There is a civil war going on in Swat valley in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan for more than half a year between the Pakistani army and the pro-Taliban groups operating in that region. Hundreds of people have died and thousands of civilians have been displaced due to the ongoing clashes. The radical groups have shut down all girls schools, banned women in a market, snapped cable connections etc. claiming these are not Islamic.
A couple of days ago the Pakistan government has agreed on a truce deal with Maulana Sufi Mohammed of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM, English: Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law) in consideration that sharia law based Nizam-e-Adl regulations will replace the law in the Malakand Division of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The pro-Taliban militants in Swat declared a 10-day ceasefire after peace negotiations had been rolled out by the NWFP government and the deal was imminent.
Chowrangi writes in the post “Why Restoration of Sharia Law is No Taliban Victory“:
While celebrations are going on in Malakand and Swat, Western media has expressed its worry about the implementation of “Islamic Law” in the region, taking this as a victory of the Taliban– and defeat of Pakistani Government.
To correct this misconception, we have to first look into the origins of the demand for Sharia Law. In 1969, the states of Swat, Dir and Chitral officially joined Pakistan and annexed into a division called Malakand, with Saidu Sharif (in Swat) as its capital. Historically, people of these states followed their tribal system of justice, earlier known as Rewaj (Customary Law) and later as Sharia.
After becoming a part of Pakistan, the people of Malakand had to face the legal system of Pakistan, based on a British legal system fraught with complex procedures, which were slow, expensive and corrupt. Soon, they started to demand reverting back to their former, independent system of justice. The Pakistani government refused.
This dissatisfaction gave rise to the movement of TSNM by Maulana Sufi Mohammad in 1994. Later on, his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah broke away from the movement and started militant activities. [..]
From their early days in provincial government, leaders of ANP acted with diplomatic and political acumen, first releasing Sufi Mohammad and then supporting the moderate elements of the region. Now, by meeting public demand, they are positioned to isolate ‘Taliban’ elements of Malakand, who have lost their popular leverage.
Hopefully, peace will return to Swat, once again.
Manan Ahmed of Chapati Mystery says this is not new as similar deals were struck earlier:
There exists a history – 1994, 1999, 2007 – of efforts to install a Shari-Nizam-e-Adl (Islamic Order of Justice) in Swat region. You can check my previous post on Swat to get a sense of this history, ‘Akond of Swat’.
Sultan-i-Rome portrays the real situation of Swat in a report published by the Institute of Peace and Conflict studies:
Swat is at crossroads. If both sides remain adamant and refuse to budge from their stated stances and precautions; it is likely to spell ruin for Swat and its inhabitants… If the issue was not resolved through negotiations, Swat's fate could be more tragic than Iraq.
Jauhar Ismail at All Things Pakistan is unsure whether the deal in Swat is a good move or bad move:
In my opinion, the devil is really in the details and the implementation of this agreement. I have mixed feeling on this: It is hard to see how the situation in Swat can be controlled only through the military means; there has to be a political dimension.
The Acorn comments on the surrender of Swat:
The attempt to explain away its surrender as a tactical move is hogwash—unless the Pakistani military establishment undergoes a radical transformation, it is unlikely that the government will ever be able to reclaim the lost territories.
CHUP – Changing up Pakistan rounds up some more reactions to the deal.
The blog also highlights opinions of Ahsan Mirza, a student based in Toronto, who discusses the human elements of this conflict:
The ceasefire is a highly desperate and hopeless act by the Pakistan government to restore peace to the valley.
In January, BBC News ran a regular “Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl” in which a grade 7 schoolgirl from Swat wrote her reflections as the Taliban announced and then executed a moratorium on girl’s education in the Valley. Reading the diary would bring tears to any readers’ eyes. What will be the fate of these schools under the new law? To me, the closing of these girls schools is only symptomatic of what will happen under such an extremist regime.
Yasser Latif Hamdani at Pak Tea House writes:
The imposition of a selective and retrogressive interpretation of Islam as a parallel system to the constitution and legal system of the country in any part of the country is in contravention to the very idea of Pakistan as an enlightened and modern state that it was envisaged by its founding father. It is a break-away from the liberal Muslim national consciousness that rose up atop twin planks of modernity and women’s empowerment which ultimately led to the creation of Pakistan.
Faisal K. at Deadpan Thoughts thinks that peace has come with enormous costs:
Thus in short the government of Pakistan has abandoned Swat to the wolves, and our esteemed politicians are more than happy crowing about the saving of lives and what not, going on about their bandwagon long march with no goal in sight.
In a latest development CHUP -Changing Up Pakistan reports that a reporter for GEO News, Mosa Khankhel, was killed in Matta Town in Swat Valley today after he had covered the peace march led by TNSM leader Maulana Sufi Mohammed. The blog comments:
The horrific murder of GEO’s Mosa Khankel today is an ominous indication that this peace deal will not spell an end to the violence in Swat.