Pakhtunkhwa Times

Pakistan’s gamble Making nice with the Taliban

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 26, 2009

By Natasha Fatah
CBC News
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=601700011&ref=name#/profile.php?id=601700011&ref=name&pub=2915120374

“Nazia” is originally from the Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, the place where Pakistan authorities recently offered to allow Islamic law if Taliban militants lay down their arms. She knows the danger of these militants. When she speaks to her family in Swat on the phone every day from her new home in Canada, the sound of gunfire and bombs resonate in the background.

Niaza (who asked that her real name be withheld for fear of reprisal from militants here as well as in Pakistan) has lost many friends in the past months to the Taliban’s brutality. That includes an uncle who was murdered when the Taliban accused of him of being a spy for Pakistani intelligence.

She fears for the lives of those trapped in the midst of a bloody ideological war in the Swat.

Two weeks ago, Nazia joined a rally in Toronto organized by the Pakhtunkhwa Peace Forum. It was a gathering of ethnic Pashtoons from Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, pleading for peace in their countries of origin.

Along with their pleas, the protestors were emphatic that they did not want sharia (Islamic) law to be imposed in northern Pakistan, a proposal they knew was on the table to try to end the fighting.

But the very next day the North West Frontier Provincial government, led by Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti, unveiled the controversial peace deal with the Taliban. As part of the agreement, which was negotiated by both the provincial and national governments with the pro-Taliban political figure Sufi Mohammed, Pakistan will allow for the implementation of sharia law in the region, something that the Taliban happily welcomes.
Romantic destination

Swat was once a romantic destination for many Western tourists. The sheer beauty of its lakes, green valleys and mountainous backdrop attracted both backpackers and blue bloods alike. Some even affectionately referred to it as “The Switzerland of Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s troubled Swat region in the North West Frontier Provinces. (CBC)Pakistan’s troubled Swat region in the North West Frontier Provinces. (CBC)

But there are no more tourists in Swat these days because for the past two years, the Taliban has been gaining control of the area. Government accounts claim that over 1,600 Pakistanis have died in this period, mostly in the northwest region, because of Taliban violence.

The Pakistani military has been fighting back, but in January of this year it was obvious that the Taliban had seized pretty much complete control of a province whose southern tip is only a few hundred kilometres from the Pakistan capital Islamabad.

Caught in the crossfire between the military and the militants have been the people of Swat, people like Nazia’s family. Millions have fled their homes looking for refuge elsewhere and many have been murdered, often by public beheadings, a measure the Taliban has employed to keep the locals in line.

The military wasn’t winning and something had to be done. That something is the controversial peace proposal.

Its central plank is the promise of sharia law to address long-standing local grievances over a justice system that is perceived as too slow and unfair.

But at this point, it is not clear whether the Swat Taliban will really disarm or even allow for girls to receive an education. Up until last week the Taliban was bombing girl schools. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the provincial government has now proposed giving 30,000 rifles to the local citizenry so they can help keep the Taliban in line.

Afrasiab Khattak, the president of the ruling ANP political party in the region — someone who narrowly escaped a Taliban bombing last year — said that the people there are pleased with the compromise between the government and the Taliban.

Nazia is not so sure. She has seen the images of people in Swat rejoicing over this peace proposal but she says that we should not be fooled by these images. “If you give me two options: to be sick or to be killed,” she says, “then for sure I will choose not to die.”
A foot in the door

While Khattak says this decision will bring some short-term peace in the area, many Pakistanis — not to mention Barack Obama’s government in Washington — are worried about the long-term impact on the country.

Asma Jahangir, the head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, says the deal has “given a taste of victory to the militants.”

She goes on to argue that the government has made a terrible compromise in which the Taliban not only gain control over territory, through terror, but would now be legitimized through the institution of justice. This will leave the door open for more radicalism to grow, she says. “This is like the United Nations of militants running Swat.”

There is a growing fear in some circles in Pakistan now that the Taliban area of control will only spread if this deal goes through.

In fact, many in the Pashtoon community, Nazia among them, believe that the Pakistani military is behind this deal with the Taliban in order to destabilize the provincial government in the northwest and use that instability to reclaim its grip over the national government.

All sorts of wild rumours emanate from Pakistan these days. But Pakistanis in the north and south, and even here in Canada, agree that this is a pivotal time when governments are making deals with the Taliban.

