On Sunday, Sufi Mohammed, head of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat [TNSM], told a large rally, “The fifteen year struggle of the TNSM for the implementation of Sharia in Malakand is now bearing results,” adding, “Now any appeal against the Qazi courts’ decisions can be made only through the Darul Qaza [Sharia court]. There is no room for democracy in Islam.” According to the Daily Times, Mohammed asserted that Pakistan’s superior courts were “un-Islamic,” demanding that the government “withdraw all judges from Malakand division – including from Kohistan district – within four days and set up a Darul Qaza to hear appeals against the decisions of qazi courts.” Bloomberg quoted TNSM spokesman Ameer Izzat, who stated, “There cannot be two laws in one area…The duplication of the legal system created confusion and anarchy. It is important that the regular courts are abolished.” The UK Telegraph also cited the spokesman, who added, “We will go home if this is not done…Then the responsibility for maintaining peace will not be ours.”
Dawn included an interesting piece by Tahir Wasti, who echoed my sentiments exactly when he noted:
A reading of the text of the Regulation 2009 indicates that members of our parliament hurriedly passed the resolution without exerting their right of reading and carefully studying several provisions of the regulation. The regulation lacks all the essential qualities of good legislation: clarity, accuracy and constitutionality. Ambiguity and vagueness ruin the very purpose of the legislation and are the two qualities that one may find floating on the surface of this law.
The danger in ambiguous legislation is it leaves room for interpretation and manipulation. Therefore, the Taliban can issue demand after demand. They can hold the government at gunpoint, while leaders and lawmakers stand frozen, their hands tied by the law they themselves put in place. Dawn columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee in his article, “The Price of Moral Cowardice,” wrote this weekend,
Appeasement is, to put it mildly, a naïve policy denoting weakness. It is a yielding of compromise and sacrificial offerings. More bluntly, it is moral cowardice exhibited by pathetic men and women who offer concessions at the expense of others. Appeasement is doing deals with men who have insatiable territorial appetites with the wish to impose their own brand of false theological practices and beliefs.
Although columnist and MP Ayaz Amir spoke out in the Parliament against the Regulation, what is shocking is that every female parliamentarian stayed silent, despite the countless bombings of girls’ schools, despite the circulation of a cell phone video showing the Taliban flogging a young girl in Swat. Every silent MP who stood in support of the Nizam-e-Adl manifest the horrific state of denial we live in. Yes, the ambiguity of the Regulation allows room for manipulation of the law – but to act as silent bystanders through it all is almost as bad.
To make matters worse, on Monday Muslim Khan, the spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban, jumped on the Sharia bandwagon when he declared that Islamic law would not be contained to just Malakand, but will spread to the rest of the country. In an interview with Dawn news, he also added that the “Taliban will not lay down their arms unconditionally.”
While these are a depressing run-down of developments, it should nevertheless be a frightening reminder that this threat is no longer in Pakistan’s periphery – it’s on our doorstep. As Cowasjee noted in his article’s footnote, “Karachi is already feeling the Taliban pinch. Co- educational schools in Defence, Clifton and Saddar areas are known to have received visits and been threatened if they do not change, others have been sent letters with the same message.” Given that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, in her PBS Frontline film “Children of Taliban,” also reported on the militants’ increased presence in Karachi, we should know better than to be in denial any longer.