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Archive for March 2nd, 2009

Peace in Swat?

[Image credit: AP]

Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, the commander of military operations in five of Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies, reportedly declared “victory” in the fight against the Taliban, noting that his Frontier Corps [FC] had driven militants out of Bajaur. The UK Telegraph reported, “He denied reports –and claims by a militant leader, Faqir Mohammmed – that the military had struck a peace deal. He said that the Taliban had been defeated and that the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire was ‘propaganda.'” Given that many view these peace deals as “surrender,” Khan’s statements seem an attempt to maintain the perception that the military is still winning in the tribal agencies, that the Taliban is being “defeated.”

Meanwhile in Swat, the site of the widely reported peace deal, the Daily Times reported that TNSM head Sufi Muhammad is “dissatisfied” with the progress of the enforcement of Sharia, and issued a warning that “he wanted Islamic courts set up in two weeks.” Sufi told reporters, “The government announced enforcement of Sharia but so far no practical step has been taken and we are not satisfied…I’m not seeing any practical steps for the implementation of the peace agreement, except for ministers visiting Swat and uttering words.” He asserted, “If the government does not appoint Qazis [Islamic judges] by March 15, and the two sides do not release prisoners in their custody, we will set up protest camps.”

News agencies are reporting that Swat Valley has become relatively peaceful since the peace deal was initiated. However, outlets are quick to label this calm, “uneasy,” and “tenuous.” Although Fareed Zakaria noted that the Valley has “become quiet once again,” he added, “Fears abound that this [implementation of Nizam-e-Adl] means girls schools will be destroyed, movies will be banned and public beheadings will become a regular occurrence,” [more so than usual he means perhaps]. In a Dawn op-ed today, Mushfiq Murshed, who called the deal “accident prone” and likely to be “short-lived” noted, “The acceptance by Swat residents to live under totalitarian rule and their willingness to sacrifice fundamental human rights should not be considered as the triumph of extremist ideology but a lack of faith in the state to protect them against this menace.” He added,

Apparently, the truce, for whatever it is worth, has been negotiated through the wrong person. Maulana Sufi is a mere figurehead and actual power vests in his firebrand son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah. It is unlikely that Fazlullah will agree to surrender his weapons without which any agreement is meaningless. Furthermore, it has been reported that he is demanding amnesty for the death and devastation that he and his followers have inflicted on Swat.

Yes, there may be quiet in Swat Valley, but at what cost? Do we give Fazullah and his followers a free pass for the crimes previously committed in Swat Valley? The beheadings, the bombings of schools, the daily acts of violence? What kind of message does that send to the local people of Swat? Moreover, with the government increasingly tied up in its own political crisis, these radioactive issues appear ominously brushed under the rug, as Taliban elements consolidate power close to Pakistan’s center. In Seema Mustafa‘s opinion, “The Taliban is creeping into the heartland of Pakistan. And what makes the people of Pakistan, particularly the more aware civil society, despondent is the awareness that there is no one in a position to stop the onward march.” According to Dawn’s Irfan Hussain, “The noise you might hear is the laughter of the Taliban at the sight of Pakistan’s leaders playing politics as usual. The other sounds are the chuckles at GHQ.”

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