Many fear that this deal will lead to destabilization, if not the end of Pakistan as we know it today.

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A Peace Rally organized by Pakhtunkhwa Peace Forum in Toronto, demanding to stop the killing of innocent Pashtun people at Toronto on Feb 15th 2009

Posted in Peace Rally Toronto by ppfcanada on February 25, 2009

A Letter To The World Citizens

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 25, 2009


A Heart Broken Girl
Tue, 24-Feb-2009

Shehnaz is an ethnic Pashtun and at present studying in the United States. In this letter she wants to share the pain and sufferings of her people due to the ongoing conflicts between Taliban militants and Pakistan seucrity forces, with the civilized world. Shehnaz can be reached at gwal_pari@yahoo.com

To keep the originalility of the letter intact Pakhtunkhwa Times with permission of Pashtunpost is sharing it with you as it is and without any edits in its contents—Editorial

Dear Citizens of the World!

The people of Swat, Pakistan (in NWFP), and surrounding areas have been dying for over a year now, and the Pakistani government has done nothing to help stop their destruction. It claims it has sent “security forces” to those regions to settle the matter, but it fails to provide evidence. Not just that, but instead of having these “security forces” punish/kill the Taliban, they kill civilians. They claim to be shooting in areas filled with Taliban, but somehow, the Taliban always end up escaping while innocent Pashtuns’ lives are snatched. Taliban destroy our schools while these “security forces” stand and watch quietly. They argue that they cannot differentiate the Taliban from the average Pashtun man, but how does one witness a person committing such horrendous crimes and remain silent, claiming not to know who the criminal is when the criminal is standing right in front of him?

Then there’s the media: why is it that hardly a handful of people around the world knows about what the Pashtuns are going through right now? If they knew, there would perhaps be more protests against our genocide; or perhaps, at the very least, our situation would be mentioned in most newspapers, whether local or international, and maybe even make front-page news every now and then. For instance, how many people universally are aware of the fact that the Taliban have now issued a new dictum in which they have decided that all young, unmarried females in Swat must be married to them (i.e., these militants)? How many people know that hundreds of schools in Swat alone have been destroyed in just the past year? hwHow How mddffffffHow many people have read the letters and articles, in BBC, that are written by victims who beg the world to help them (such as in “A Letter from Swat,” by Zobair Torwali, a social activist who lives in Swat)? How many people know that a law was passed no more than a month ago, stating that girls are not to go to school anymore and if they do so, they and their families will have to face severe consequences? How many people know that numerous Pashtun refugees from NWFP have fled to Afghanistan – that, by foot – in order that they may be at peace? Unfortunately, there are far many more who refuse to leave because for them, their current residence is their home; this is where their ancestors lived, survived hardships just like them, and died; it is where all of their relatives and others with whom they have strong bonds have lived for centuries; but also, most of them cannot afford to leave due to financial difficulties. Not to mention, their current regions symbolize for them hope in a state hopeless situation.

Yet, we wonder in pity, why aren’t their screams being heard by the media, by the world? How much more louder do these victims’ screams of this burning pain need to be in order for them to be heard? How long must the suffering continue, and how many more people must die, in order to be labeled genocide by the international community? At the very least, how long must it continue in order for the world to hear the victims’ heartfelt cries? All these questions lead us to ultimately ask: why is the media so silent on the matter regarding these Pashtun victims?

The media’s role is vital because due to the lack of attention that the Pashtun victims are receiving from the media, whether Pakistani or international media, very few people are aware of their suffering. And if the public does not know what is going on around the world, how can they raise a voice against the injustice being done to a people? Indeed, very few news sources have earned the rest of Pashtuns by documenting the miseries that their loved ones back home have been swallowing for the past year. And because we young Pashtuns living abroad have realized that the media is not doing its proper job in revealing the miserable and painful condition of our people, we have decided to accept the heavy burden upon our own shoulders and raise awareness of the situation ourselves. Groups on Online Social Networks (such as Facebook, Orkut, and MySpace) have been created in support of Pashtun victims; in some of these groups, members share and discuss ways through which they can raise awareness of this genocide, and one of the most important ways they have come up with is writing letters to important news sources and explaining this injustice.

I hope that this letter expresses its unheard voice powerfully enough in such a way that the readers are convinced to research the current Pashtun genocide, educate others about it, and help us stand up against our oppressors and with the oppressed.

Thank you for giving me the permission to freely share my thoughts with you, citizens of the world!

