Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sharia in Swat: Is This Appeasement?

Under a peace deal signed by the NWFP provincial government, the authorities say they will withdraw security forces and allow the pro-Taliban militants to impose Sharia law in Swat in return for promises to close training camps and end attacks. This is particularly astonishing as it involves secular nationalists of the Awami National Party that trounced the right wing JUI party in the last elections.

This announcement by Senior Minister of NWFP Bashir Ahmad Bilour followed a ceasefire announced by Taleban leader Baitullah Mehsud last month. There were also reports of a 15-point draft deal that called for an end to militant activity and an exchange of prisoners in return for the gradual withdrawal of the Pakistani military from part of the tribal region of South Waziristan.

The latest deal has been agreed in spite of the United States and NATO warnings to Pakistan against negotiating an agreement with militants along its border with Afghanistan.

The Bush administration has said such a deal would give the militants a free hand in Pakistan's tribal areas, which have long operated outside the central government's full control.

A previous deal reached with the militants by President Pervez Musharraf in 2006 was abandoned after accusations of violations by both sides and the US missile strikes on alleged militant targets inside Pakistan. The new deal is broader in the sense that it accepts the implementation of Shariah Law acceptable to the pro-Taleban elements in Malakand and Sawat.

Al Qaeda members as well as Taliban militants are believed to have taken refuge in North and South Waziristan, part of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, after US-led forces ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001.

This deal is likely to bring some peace and stability in the short term, if it is not immediately undermined by the US and NATO by missile strikes on targets inside Pakistan's tribal region along the Afghan border. However, it is likely to be seen as appeasement by many within and outside Pakistan who see this latest deal as the beginning of a slippery slope toward a full-fledged Taleban-style rule in the entire country. Such a scenario would put Pakistan in direct conflict with the West that could be very damaging to the interests of Pakistanis at large. It could mark the beginning of a brief period of peace followed by endless conflict involving US, NATO, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other regional players.

It is possible to avoid endless conflict and its devastating consequences for the entire South Asian and Central Asian regions and the world. However, this would require a broader strategy with political participation of the US, EU and the regional players. Pakistan can play a crucial role here by persuading its friends in the US and EU to go beyond the rhetoric of simply denouncing the Taliban as evil, refusing to engage with them politically and vowing to destroy them by military action alone. Unlike Al-Qaeda, the Taliban do have roots among the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal population. Such refusal adds to the "mystique of resistance and struggle" of the Taleban, in the words of Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria. Without dealing with the Taleban as a political entity, it is not possible to have a political strategy to fight and dilute the appeal of the Taliban or to marginalize the extreme elements within its fold.


Anonymous said...

Hey haq, what's wrong in shariah? In West they follow their own system. What's wrong if a group of Muslims want to implement Islamic laws in country? why do you want that Shariah should not be implemented? Every Muslim would like that His religious laws which covers things from Economy to domestic issues should be implemented in the state where he lives. I want Shariah in my country as it was back in days of Caliph. Western enslave mentality feels happpy to follow what West says but feels pain when it comes about Islam. Why is like that? I don't know. May be such Muslims studies Islam thru eyes of Western media like Fox or CNN or just they despise it because they have to.

Riaz Haq said...

Dear Adnan,
I understand and appreciate your strong sentiments for Sharia in Pakistan. The question is what Shariah? You suggest the Sharia "as it was back in the days of Caliph." Well, do you agree that our society, its environment and needs have changed in 1400 years? If so, can we simply apply the laws in the form they existed to address the needs of a medieval society? I don't think so. That's why Islam allows Ijtihad, a way by scholars to re-interpret the Shariah to fit the needs of a dynamic society. Unfortunately, the proponents of the strong Sharia laws have also closed the doors to Ijtihad, thereby making it static and unable to address modern societies which have their own unique realities and problems that did not exist in the 7th century Arabia. If we push for the 7th century Sharia, we are going to end up with a Taleban-style state in Pakistan that will not last long and result in tremendous chaos with long-term damage to Pakistan and the whole notion of Sharia.

Riaz Haq said...

It seems that the Pashtun nationalists have learned nothing from the earlier "peace deal" they signed that allowed Taliban to rearm and regroup in Swat valley. Here they go again.

According to the BBC, Pakistan has signed a peace deal with a Taleban group that will lead to the enforcement of the Islamic Sharia law in the restive Swat valley.

Regional officials urged the Taleban, who agreed a 10-day truce on Sunday, to lay down their arms permanently.

Once one of Pakistan's most popular holiday destinations, the Swat valley is now mostly under Taleban control.

Thousands of people have fled and hundreds of schools have been destroyed since the Taleban insurgency in 2007.

Chief Minister of North West Frontier Province Ameer Hussain Hoti announced a bill had been signed that would implement a new "order of justice" in the Malakand division, which includes Swat.

The bill will create a separate system of justice for the whole region.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan, who was recently in Swat, says the Taleban had already set up their own system of Islamic justice, as they understand it.

Anonymous said...


Who has to be blamed for the mess. As you sow, so you reap.

can you see one of your own brother seeking shariah of 7th century. Premedieval an EYE FOR AN EYE world.

Best of luck

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' report Pakistani efforts to de-radicalize the Tliban:

Hazrat Gul spent two years in detention for allegedly aiding the Pakistani Taliban when they publicly flogged and beheaded people during a reign of terror in the scenic Swat Valley.

