Pakhtunkhwa Times

PAKISTAN: Caught Between Army And Insurgents In Swat

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 7, 2009

PAKISTAN: Caught Between Army And Insurgents In Swat
IRIN
Sat, 07-Feb-2009

Caught between army and insurgents in Swat, civilians flee Swat Valley, NGOs say

SANGOTA, SWAT VALLEY, (IRIN) – Mariam Jan (not her real name), aged 13, describes the constant flow of human traffic she can see from her window in the Swat Valley town of Sangota: Large numbers of people are leaving, trudging up a dusty track towards Swat’s main city of Mingora.

A virtual prisoner in her own home, and her neighbourhood almost a ghost town, Mariam has nothing much to do as the schools are closed.

Her father Hammad Khan (not his real name), a civil servant, one of the few people who has so far not moved out of Sangota, said he would never send his daughter to school after the Taliban ban on female education. Right now his priority was keeping his family alive.

Each day Khan walks one hour and 15 minutes to get to work in Mingora. “I walk the same route that these displaced people take. This is the only way to get to Mingora as the army has blocked the main road.” Previously he drove along the main road into the city.

“The market [in Sangota] has been closed for the last 10 days and the prices of whatever is available are sky-high,” he said. Giving examples, he said a kilo of tomatoes was about 90 US cents as opposed to 20-25 US cents in Mingora, and LPG (light petroleum gas) was $1.88/kg instead of $1 in Mingora.

“For us, it is now a matter of life and death and also survival.” He said he had enough wheat stored for the year but he would have to buy other supplies in Mingora. “But what about people who do not go to the city or households headed by women who dare not go out?”

Khan said he knew of families who had fled Sangota in such a hurry that they “could not even give those who had died due to bombings a proper burial”.

IDP camps

He said the government had set up camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in government schools in Mingora, but few were staying there. “They prefer to stay with relatives or move further down to Malakand and Peshawar.”

According to Khan, the rich left Sangota and Mingora six months ago. Now it was the turn of the very poor, he said, who were moving out because they feared for their lives and were also looking for alternative livelihoods.

There is some chaos in the IDP camps as local management has broken down, and cold weather is making matters worse, according to local charities.

Charities like the Al-Khidmat Trust (run by the religious-political group Jamaat-e-Islami) and a few individuals are providing food for the IDPs.

Army campaign, more deaths

In the past week many civilian deaths have been reported, as the army has tried to step up its campaign against the insurgents.

“The Edhi Foundation [a charity] and Médecins Sans Frontières ambulances were also attacked while taking the injured to hospital, but it is unclear who fired at them,” said Khan.

Some say the recent army offensive may have weakened the Taliban and are optimistic the valley could soon see normalcy return, but Khan is sceptical, saying this could not happen “till they [army] attack their training centres and target the top leadership”.

The Taliban may have gone into temporary hiding but their daily sermons on illegal FM radio are as vitriolic as ever, according to local residents.

On 3 February insurgents cut NATO forces’ main supply route by blowing up a bridge in the Khyber Pass.

The district of Swat in North West Frontier Province, about 150km northeast of the regional capital Peshawar and with a population of 1.8 million, has been a hotbed of Islamist militancy over the past nearly two years.

ze/at/cb

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Swat, Somalia And Sharia Rafia Zakaria

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 7, 2009

Thu, 05-Feb-2009

Taliban Flogging an alleged drug dealer. Photo by Mushtaq Ahmad

Reducing justice to a crude pantomime devoid of equity and education to an expression of un-Islamic elitism, these groups rely on the most decrepit aspects of human nature to assure their own ascendancy

Early this week, the Taliban in Swat issued summons to over forty politicians asking them to appear before the sharia courts they have set up in the valley. As the Taliban have entrenched their power in the area, their courts have been busy carrying out public floggings, executions and amputations.

Similarly, in Somalia, a group called Al Shabab recently took over the border town of Baidou and also announced the imposition of sharia. In an announcement made in a large football stadium, Shaikh Muktar, a spokesman for the group, told an audience of hundreds: “We will make changes in the town and will rule by Islamic law”.