Sincerely

Shehnaz,

(A heartbroken Pashtun)

United States

Via Email

What the people of Swat really wanted

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 25, 2009


Tuesday, February 24, 2009
By Lakhkar Khan

The writer is a resident of Swat who had to flee his home and is currently living in Lahore.

The Feb 16 agreement hasresulted in the planned promulgation of the Nizam-e-Adl regulation in Malakand division, in which Swat district is situated. The government’s plea is that this is the demand of the people of Malakand division. However, those who made this announcement – in particular the ANP chief minister Amir Haider Hoti – should know that the people of Malakand division voted in favour not of Sharia but for secular, nationalist and democratic parties in the general elections of 2008.

The fact of the matter is that the ANP and the PPP contested the election on the stand that they would fight to eliminate terrorism and extremism, so it is a bit ironic that both parties have now done just the opposite. They failed to face the situation in Swat and have gone down on bended knees before the extremists.

The people of Buner, Shangla, Malakand, Lower and Upper Dir and Chitral never voted for the implementation of Sharia and did not rise up against the state for its implementation. In Buner people actually went after and killed some of the militants, and rose together as one against the extremists. And as a result of this, the militants killed over 40 people in one village of Buner alone as revenge. Despite this the people of the area never surrendered to the extremists, so they are going to be right in wondering that if they did not surrender, why has the government done just that? They ask why the state, despite having all the resources to nip this evil in the bud, chose to yield to the extremists.

Sufi Mohammad, someone who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of young men of Malakand, was inexplicably released from prison and his crimes of the past were conveniently forgiven. He is the very person who in 1994 challenged the writ of the state to the extent that his followers killed security personnel and even an MPA. This happened in Swat and Dir but the then Sherpao government ruling the NWFP for some reason withdrew all charges against Sufi Mohammad and his colleagues. In 2001, he declared jihad against the US in Afghanistan and took several thousand of his followers there to fight. Sufi Mohammed led these young men to their deaths in Afghanistan, and was the first to leave the battlefield together with his close followers when the American B-52 bombers came. Hundred of the others who went with him lost their lives and hundreds are still missing. On his return, the political agent of Kurram Agency imprisoned him under the Frontier Crimes Regulations and that was when his son-in-law, Fazlullah, filled the gap and established a foothold in Swat.

Strange are the way of politics in this country because one day someone is a killer and the next day he is labelled as a hero – and this is done by parties that claim to be the most secular and democratic in the country.

As for Fazlullalh, we all know what he did and continues to do. He challenged the state’s authority and his followed killed police constables, and army and paramilitary personnel in a most brutal manner. His group bombed schools and bridges, as well as the houses and hujras of many who tried to stand up to them. They deliberately targeted social, political and moderate religious figures and journalists in the district and many were killed and the rest compelled to leave Swat. Hundreds of thousands of people, like myself, were dislodged from their homes, and had to flee Swat. Most are now living a miserable life in other areas of Pakistan, and despite the so-called peace deal they are not sure if they can return to their homes. Not only were people’s lives and property were destroyed, the region’s whole economy was devastated by the terrorists. Fruit orchards went to waste because people were too afraid to work in the fields, and local businesses suffered immensely because tourism vanished. Over 2,000 innocent people, including many women and children, were killed and thousands were disabled and wounded in indiscriminate shelling and firing by security forces and the militants. As a result of the barbaric actions of Fazlullah and his followers, the centuries-old soft image of Swat and its inhabitants, based on its rich heritage dating back to its Buddhist and Swat-state eras, was lost forever. Did the government consider all this when it chose to capitulate to the extremists? What the people of Swat wanted was for the government to ensure that those behind all these murders and mayhem are held accountable for their crimes.

This brutality and carnage will not be forgotten easily by the people of Swat. It has taken its toll not just in physical terms but also on the mental wellbeing of the people of the area whose minds have been scarred. The mental health of women and children in particularly has been damaged by the actions of the militants and the incessant violence that they indulged in.

