Pakhtunkhwa Times

Swat Under Taliban Rule BY Shaheen Buneri

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 2, 2009

Fri, 30-Jan-2009

Taliban militants have responded to a unanimous resolution passed this month by the Pakistan parliament to fight terror with renewed zeal and to protect women’s rights and educational institutions in the violence-hit Swat Valley, by destroying some more schools and summoning 40 politicians to appear before Taliban court or face retribution.

The announcement summoning the politicians made by Maulana Fazlullah, a cleric turned militant commander, live on his illegal FM Radio, sent shockwaves throughout the district. The names he mentioned are senior members of different political parties, mainly the Pashtun Nationalist Awami National Party that currently rules the volatile North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

The warning came immediately after Ayub Ashari, a provincial minister from Swat, along with two members of the Provincial Assembly, visited Swat last week to boost the morale of the security forces and the people.

Addressing a press conference, the provincial minister pledged that all steps would be taken to establish government control in the region.

Locals say the visit of the provincial officials was a serious blow to Taliban’s reign of terror, as after the visit people in Swat, particularly the youth, gained enough courage to openly criticize Taliban for their actions.

“We feel really encouraged to see some senior officials of the provincial government in Swat after a break of seven months,” said Ahmad Ali Khan, a resident of Mingora Swat. “Such moves must continue to bolster people’s morale and to put the militants on the defensive.”

Taliban militants under the command of Fazlullah dominate 90 percent of the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan, where they publicly administer “Islamic punishments” to government sympathizers, female dancers, school teachers and local influentials.

The approximately 40,000 Pakistan security forces, who have been fighting Fazlullah’s militants since October 2007, have been confronted with a renewed and intensified insurgency that is now spreading to the neighboring districts of Buner, Malakand Agency, Dir and Shangla.

The conflict has displaced half million people from the idyllic valley and resulted in the destruction of more than 180 educational institutions.

Analysts believe the Taliban are a major threat to the integrity of Pakistan and it is the responsibility of all the stakeholders to come together and to devise a comprehensive and pragmatic strategy against terror. Neither the military nor the civilian administration can work in isolation, and there must be more coordination and cooperation between the two to eliminate militancy, they say.

Commenting on the current situation, Khadim Hussain Amir, an Islamabad-based political analyst, says that the Taliban want to perpetuate fear by such actions and it is high time for the political and military leadership to break the chain of terror created, encouraged and perpetuated by the Taliban by killing people and issuing warnings to the local social and political leadership.

“I am viewing this issue in its historical perspective. In 2006, Talibanization in Swat was a localized process. Taliban had no networking with other militant groups in Pakistan tribal areas and they did not have a fully trained and equipped militia,” Amir said.

“In 2007, they not only established contacts with other groups, but they also brought local criminal gangs under the umbrella of the Taliban movement, set up parallel courts and started targeted killings. This created enormous fear among the people. Now they want to silence all voices against them by utilizing this fear factor,” Amir added.

After targeted killings and suicide attacks on government buildings and public gatherings that have killed hundreds of people over the last two years, the Taliban in Swat have been confronted with the issue of how to consolidate their control of the area.

At the beginning, to win support from the unprivileged and downtrodden classes of the society, they occupied the fertile lands of local landlords and distributed them among the poor.

In their courts they resolve feuds on an equal basis, and a number of court decisions have gone against the local elite. This process strengthens their position and many unemployed and unskilled youth have joined the Taliban fold.

Once they settled into their bases in different parts of the upper Swat Valley, the Taliban embarked on collecting funds and demanding weapons from the locals and punishing people in public at the slightest suspicion of supporting the government or criticizing their actions.

Meanwhile, security forces have pounded villages and civilian populations, which has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 civilians.

Recently, ministers in the NWFP government blasted the military for inaction and lack of vision in Swat.

NWFP minister for information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, told the media in Peshawar that the military had been in charge of all the affairs in Swat since the launch of military operations in 2007 and if the military had failed to eradicate militancy, then the people had no option but to pray to God.