The overt relationship to the establishment of sharia courts to the failure of either the Pakistani or the Somali state to provide justice has been much discussed. When state institutions entrusted with the provision of security and justice fail, groups such as the Tehreek-e Taliban and Al Shabab find a ready structural vacuum through which they can gain control over the area. Pliant populations ravaged by insecurity and war and plagued by poverty predictably welcome the provision of any semblance of order, even if it implicates a devastating curb on personal freedom.

In Marka, a southern Somali town already under Al Shabab control, public floggings of drug addicts drew large crowds that appeared overwhelmingly supportive of the punishments being meted out to the accused. Similarly, a recent report by Al Jazeera showed residents of Swat insisting that the Taliban not only provide justice but also protection from the corruption of local police officials.

Yet while state failure may be the central factor explaining the ease with which the Al Shabab and the Taliban have been able to establish these courts, it is not the only one. Consideration must also be given to the strategic and political advantages gained by both these groups in harnessing the power to define in a visible and horrendously spectacular way what justice is supposed to mean.

The establishment of a parallel justice system that issues summons and enacts punishments is not simply a challenge to the existing political order but also an open mockery of the existing religious order. Instrumental in this project is the selection and edification of those aspects of sharia that are convenient to their political aims.

True to this objective, sharia courts both in Somalia and in Swat relegate themselves almost exclusively to enforcing hudood punishments: floggings, amputations and public executions being the order of the day, all other aspects of Islamic law are conveniently forgotten. Sharia is thus removed from the scholarly ambit of classical jurisprudence where logic and the instruments of legal interpretation would determine outcomes and employed in the project of producing a crowd-pleasing spectacle.

Voracious in their appetite for watching human suffering, the crowd is empowered by identifying with those inflicting the violence than with the victims, and absolved from the guilt of their enjoyment by religious sanction. In a cruel perversion, the enjoyment inherent in this pantomime of justice is presented as an Islamic duty and thus used to produce a population that edifies violence and so remains uncritical of it. Justice thus is made visible and tangible, a populist consumer good denuded of the elitist inaccessibility of scholarly deliberation and an emblem of the anti-intellectual anti-education platforms of its purveyors.

This political recipe of sharia justice employed by the Taliban and Al Shabab succeeds also because it capitalises on the particular position of both Pakistan and Somalia in relation to the Muslim world. Located on the periphery rather than the centre of Islam, both nations and especially the rural regions where Al Shabab and the Taliban are consolidating power have always been insecure about their relationship to the faith and their authenticity as Muslims.

Given this, the presentation of “pure Islam” accompanied by the visible destruction of old forms of worship and practice gives tangibility to the process of becoming truly Muslim. In the destruction of shrines, the bombing of schools, and the burning of CD shops, the population is given a ritualistic “cleansing” where embracing austerity and hardship is attached to salvation.

This is particularly potent since the already existing poverty of these populations is suddenly given religious meaning so long as they reject the trappings of modernity. It can be argued thus that the populations are embracing drastic changes in their lives not despite the draconian nature of the Taliban’s or Al Shabab’s interpretation of sharia but rather because of it.

It is in their use of sharia justice as a political mechanism designed to invoke mass appeal that groups like the Taliban and Al Shabab have hit on a strategy that is difficult to counter by state mechanisms. Among populations that are largely illiterate, incredibly poor and routinely ignored, change is hard to deliver especially when it is means the investment of resources for which competition is tough and political wrangling rampant. Groups like the Taliban and Al Shabab have succeeded in defining change as destruction and justice as spectacle and have arrived at a populist recipe that is wildly successful since it requires nearly zero in terms of material investments.

By aping practices of states like Saudi Arabia that are invested with sanctity in the mind of the Somali peasant or the Swati shepherd, the Taliban and Al Shabab can deliver change by destroying graves and force compliance by promising grand rewards after death. Since the delivery on such promises is conveniently relegated to the afterlife, the risks of disappointment and the spectre of political accountability is conveniently eliminated.

The hijacking and effective recasting of sharia as a populist tool meant to convert the poor into accepting violence and barbarity as emblematic of Islamic justice is a tragedy. Viewing it as such also reveals how populations who have been plagued by sense of inferiority owing to their illiteracy and poverty present fertile grounds for exploitation by groups such as Al Shabab and the Taliban. Reducing justice to a crude pantomime devoid of equity and education to an expression of un-Islamic elitism, these groups rely on the most decrepit aspects of human nature to assure their own ascendancy.