It is abominable that the government is actually now going to declare a general amnesty for Fazullah and his men, people who are directly responsible for all these deaths and atrocities that were inflicted on the people of Swat in the last two years. In this instance I would like to quote from one of this newspaper’s recent editorials following the so-called peace deal. “Fazlullah’s numerous acts of violence, his attempts to stifle learning and the way in which he targeted the most vulnerable citizens, show that he indeed cares nothing for Islam – a religion that advocates kindness for the oppressed, emphasises the significance of learning and lays down rules of respect for women, for minorities and even for enemies…. It seems obvious the ignorant forces of Fazlullah seek only power and are willing to use any means to obtain this.” This is precisely what the people of Swat think of Fazlullah and his men, but for obvious reasons were not able to articulate or demonstrate in public.

And what is the end result now? What is one to make of this deal? That Fazlullah has emerged victorious. And that both the federal and provincial governments are taking credit for the promulgation of Sharia in Swat. As for the people, they see this as nothing but an abject surrender to the forces of obscurantism and darkness, a surrender which presents a bleak future for the people of the area.

Sufi Mohammed is now the officially-sanctioned saviour of the people, but what about the people themselves? They have lost everything and gained nothing. And I say this because the deal gives them nothing in terms of holding accountable all those who killed, butchered and slaughtered hundreds of Swatis. Who will heal their bleeding hearts and souls? Certainly not this agreement.

The fear is that the militants will not remain confined to Malakand but will demand the same deal in the settled areas of the NWFP and in FATA as well. And they will use the same tactics and brutal force against the security forces and the people as they did in Swat. What will our politicians do then? Will they bow before them again? Or will they exercise the state’s authority? It shouldn’t take too long to wonder what the likely option will be, keeping in mind the Swat experience.

The people of Swat ask why the state is silent, rather than ensuring their rights, and why it treats those who are murderers and criminals and those who took up arms against the state as born-again heroes. They ask why this is done. What message is sent to those who abide by the law and want to have nothing to do with these militants and born-again heroes?

The people of Swat also say that financial compensation as is being announced by the government will not help heal the wounds. But what will is an independent high-level judicial probe into what happened in Swat, followed by accountability of those involved in the killings and violence. This is what the agreement should really be providing them – not the space and the legitimacy to the militants which is what they think has happened.

Email: lakhkarkhan51@yahoo.com

What the people of Swat really wanted

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 25, 2009


Tuesday, February 24, 2009
By Lakhkar Khan

The writer is a resident of Swat who had to flee his home and is currently living in Lahore.

The Feb 16 agreement hasresulted in the planned promulgation of the Nizam-e-Adl regulation in Malakand division, in which Swat district is situated. The government’s plea is that this is the demand of the people of Malakand division. However, those who made this announcement – in particular the ANP chief minister Amir Haider Hoti – should know that the people of Malakand division voted in favour not of Sharia but for secular, nationalist and democratic parties in the general elections of 2008.

The fact of the matter is that the ANP and the PPP contested the election on the stand that they would fight to eliminate terrorism and extremism, so it is a bit ironic that both parties have now done just the opposite. They failed to face the situation in Swat and have gone down on bended knees before the extremists.

The people of Buner, Shangla, Malakand, Lower and Upper Dir and Chitral never voted for the implementation of Sharia and did not rise up against the state for its implementation. In Buner people actually went after and killed some of the militants, and rose together as one against the extremists. And as a result of this, the militants killed over 40 people in one village of Buner alone as revenge. Despite this the people of the area never surrendered to the extremists, so they are going to be right in wondering that if they did not surrender, why has the government done just that? They ask why the state, despite having all the resources to nip this evil in the bud, chose to yield to the extremists.

Sufi Mohammad, someone who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of young men of Malakand, was inexplicably released from prison and his crimes of the past were conveniently forgiven. He is the very person who in 1994 challenged the writ of the state to the extent that his followers killed security personnel and even an MPA. This happened in Swat and Dir but the then Sherpao government ruling the NWFP for some reason withdrew all charges against Sufi Mohammad and his colleagues. In 2001, he declared jihad against the US in Afghanistan and took several thousand of his followers there to fight. Sufi Mohammed led these young men to their deaths in Afghanistan, and was the first to leave the battlefield together with his close followers when the American B-52 bombers came. Hundred of the others who went with him lost their lives and hundreds are still missing. On his return, the political agent of Kurram Agency imprisoned him under the Frontier Crimes Regulations and that was when his son-in-law, Fazlullah, filled the gap and established a foothold in Swat.

Strange are the way of politics in this country because one day someone is a killer and the next day he is labelled as a hero – and this is done by parties that claim to be the most secular and democratic in the country.