The military has its own take on what is happening in Swat. Military officers say it is the responsibility of the government to place efficient civilian administration in the district and provide relief to the people affected by the conflict.

They believe that peace agreements between the provincial government and Fazlullah have only helped the Taliban to regroup and strengthen their position.

When the military operation was launched, it was claimed by the military commanders that the area would be cleared of all militants within three weeks. The fact is that now the militants are knocking on the doors of Mingora, the administrative capital and main urban center of the Swat district.

Maj.-Gen. Athar Abbas, Pakistan’s military spokesman, says that the army was following a new strategy to clear major urban areas and villages of militants.

“The military will not be static, it will not be reactive. It will be reaching out to people to get their support,” he told the Pakistan Daily Dawn.

However, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan is standing firm and says that the military should leave the area immediately and the government should enforce the Islamic legal system in the region to avoid more violence and bloodshed.

“If there is no Shari’a, there will be no peace,” he told The Media Line.

Whatever the result of the ongoing conflict in Swat, the reality is that the Swat Valley will never be the same as when thousands of tourists from all over the world would flood the area every summer to enjoy its fascinating natural scenery, snow-capped mountains and centuries-old cultural heritage in the shape of hundreds of Buddhist archeological sites spreading over every part of the valley.

This Article also appeared in the Medialine, a Mideast News Agency


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  1. Anonymous said, on February 18, 2009 at 9:16 am

    The News International, Pakistan

    Our rulers: erratic, fearful and full of deceit

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    By Shireen M Mazari

    Just when one was about to commend the President for finally seeing the light in terms of agreeing to the NWFP government signing a deal with the TNSM for peace in Swat, we witnessed the usual backtracking from the Presidency, if Ms Rehman the official propagandist is to be believed. That, in turn, led to the ANP government being pushed into a state of confusion over what exactly it had signed on to in the agreement it made in front of representatives of all the major political parties – barring the JI which refused to attend. This has marked all the negotiations and agreements made to end militancy and violence earlier also – not just in Swat but also in FATA where US drones always put paid to any peace through negotiations.

    It is no wonder then that the government has no credibility on any issue – given its record of erratic behaviour. But we have also seen a chorus of protest from the westernised or, as they see themselves, ‘the liberal” lobbies within the urban areas of the country regarding what they see as a fatal compromise before the religious lobbies and Shariah. Undoubtedly there is much substance in the question “whose shariah?” There are also many legal issues that will also arise including the issue of minorities although according to this latest Swat accord, minorities will not be subjected to the Shariah laws as is the case in the rest of the country in terms of personal laws. As for the issue of discrimination, this is a national blight against the minorities and needs to be tackled with at the national level.

    The main point is that the people of Swat have been pushed against a wall and that is why they have accepted the news of this accord with a weary relief if not outright joy. Who are we in the cities to begrudge them this peace and let us not forget the history of the locals’ demand for their earlier Qazi courts which they saw as dispensing credible justice? Mercifully some foreign elements like the Australian foreign minister have at least shown some understanding of the Swat situation as it seems has hapless Prime Minister Gilani.

    The argument that you cannot have differing laws in different parts of the country is absurd given how we already have different laws for different categories of citizens in terms of personal laws. In any case, since we are so enamoured of the West, let us recall how in the US different states have different laws including bans on alcohol and gambling, not to mention the death penalty. If we seek decentralisation and autonomy for the provinces, then we must concede them the power to set their own houses in order with decentralised laws, including laws relating to taxation. So perhaps we should hope that peace will return to Swat and allow the displaced people to restart their lives. Already the Presidential delay in giving the nod for the negotiations added to the bloodshed and destruction.

    The Nizam-i-Adl relates to Personal Law primarily and, according to some lawyers, while Islamic nomenclatures are being used, the law itself is not too far removed from such laws in the rest of the country. Also it has scope for arbitration. Of course one is not sure what the final form of the laws will be which the President will sign – if he does so at all, given the instability of decision-making in that quarter. What would be required would be monitoring and assessment of whether the re-establishment of what were the old Qazi courts would now come up to people’s expectations and provide them with quick and credible justice.