Now he wiles away his time in pristine classrooms, a Pakistani flag pin on his crisp uniform, learning about word processing, carpentry and car repairs at the Mashal de-radicalisation centre run by the army.

Part of a carrot and stick approach to battling militancy in the strategic U.S. ally, the aim is to cleanse minds of extremist thoughts through vocational training, and turn men like Gul into productive citizens who support the state.

The success of the programme will ultimately hinge, however, on the the ability of the government, widely seen as incompetent and corrupt, to help the de-radicalisation graduates find jobs.

“If a sincere leadership comes to this country, that will solve the problems,” said Gul, 42, one of the Mashal students. “Today the leadership is not sincere. The same problems will be there.”

Pakistan’s military drove militants out of Swat in 2009. Mashal is in the building which used to be the headquarters of the militants from where they imposed there austere version of Islam.

Eventually, the army realised it couldn’t secure long-term peace with bullets alone.

So military officers, trainers, moderate clerics and psychologists were chosen to run three-month courses designed to erase “radical thoughts” of those accused of aiding the Taliban.

Students like Mohammad Inam, 28, a former assistant engineer, give the school a good report card.

“The environment is very good. Our teachers work very hard with us. They talk to us about peace, about terrorism and how that is not right,” said Inam, in the presence of a military officer. “God willing, we will go out and serve our country and our nation.”

School officials say about 1,000 people have graduated since the initiative began two years ago, and that only 10 percent were not cleared for release.

Officials concede that their “students” are not hardened militants who killed. Mostly, they provided the Taliban with water, food or shelter, or beat people.
Outside Mashal’s classroom, there are signs that not everyone is embracing the new approach.

Soldiers led a hooded man into a truck while three others looked on through the barred windows of what appeared to be a cell at the compound.

Conditions still seem ripe for Fazlulah and his lieutenants, who have vowed to make a comeback, to recruit people.

Pakistani officials estimated after the army operation expelled the Taliban that over $1 billion would be needed to revive the local economy and rebuild infrastructure.

Residents like Ajab Noor, 61, who sent two of his sons abroad to work, doubt the population of about 1.3 million will ever benefit from those funds.

“People have no options. They either go outside the country to work, or they join militants who promise them many things,” he said at a street market in Swat’s capital, Mingora.

A member of a state-backed anti-Taliban militia believes two boys in his village had graduated from a de-radicalisation centre and ran away to rejoin the Taliban.

“I told the military, ‘you are nurturing the offspring of snakes’. But they did not listen,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an NPR story on Pakistani Women's campaign against radicalization:

Qadeem is a political scientist who left academia several years ago to found an organization she called PAIMAN - meaning promise. It focuses on young men who are vulnerable to militancy, especially the enticement of being paid to fight.

Mossarat Qadeem is in Washington, D.C. this week, leading a delegation of women activists from Pakistan, meeting with congressmen, aid agencies and civil society organizations. She joined us in our studio.

Good morning.

MOSSARAT QADEEM: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: How much influence do mothers have over their sons when it comes to their sons being vulnerable to radicalization, extremism?

QADEEM: In Pashtun society, a women - and particularly a madam - is very well-respected. And people - like the sons - they do listen to the mothers. But age is also very important, because I - we only work with the age group of 14 to 21, 22. That means they're influenced very easily and quickly outside where they can be influenced inside the house, as well, very easily. And once a mother is convinced, I think, you convince the whole family, the whole community then.

MONTAGNE: Could you give me an example of one mother and one son; one son who was in some way pulled into the orbit of extremism and they found their way to you?

QADEEM: One of the mothers, she was living in Swat, you know, she was being chased and followed by so many people because her son was in the hideout. She was in tears and she said, it's my son. I didn't even know, he didn't know because he was just selling them. He was just helping them and we didn't know that these are the people who are going to harm the community. And then we just told her that we will give you safety and security. We will, of course, talk to the authorities and so on. And we tried to discuss it with her that she should call the son; we would like to talk to him. She said he would never meet. We will never like to meet you. So one night she called me. I think it was nine o'clock - I live in Islamabad - then she said my son is here; would you like to meet him? So I went there the next morning and I sat with the boy in the kitchen. And we were having breakfast on the floor of the kitchen, and I just asked him why is he putting his life at risk? And he just pushed the plate and he said I could not have this food, and it's because of their help that I now am sitting with you and having this plate of food in front of me. And...

MONTAGNE: Because he was being paid.

QADEEM: He was being paid. I said OK, now if we give you a good skill where you can earn a decent livelihood and you will be given protection and security and you can give the same to your family - because look at your mother, she's already like, you know, running for her life. So what we usually do, we train these people. We do a lot of psychosocial counseling and then we offer them some skills. And then we place them.

MONTAGNE: When you say we place them, you place them into jobs.

QADEEM: Yes. And now 79 of these boys - whom I will not say that they were all extremists like or they were in the hideouts or they were with the Taliban, but they were really much like, you know, under the influence of this idology and some of them really were working with some of the groups. Seventy-nine of them are transformed, they have been rehabilitated, they are reintegrated. So my plea here, is that there is way. So if the drones are stopped and the amount of money that is being spent on the drone can be converted into schools, hospitals and economic opportunities for everyone in that society and community, believe me, you will find people who will be transformed because we need to provide them alternatives. An alternative is missing.