As for Fazlullalh, we all know what he did and continues to do. He challenged the state’s authority and his followed killed police constables, and army and paramilitary personnel in a most brutal manner. His group bombed schools and bridges, as well as the houses and hujras of many who tried to stand up to them. They deliberately targeted social, political and moderate religious figures and journalists in the district and many were killed and the rest compelled to leave Swat. Hundreds of thousands of people, like myself, were dislodged from their homes, and had to flee Swat. Most are now living a miserable life in other areas of Pakistan, and despite the so-called peace deal they are not sure if they can return to their homes. Not only were people’s lives and property were destroyed, the region’s whole economy was devastated by the terrorists. Fruit orchards went to waste because people were too afraid to work in the fields, and local businesses suffered immensely because tourism vanished. Over 2,000 innocent people, including many women and children, were killed and thousands were disabled and wounded in indiscriminate shelling and firing by security forces and the militants. As a result of the barbaric actions of Fazlullah and his followers, the centuries-old soft image of Swat and its inhabitants, based on its rich heritage dating back to its Buddhist and Swat-state eras, was lost forever. Did the government consider all this when it chose to capitulate to the extremists? What the people of Swat wanted was for the government to ensure that those behind all these murders and mayhem are held accountable for their crimes.

This brutality and carnage will not be forgotten easily by the people of Swat. It has taken its toll not just in physical terms but also on the mental wellbeing of the people of the area whose minds have been scarred. The mental health of women and children in particularly has been damaged by the actions of the militants and the incessant violence that they indulged in.

It is abominable that the government is actually now going to declare a general amnesty for Fazullah and his men, people who are directly responsible for all these deaths and atrocities that were inflicted on the people of Swat in the last two years. In this instance I would like to quote from one of this newspaper’s recent editorials following the so-called peace deal. “Fazlullah’s numerous acts of violence, his attempts to stifle learning and the way in which he targeted the most vulnerable citizens, show that he indeed cares nothing for Islam – a religion that advocates kindness for the oppressed, emphasises the significance of learning and lays down rules of respect for women, for minorities and even for enemies…. It seems obvious the ignorant forces of Fazlullah seek only power and are willing to use any means to obtain this.” This is precisely what the people of Swat think of Fazlullah and his men, but for obvious reasons were not able to articulate or demonstrate in public.

And what is the end result now? What is one to make of this deal? That Fazlullah has emerged victorious. And that both the federal and provincial governments are taking credit for the promulgation of Sharia in Swat. As for the people, they see this as nothing but an abject surrender to the forces of obscurantism and darkness, a surrender which presents a bleak future for the people of the area.

Sufi Mohammed is now the officially-sanctioned saviour of the people, but what about the people themselves? They have lost everything and gained nothing. And I say this because the deal gives them nothing in terms of holding accountable all those who killed, butchered and slaughtered hundreds of Swatis. Who will heal their bleeding hearts and souls? Certainly not this agreement.

The fear is that the militants will not remain confined to Malakand but will demand the same deal in the settled areas of the NWFP and in FATA as well. And they will use the same tactics and brutal force against the security forces and the people as they did in Swat. What will our politicians do then? Will they bow before them again? Or will they exercise the state’s authority? It shouldn’t take too long to wonder what the likely option will be, keeping in mind the Swat experience.

The people of Swat ask why the state is silent, rather than ensuring their rights, and why it treats those who are murderers and criminals and those who took up arms against the state as born-again heroes. They ask why this is done. What message is sent to those who abide by the law and want to have nothing to do with these militants and born-again heroes?

The people of Swat also say that financial compensation as is being announced by the government will not help heal the wounds. But what will is an independent high-level judicial probe into what happened in Swat, followed by accountability of those involved in the killings and violence. This is what the agreement should really be providing them – not the space and the legitimacy to the militants which is what they think has happened.

Email: lakhkarkhan51@yahoo.com

Pashtun Diaspora In Europe, Canada Wants Peace In Their Motherland

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 19, 2009









TORONTO- Pashtuns living in canada and Europe Sunday arranged peace demonstrations in Toronoto and Paris to condemn civilian deaths and destruction of educational institutions in the ongoing conflict between Pakistan security forces and Taliban militants in Swat Valley and other conflict ridden districts of North Western Pakistan.