    For the rest of the country it is important to realise that if we do not want to create a situation akin to what has been happening in Swat, we need to push the government into establishing the rule of law and an independent judiciary as well as ensuring the safety and security of all its citizens – especially against foreign threats. It is in this context that Pakistan has to delink from the US and reclaim all our bases from them. Unless we create some space between ourselves and the US, there will never be any stability in this country.

    If we do not want to see “fundamentalists” and “extremists” gain ground in other parts of Pakistan then we need to have a responsive state that is able to provide credible and cheap justice to all its citizens and is able to deliver social justice to its deprived citizenry. If it only looks to appeasing foreign powers, it will continue to weaken itself from within. The drone attacks may kill a few militants but they also destroy ordinary people’s homes and lives and that has its costs for this country – especially in terms of more space being created for militants. It is not dialogue with the militants that will bring extremist Taliban ideology to Pakistan but ignoring the rising tide of disaffection amongst the people for the rulers, the military and the corrupt state institutions which have made a mockery of the rule of law and justice.

    In the context of FATA, for those who think that tribal lashkars rising against the Taliban are a sign of the rejection of the latter, let us not fool ourselves. The tribals are being armed and paid to act as proxies for the US through our military and that is a dangerous development in an area where there are already too many arms floating around. Also, as we have seen so many times before, proxies develop a life of their own and cannot be controlled or reined in when required. As for those who feel the Pakistan Army is deliberately not crushing the militants in FATA, they should ask themselves why NATO and the US are unable to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan where they now control almost 70 % of that country! Another favourite cop out is to declare non-Pushtun Pakistanis as unable to understand the Pushtuns. This is ridiculous since as a Pakistani one understands the hopes and fears of fellow Pakistanis – be they Pukhtun, Baloch or any of the other groups that exist in this country and whose blood flows in a happy mix in so many of the citizens. It is the external powers who do not understand any Pakistani except the corrupt ruling elite and the latter who choose not to understand the obvious.

    What is required in FATA is for a political framework to be created and implemented within which economic incentives can come to the area (not through US funded ROZs but indigenous enterprises) and negotiations can be initiated between all stake holders. We need to do what the British did finally in Northern Ireland after years of unsuccessful military operations, when they moved to unconditional talks and negotiations. We need to recall how violent the terrorist acts were in Northern Ireland, spreading to England also. Our state needs to begin dialogue and negotiations with all the Pakistani militants – so that the foreigners are isolated. All dialogue requires give and take and eventually hard line positions are abandoned. The success of the Good Friday Agreements is a case in point.

    At the national level, the need of the hour is to move towards operationalising the consensual resolution of the Parliament and calling an APC to create a national political consensus on a dialogue and negotiation policy for the FATA region while extricating ourselves from all the commitments made by the Musharraf regime with the US. The costs of these commitments have been far greater and more long term than the gains which have been transitory at best in terms of money – which in itself is an issue of controversy. After all, we have reduced our state to a mercenary entity for the US – a country that neither understands Pakistan nor is interested in sensitising itself to this nation. This is once again apparent in the comments of Holbrooke in India.

    As for the US and our successive governments, let us be under no illusion as to the US negative agenda towards Pakistan, especially its strategic nuclear assets. The drone attacks have now spread to Kurram Agency also and it is now verifiable on the internet that the drones are rolled out from a special drone base in Balochistan around Washuk or Shamsi, while control is from the US (Maps and actual coordinates are readily available on websites such as Dictatorship Watch). So it is time for the GoP to stop its lying and come clean to its people even as it must extricate itself from the killing of its citizens. Equally important, let us see some spine and resoluteness from our rulers, rather than the trembling fear that crops up at the least US whimper.

    The writer is a defence analyst. Email:

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