On Monday, Pakistani media outlets reported that the National Assembly passed a resolution in support of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 for the Malakand division. However, although the decision was technically unanimous, news agencies did add that representatives from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) did stage a walk out from the session, ultimately not participating in the vote. The AP quoted Farooq Sattar, a top party leader, who asserted, “We can’t accept Islamic law at gunpoint.” According to GEO News, “Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani speaking on the occasion said the Parliament was taken into confidence in the above matter and added: ‘We respect the mandate of the provincial government and congratulate the people.'” The resolution will ultimately allow for the enforcement of Sharia law in the Swat Valley region, which has been demanded by both the militants and the NWFP provincial government.
Last Thursday, Sufi Mohammad, the leader of the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-Mohammed [TNSM] and the main broker in the peace deal between the Taliban and the provincial government, left his “peace camp” in protest of what he called President Zardari‘s “failure to enforce Islamic law in the Valley.” According to Dawn, “A provincial government official appealed to President Zardari to sign the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation to save the peace deal from collapsing, and the Swat Qaumi Peace Jirga gave 10 days to the president to sign the regulation or face a protest movement.”
The development today will ultimately add further pressure on Zardari to sign the resolution. At the start of the floor debate on the regulation today, PM Gilani stated, “The whole nation is united in its support of the Swat regulation and wants the president to approve it.” However, noted the Associated Press, “Even without the president’s approval, judges trained in Islamic law have already began hearing cases in Swat, and witnesses say the Taliban are in effective control of much of the region. However, in The News this weekend, Rahimullah Yusufzai noted the qazi courts were hurriedly set up by the provincial government following a deadline set by Sufi Mohammad, and “still lack a proper legal cover that could only be provided once the president puts his signature to the law.”
Today’s approval of the regulation as well as the resulting debate once again raise the dilemma of the price of peace in Swat. If we allow the Nizam-e-Adl regulation to be officially put in place, are we emboldening the monster of militancy? Are we legitimizing harsh punishments and the opression of women, [see the post about the flogging of the young girl]? Although supporters of the regulation say the changes in the legal system will speed up justice there, not lead to such practices, recent developments leave me both skeptical and concerned. The deal is two-way though, and essentially means the Taliban will agree to cooperate with security forces, denounce suicide attacks, close their training camps and turn over their weapons, among other measures. Tell me, security now versus a potentially bigger problem later – which would you choose?
**I also wanted to highlight two upcoming related events. Tomorrow, PBS Frontline/World will air Children of the Taliban, a documentary film in which correspondent Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy takes a dangerous journey along Pakistan’s fault lines, investigating an insurgent new branch of the Taliban and their young recruits. The piece will be broadcast on PBS tomorrow at 9 pm EST. Below is an interview clip with filmmaker Obaid-Chinoy, who explains her motivations behind making this documentary.
Also, Khalid Aziz, who directs institution-strengthening for the FATA Secretariat will be screening, “Cries of Anguish” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. TODAY at 4 pm EST. The short film documents the issues facing Pakistan’s volatile tribal areas and provides a human perspective on the conflict. The screening will be followed by remarks and a Q&A with Mr. Aziz. If you are not in the DC area or cannot make the event, it will be webcast live [click here].
Last but not least, Nicholas Schmidle provides an “Idiot’s Guide to Pakistan,” in this month’s Foreign Policy magazine. A good read for those of you who want to learn more background about the conflict.