The peace rally was organized by Pakhtunkhwa Peace Forum (PPF-Canada) in front of Ontario Legislative Building at Queens Park Toronto here on Sunday. Besides a large number of Pashtun students, workers and civil society activists, the ralley was also attended by members of the Canadian Muslim Congress, PRAP Canada, Canadian Institute for Peace and Democracy in Pakistan (CIPD), Canadian Pashtun Cultural Association, Pashtun Peace Forum, Pakistani Canadian Pashtun Association, Canadian Afghan Association and people from different walks of life.

The protestors where there to raise voice for thousands of innocent children, women and elderly people who are caught between the security forces and the insurgents in Swat Valley of Pakistan.

They raised placards oin their hands with slogans “Please Don’t Destroy our Schools”, “Stop Genocide of Pashtuns”, “We want Books not Bombs”, written on them.

They demanded of the United Nationa, Canadian government and other peace-loving members of the International Community to don’t close their eyes to the gross human rights voilation and bloodsheding of Pashtuns on the pretext of fighting a war against terrorism.

The protesters also demanded that the UN and the International Community should devise strategies that can ensure peace for the terrorised people of Swat and bring normalcy to the region.

The Peace rally was staged for two hours. Participants of the rally also passed a draft resolution that they will submit to the government of Canada.

Speaking on the occasion, the speakers expressed their extreme concern over the killing of people both by Taliban militants and the security forces. They said that bombing of the civilian population has become a daily routine with the secuirty forces.

They also demanded that the government and humanitarian organizations should take concrete steps to provide assistance to thousands of people who are displaced by the conflict both in Swat and Pakistan Tribal Areas. They also urged the media not to follow the line drawn by the authorities but do objective and factual reporting from Swat valley.

PARIS: Students, workers and human rights activists hold a protest demonstration at Human Rights Plaza Paris. The protesters stayed at the plaza for three hours with placards in their hands and chanting slogans against both militants and the military in Pakistan conflict-ridden Swat valley.

Tourists from different parts of France and other European countries showed their solidarity with the protesters by joing them and staying with them for sometime.

Addressing on the occasion the speakers said that Swat- an erstwhile tourists’ paradise had been turned into a virtual hell by the ill-devised policies of the Pakistani government and Taliban’s extremist religious agenda.

They maintained that the conflict left thousands of civilians killed, 0.7 million displaced and 200 educational institutions completely destroyed.

The protesters demanded of the international community to play its role in defusing tensions and devising a comprehensive strategy for restoring peace to North Western Pakistan (Pashtunkhwa).

“If the militancy is not checked properly it may engulp the whole south Asian region and jeopardy the prospects of a peaceful world”, the speakers maintained.

A child protesting against destruction of Schools by Taliban in Swat valley. PPost Photo

Rescue or surrender? Local hero brings sharia law to troubled region• Taliban-dominated area wins religious concession

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 19, 2009

• Government accused of capitulation to Islamists
Saeed Shah in Islamabad The Guardian, Wednesday 18 February 2009 Article historyWith his long, flowing white beard and black turban, Sufi Muhammad cut an imposing figure as he walked through the crowds in Mingora town, north-west Pakistan yesterday. Tribesmen and mullahs jostled to be at his side, then raised him aloft. All around, black-and-white flags fluttered – flags of the religious group founded by Muhammad, the Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi.

The organisation was banned in 2002 after Muhammad led hundreds of young men across the border to fight alongside the Taliban against the US-led coalition. He was jailed and only freed last year. Yesterday though, Muhammad was hailed as the man who brought peace to Pakistan’s Swat region – by securing the official imposition of Islamic law. Muhammad has persuaded the government of Pakistan to agree to the enforcement of sharia for the vast Malakand area, which includes Swat.

Desperate for a respite from violence, thousands turned out in Mingora, Swat’s main city, to greet him. A ceasefire was announced by the local Taliban in response to Muhammad’s deal, which was unveiled on Monday. And that has made this Islamist something of a local hero. Sweets were distributed in the town as people flocked on to the previously deserted streets. For the first time in months, all the shops opened, the bazaars were busy and even schools suddenly started teaching again.

“We have come out of a nightmare. We are very excited,” said Zubair Torwali, a social worker from Swat. “Ordinary people want peace at any cost.”

The authorities portrayed it as a political settlement to end the bloodshed. Others see it as the moment of Pakistan’s capitulation to the extremists.