Rafia Zakaria is an attorney living in the United States where she teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. She can be contacted at rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

Challenges Faced By The Pakhtoons Dr.Adalat Khan

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 7, 2009

Wed, 04-Feb-2009

Pashtun Youth are protesting on London streets against raising voilence in Swat Valley.

In the history of nations there comes a time when either they have to wake up and carve a better destiny for themselves or lose their very existence. Today the Pukhtun nation has reached such a stage where it faces enormous challenges and risk being annihilated. Continued violence with the resultant deaths of many innocent people, extremely fragile law and order situation, disunity and many other difficulties are faced by us. Let us reflect and examine what are the key challenges faced by the Pakhtuns and what remedial steps are needed to meet them.

-The terrorism and extremism label: Both the international as well as the national media has painted such a distorted picture of Pakhtuns that the minute you tell someone you are a Pukhtun, Pashtoon, or Pathan they visualize you as a terrorist, extremist, Taliban or pro-Taliban or some type of other irrational person who is bent on destroying humanity. Of course this label is equally used for Muslims at large but specifically for Pakhtuns on both sides of the Durand line these terms have become synonymous with our race and nation. Granted there are some bigots in Pakhtuns who have brought havoc not only on others but also on their own people. But then which race and nation do not have the same type of misguided elements? Ku Klux Klan and the Neocon in the US, global Jewish superamists , RSS in India and Western Evangelists all preach hatred and intolerance but none of them has been given the same labels by the media pundits as the Pakhtuns. The reasons being that these groups are extremely organized and do not allow anyone to point fingers at them. For example anyone calling a Jewish extremist even though they kill innocent people, destroy homes and illegally occupy others’ lands will be branded as anti-semite. Why must Pukhtun allow its nation to be misrepresented and given bad names?

– Disunity: The only thing over which Pakhtuns are united is to be dis-united and this is our biggest weakness. At their zenith of unity they were the master of the world and were ruling others but when they started fighting one another they lost everything they had including their power, land, and overall dignity. It makes people think why the born fighters people who ruled others are now being ruled by others including some illiterate band of people who in the name of Islam are taking their liberty. Where is the tradition of cooperation and unity to get rid of these evil forces who has brought dis-unity and bloodshed to our land. Pakhtuns need unity and unison of thoughts desperately at this juncture of time to consolidate into a true Nation. Disunity is the old disease with which the Pakhtuns have been suffering. Moguls, British and all adversaries of Pakhtuns exploited this weakness. Unite we must else we wish to perish from the face of the earth.

– Illiteracy: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation ” the advice put forward more than fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him ) has profound application for today’s Pukhtuns too who face enormous challenges. One of the greatest challenges faced by all nations today is to keep pace with the rapid changes taking place in the world. These changes require every one in the world to continuously update their knowledge and skills. In fact the nation as a whole should develop strategies which encourage everyone to learn new knowledge, upgrade their skills and acquire better attitudes. Why Japanese are the economic giants of the world despite the fact that they do not have any natural resources? The answer is their passion for knowledge and Human Resources development. To gain our past glory, to help our selves and positively contribute towards humanity we must acquire contemporary knowledge and get rid of the curse of illiteracy which is one of the biggest challenges faced by us. Along with the mastery of the guns we must acquire the mastery of the pen.

– Globalisation: Globalisation is storming the whole world and all less developed people are in danger of losing their culture. This also applies to Pakhtuns. It can be defined as the increasing interconnectedness of people and places as a result of advances in transport, communication, and information technologies that cause political, economic, and cultural convergence. Pakhtuns risks losing its culture not only because of globalisation but occupying powers see our culture as the only obstacle to subdue us. Across the Durand line the Americans and Nato forces are not only engaged in defeating the so called terrorism or Taliban but they are also actively promoting the Western culture, Christianity, and Westernization. What can the Pakhtuns do to be a respectable global citizen? Sadly the answer is nothing at this moment? However sitting idle and doing nothing is not an answer. Pakhtuns while maintaining the good traits of its culture and faith must acquire new traits and skills to be able to effectively compete with other advanced nations. Instead of serving as a security guard or shoe shiners in our own country and foreign lands Pakhtuns must be able to lead and manage businesses and people and be able to perform other tasks which are generally respected.

