakistan experts agree. “They have acted out of compulsion, not conviction,” says G Parthasarthy who was posted in Pakistan in the ’80s. “Very soon, they will go back to their old ways,” he says, adding that Pakistan’s demand it be allowed to try 26/11’s sole surviving gunman Ajmal Amir Kasab is just a way of piling the pressure on India. “A trial in Pakistan will be a total farce. It will be like the trial of nuclear scientist A Q Khan, who has been released now, or the conviction of Omar Sheikh Sayeed, who got the death sentence six years ago for the murder of Daniel Pearl, but the order has not been carried out though the anti-terror law calls for execution within a month of conviction.”

The success of the trial of the six men arrested by Pakistan will depend on the quality of evidence against them. It’s thought interesting that Malik constantly used the words “credible” and “tenable’ evidence to the world’s press. Clearly, Pakistan has publicly asked India to give “solid evidence” against the alleged Mumbai plotters. Parthasarthy says this is part of Pakistan’s game. “If the trial fails they will blame India for not giving them enough evidence.”

But Delhi is unlikely to share all the evidence — including the calls log — with a neighbour it so distrusts. This, many believe, will be Pakistan’s trump card. It will accuse India of failure to cooperate and bad faith. “By mocking (India’s) 26/11 dossier at his press conference and by putting questions about Hemant Karkare and Lt Col Srikant Purohit in its list, Malik has already set the stage for this process to fail halfway,” says a ministry of home affairs official, who doesn’t want to be named.

So has Pakistan won this round of the game? Wilson John, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and author of Karachi: An International Terrorist Capital in the Making, says he doesn’t think “Pakistan has scored diplomatically over India as they have not done anything about the terrorist network, which India has been asking them to dismantle, and they have not addressed the issue of ISI’s involvement. So, India will continue to raise these issue and they just can’t get away with it”.

But Islamabad-based terrorism expert Zahid Husain sees the recent developments as a “turning point” in bilateral relations. “It shows that Pakistan is serious about fighting terrorism. Both India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism and they have to work together to fight it.”

Perhaps, but is India failing to make the right strategic moves with respect to Pakistan? Yes, says an Indian diplomat, because we place too much faith in the West. “Almost every year, we get excited about the possibility of Pakistan being put on the list of terrorist nations or facing economic sanctions, and then we hear that it’s getting billions of dollars in aid and being called a partner in the ‘war on terror’. And we look like idiots. We have put too much faith in the West and in the process lost our leverage with Pakistan.”

Pakistan knows too well that the West needs it as much as it needs the West. Malik’s confessions seem to be part of this design. He has killed two birds with one stone: turned off the heat from Western allies and put India on the spot. Sometimes, one blinks just to rest the eyes before the next round of eyeballing.

New Delhi vs Islamabad

TALE OF TRIUMPHS

1948 | As Pakistani army regulars follow the Kabayalis into Kashmir, New Delhi makes Hari Singh, then king of J&K, sign the Instrument of Accession, making the state part of India and weakening Pakistan’s claim over it

1971 | India sends its army into East Pakistan to support the Mukti Bahini. Pak is bifurcated and Bangladesh is born. A military victory and a foreign policy coup

1972 | Indira Gandhi and Z A Bhutto sign the Simla Agreement, the cornerstone of bilateral relations to this day

1974 | As Z A Bhutto cozies up to China, India tests its first nuclear device in an attempt to join the N-club, dehyphenate itself from Pak & send a message to Mao

1999 | Battle erupts in Kargil; Pakistan forced to accept its troops were present in the area. This creates a rift between Musharraf and PM Nawaz Sharif, who orders his army to withdraw after a visit to the Clinton White House

…AND BLUNDERS

1949 | Nehru’s plebiscite offer at the UN makes Kashmir an international issue and gives Pakistan a stick to beat India with

1998 | India’s Pokhran-II is followed by Pakistan’s nuclear test. Both face international sanctions and India gets hyphenated yet again with Pakistan

2001 | India invites Musharraf for peace talks. He leaves Agra in a huff, makes a strong statement on Kashmir, and India ends up legitimizing the rule of a dictator

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