Swat slipped out of government control two years ago, and over the last few months it had been an almost total takeover by a fearsome band of Taliban led by Muhammad’s estranged son-in-law, Mullah Fazlullah. Under the militants’ control, girls schools were closed, women banned from shopping, and public floggings and executions were carried out. The main business in Swat – tourism – was extinguished. For the people there, Sufi Muhammad had managed to get the extremists to lay down their arms in return for the introduction of Islamic courts. In turn, government forces will pull out of active operations in the region.

It remains unclear how much hold Muhammad has over Fazlullah and more hardline elements in the region. Yesterday, though, the people of Swat appeared relieved that the fighting had stopped.

“Today, the fear has finished,” Sherin Zada, a hotelier in Swat.

Others in this country, though, are less optimistic. “This is not a political solution. It is very clearly a surrender,” said Athar Minallah, a lawyer and civil liberties activist. “It’s a complete failure of the institutions of the state. The political forces are looking for a shortcut, but this will have very long-term repercussions for this country. It sends the message that anyone who takes up arms will succeed.”

Swat lies in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), just 100 miles from the capital Islamabad, not tribal areas further west that have always had their own rules and, after 9/11, have been largely lost to the Taliban and al-Qaida. In Swat in 2007, Fazlullah broke with the somewhat softer Islamist organisation of his father-in-law and joined the Pakistani Taliban, taking up arms and suicide bombings. The rule of the Taliban in Swat has led to the death of hundreds, while up to 500,000 may have fled their brutal attacks.

IA Rehman, director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, warned that the new courts, not the government, would end up deciding what constitutes sharia and Islamic punishments, producing a new tussle with the state. “There’s a question of whether it [sharia] can be contained to Malakand. Once it spreads to Frontier, then why not Punjab (Pakistan’s heartland)?” said Rehman.

The Pakistan army, which has around 12,000 soldiers deployed in a losing battle in Swat, announced that it will now hold fire against the militants.

Asad Munir, a retired army brigadier who was formerly head of military intelligence for the NWFP, said that the government was right to try to isolate Fazlullah by building up Sufi Muhammad and conceding the key demand of sharia. But he warned that military operations had to continue and that the Taliban would use the ceasefire to regroup.

“[The Taliban] are not going to leave the power they’ve got through the gun,” said Munir. “They will never surrender.”

The government, which is led by the secular Pakistan People party, seems not to know how to deal with the extremists. Islamabad said that the new laws would not come in until peace was restored and that the form of sharia would comply with the existing constitution of Pakistan.

“Western values cannot hold the ground all the time, said Raza Rabbani, a minister in the federal government. “You mix values and principles with ground realities and give it a touch which is Pakistani.”

Pakistan’s western allies view it differently. The British high commission in Islamabad warned that, “previous peace deals have not provided a … long-term solution to Swat’s problems”.

Nato, which heads the international coalition across the border, is concerned that Swat and the wider Malakand region could now become a sanctuary for militants that would then cross over into Afghanistan. “We should all be concerned by a situation in which extremists would have a safe haven. Without doubting the good faith of the Pakistani government, it is clear that the region is suffering very badly from extremists and we would not want it to get worse,” said a Nato spokesman, James Appathurai, in Brussels.

Law unto themselves
Malakand administrative “division” now comprises the mountainous, former princely states of Swat, Dir and Chitral, in the far north-west of Pakistan. These states remained independent during the British Raj and even after Pakistan was formed, becoming part of the country only in the 1960s.

In Swat, under the ruler, the “Wali of Swat”, there was what he called Islamic law and, though it was not a particularly religious form of justice at the time, many in the area hanker after sharia, remembering how quickly cases were decided in the Wali’s era.

A young Winston Churchill wrote his first published non-fiction book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, about a military campaign he fought in Malakand in 1897.

The British did not believe in the kind of peace deal just announced by Pakistan. In the book, Churchill describes a massacre of the local tribes, with six-foot-high piles of bodies.