Every race, nation, and people face tough times and those who are intelligent and brave emerge of out of them as winners. Today the Pakhtuns too face enormous difficulties and challenges. The unjustifiable label of extremism and terrorism, disunity and lack of good leadership, bombing of its people and inability to be global citizens are some of the challenges faced by Pakhtuns. Self defeating traditions such as internal enmities with its fellow Pakhtuns, superstitions, and close-mindedness also keep us backward. By confronting these evils Pakhtuns must write a better destiny for themselves and their coming generation. I am sure in the past too Pakhtuns have weathered various storms and by sheer unity, acquisition of modern knowledge and fast action Pakhtuns can not only help themselves but can positively contribute to the welfare of its countrymen, its neighbours and the human race at large. When is the time to do this? The time is NOW!!!

Dr Adalat Khan is a senior coloumnist based in Malaysia. He can be reached at dradalat@gmail.com

PAKISTAN: Caught Between Army And Insurgents In Swat IRIN

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 7, 2009

Sat, 07-Feb-2009

Caught between army and insurgents in Swat, civilians flee Swat Valley, NGOs say

SANGOTA, SWAT VALLEY, (IRIN) – Mariam Jan (not her real name), aged 13, describes the constant flow of human traffic she can see from her window in the Swat Valley town of Sangota: Large numbers of people are leaving, trudging up a dusty track towards Swat’s main city of Mingora.

A virtual prisoner in her own home, and her neighbourhood almost a ghost town, Mariam has nothing much to do as the schools are closed.

Her father Hammad Khan (not his real name), a civil servant, one of the few people who has so far not moved out of Sangota, said he would never send his daughter to school after the Taliban ban on female education. Right now his priority was keeping his family alive.

Each day Khan walks one hour and 15 minutes to get to work in Mingora. “I walk the same route that these displaced people take. This is the only way to get to Mingora as the army has blocked the main road.” Previously he drove along the main road into the city.

“The market [in Sangota] has been closed for the last 10 days and the prices of whatever is available are sky-high,” he said. Giving examples, he said a kilo of tomatoes was about 90 US cents as opposed to 20-25 US cents in Mingora, and LPG (light petroleum gas) was $1.88/kg instead of $1 in Mingora.

“For us, it is now a matter of life and death and also survival.” He said he had enough wheat stored for the year but he would have to buy other supplies in Mingora. “But what about people who do not go to the city or households headed by women who dare not go out?”

Khan said he knew of families who had fled Sangota in such a hurry that they “could not even give those who had died due to bombings a proper burial”.

IDP camps

He said the government had set up camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in government schools in Mingora, but few were staying there. “They prefer to stay with relatives or move further down to Malakand and Peshawar.”

According to Khan, the rich left Sangota and Mingora six months ago. Now it was the turn of the very poor, he said, who were moving out because they feared for their lives and were also looking for alternative livelihoods.

There is some chaos in the IDP camps as local management has broken down, and cold weather is making matters worse, according to local charities.

Charities like the Al-Khidmat Trust (run by the religious-political group Jamaat-e-Islami) and a few individuals are providing food for the IDPs.

Army campaign, more deaths

In the past week many civilian deaths have been reported, as the army has tried to step up its campaign against the insurgents.

“The Edhi Foundation [a charity] and Médecins Sans Frontières ambulances were also attacked while taking the injured to hospital, but it is unclear who fired at them,” said Khan.

Some say the recent army offensive may have weakened the Taliban and are optimistic the valley could soon see normalcy return, but Khan is sceptical, saying this could not happen “till they [army] attack their training centres and target the top leadership”.

The Taliban may have gone into temporary hiding but their daily sermons on illegal FM radio are as vitriolic as ever, according to local residents.

On 3 February insurgents cut NATO forces’ main supply route by blowing up a bridge in the Khyber Pass.

The district of Swat in North West Frontier Province, about 150km northeast of the regional capital Peshawar and with a population of 1.8 million, has been a hotbed of Islamist militancy over the past nearly two years.