Facebook | Pakhtunkhwa PeaceForum

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 19, 2009

Demonstration against the genocide of Pashtuns(Toronto)Photos

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 19, 2009

A Peace Rally organized by Pakhtunkhwa Peace Forum in Toronto, demanding to stop the killing of innocent Pashtun people:

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 16, 2009






Pakhtunkhwa Peace Forum

Media Release
February 15, 2009,

Stop the Genocide of Pashtuns

TORONTO- Protesting against the killing of innocent Pashtuns in northern Pakistan, Pakhtunkhwa Peace Form Canada (PPF-Canada) organized a peace rally in front of Ontario Legislative Building at Queens Park Toronto and demanded the United Nations ,Canada, and other peace-loving members of the international community to launch viable strategies for bringing peace and stability to Swat, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and other part of NWFP (Pakhtunkhwa) by engaging and empowering Pashtun social and political leadership. The rally was also joined in by Pashtun Peace Forum, Canadian Muslim Congress, PRAP Canada, Canadian Institute for Peace and Democracy in Pakistan (CIPD), Canadian Pashtun Cultural Association (CPCA), Pakistani Canadian Pashtun Association, Canadian Afghan Association and people from different walks of life, and demanded the Canadian government and United Nations to condemn the ongoing killing of innocent Pashtuns in Swat and other part of Pakhtunkhwa (North West province of Pakistan).

The rally continued for two hours and the participants unanimously passed a draft resolution of their demands to be submitted to the Government of Canada and then marched to the Downtown.

The main objectives of the rally were:

• To create awareness about the killings of innocent Pashtuns particularly in SWAT Valley, and generally in Pakhtunkhwa-North West of Pakistan.
• To stress upon Canadian Government, international community and all humanitarian organizations to take notice of the Pashtuns’ genocide unfolding in the area.

Speaking on the occasion, speakers said that an indiscriminate campaign of killing the local peaceful civilian population has been going on for the last more than one year , on one side by the Taliban and on the other side by the security forces under the pretext of attacking militants/Taliban . Population centers are regularly fired upon and shelled with gunship helicopters, mortars, and rockets. There is disproportionate and indiscriminate use of firepower. An area populated by more than one million people has been blockaded while electricity, fuel, water-supply and all sorts of food supply have been cut-off. More than 800,000 people have already been displaced. The number of deaths has crossed 3,000 mark while injured and maimed are believed to be 5-6 times that figure. To add insult to injury, local hospitals are closed while the district headquarters hospital is inaccessible due to indefinite curfews and blocked roads. Dead bodies are lying putrefying in the homes, fields and on roads while locals have no chance to bury them due to harsh curfews and incessant shelling. While the muzzled official media would make us believe that only militants are being targeted, in reality it is the innocent commoners who are bearing the brunt of this military adventurism.

Referring to latest Amnesty International Report on Swat Valley, Javed Akhtar, President Pakhtunkhwa Peace Forum, Canada, said that over the past year more than 3,000 innocent civilian have been killed and more than 800,000 have been displaced in the Swat valley as a result of fighting between Pakistani Taliban group and the Military. He pointed out that Amnesty has given very conservative figures of 1200 deaths that may have been true half a year ago but not now. He also spoke about destruction of more than 200 schools by Taliban, due to which 120,000 girls have been affected. He emphasized that due to the absence of representative media, Pashtuns are being portrayed as extremists and terrorists by the state media, to create a smokescreen for military adventurism and the genocide of Pashtun.

Other speakers added that they want to educate and apprise fellow Canadian, the Canadian media and journalists of this unreported genocide and asked Canadian newspapers and TV network to send reporters and cameramen to talk to hundred of Pashtuns women, children and men whose family members are being killed in Pakistan’s Pashtun area by the militants and security forces. Speakers also said that Pashtuns are Peace loving people and are against all form of terrorism. They stressed that Taliban are not Pashtuns, but are the killer of Pashtun and must not be associated with Pashtuns.

Participants of the rally demanded that parties involved in the conflict in the Pashtun areas in Pakistan should stop killing the Pashtuns in proxy wars and should reconcile their interests through non-violent and political means. They demanded the United Nations to formulate a new strategy for the region to put an end to the bloodshed and instability. Speakers asked the international community to strengthen both the NWFP (Pakhtunkhwa) and local Pashtun leaders at village and neighborhood levels in order to put an end to the influence of militants and outlaws. They also demanded the UN and international community to immediately provide shelter, food and immigration opportunities and refugee status to the hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) of FATA and Swat, Bajawar and other part of NWFP (Pakhtunkhwa) province of Pakistan on priority basis.

Speakers voiced the demand of Pashtuns and Afghans that the international community divert its investment in war to reconstruction and development of Pashtun people. It should invest in education, healthcare and small businesses so that the people and especially the youth are engaged in meaningful and positive activities and don’t fall prey to the subversive agendas of the extremist network.

Contact: organizer at ppfcanada@gmail.com