Pakhtunkhwa Times

Rough justice in Swat The growing influence of the Taliban in the North-West Frontier Province is a direct threat to Pakistan’s fragile democracy: BY

Posted in Pakhtunkhwa News by ppfcanada on March 25, 2009

Mustafa Qadri
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 21 March 2009 16.00 GMT

For once the news out of Pakistan was positive this week with the reinstatement of Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and all other judges sacked by the former president, Pervez Musharraf. But, in the afterglow of that great landmark in Pakistan’s still youthful experiment with democracy, there were sobering reminders of the bitter reality of an encroaching Taliban insurgency.

A mere 100 miles north of the celebrations in Islamabad the restive mountains of Swat were beginning their first taste of de facto Taliban rule. This week the pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Sufi Mohammad warned government-appointed judges to stay away from the provincial courts. Under a peace deal reached between Mohammad’s Tehreek-e-Nifaaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TSNM), or Movement for the of Enforcement of Islamic Law, and the North-West Frontier Province government last month, the Taliban are to stop fighting in exchange for the implementation of sharia law.

As feared, rough, rural justice appears to be the order of the day.

In an interview to a local outlet, the leader of the TSNM, Mohammad said the judges of the state were no longer needed because their pronouncements were no longer valid. Pakistan already has a sharia, or “Islamic law”, court system; but even this is not recognised by the TSNM. The system envisaged by Mohammad is unique to the region and it has one selling point: the hearings and decisions are swift.

Already, since Tuesday, Qazis or religious judges appointed by Mohammad have made a number of rulings: 30 decisions in one day alone according to authorities. Under the old civil and common law system still used in most of Pakistan, legal process was mired in corruption and typically took several years.

Although the Swat valley is often called a settled part of Pakistan, it has more in common with the tribal areas that abut the border with Afghanistan than the urban centres of Punjab and Sindh. Until 1969 Swat was ruled by the Akhund, a line of oppressive despots who forbade both men and women from seeking an education under the threat of harsh punishment. Most Swatis are Pashtun, the dominant ethnic group of Pakistan’s tribal areas. And although the laws of Pakistan were meant to apply in Swat (unlike in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas), the legal process was corrupt and inefficient.

That history is more than a footnote to the situation here: it is a living, breathing legacy that connects past disenfranchisement with today’s poverty, ignorance and desperation.

These failings gave the Taliban and TSNM a casus belli for confronting the state – they promised stability in exchange for their version of Islam. Now, this war-ravaged society, that had spent most of the past six decades of Pakistan’s existence in relative tranquillity, is desperate for anything that will offer stability.

As though it were “year zero”, Mohammad claims that Islamic law forbids references to the past because “The [Prophet Muhammad] says a Muslim should not discuss past happenings because he may not remember all the [details] and, therefore, he may… sin by not speaking the truth.”

And so, addressing the crimes committed by the Taliban, or compensating their victims or their victims’ families, is un-Islamic too. He also contends that the Taliban can keep their weapons because everyone else is armed – a statement which only appears logical if there is no historical context.

To be fair, this obfuscation of moral responsibility, a particularly ironic yet somehow revealing one at that, is not unique to Mohammad or TSNM. Virtually all mainstream Islamic political parties and organisations have the same tendency. When I asked the Emir or leader of Jamaat-e-Islami in Karachi what motivates Pakistan’s Taliban movements, he replied by saying they did not exist – those that bomb girls’ schools and kill their fellow, predominantly poor Muslim Pakistanis are foreign agents, not Taliban.

Hamid Gul, the czar-like former chief of the powerful Inter Services Intelligence, routinely queries the existence of the Taliban too. Even Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician who is sometimes difficult to pinpoint on the left-right divide, focuses more on foreign interference in Pakistan than the Taliban’s violence.

There have been persistent murmurs of foreign involvement in some of the violence engulfing Pakistan. While many may roll their eyes upon reading that, it is important to remember that foreign support for militancy in Pakistan has an old pedigree. The most well-known instance of this was during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan when, along with the United States and Saudi Arabia, China and Israel helped the mujahideen wage their jihad.

India has been suspected of supporting the secessionist Baluchistan Liberation Army and involvement in sporadic bombings in major Pakistani cities.

Given the lawlessness of so much of Pakistan’s tribal agencies, and the traditional militancy of its tribes there, the lure of warlords willing to enlist their foot soldiers for suicide missions to the highest bidder may be too big a prize for any number of intelligence agencies in the region to keep away from.

Yet, even if foreign governments are involved, the reality of Pakistan’s rapid radicalisation must not be deprived of the scrutiny it deserves.

Were adequate time given to analysing the power relations that shape this troubled part of the world, the role of Saudi Arabia in inculcating its puritan, Wahhabi Islam in Pakistan would surely also deserve several volumes. While the Saudis have, over the past few years, been at the forefront of attempts to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflict with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they have not relinquished their dreams of creating an archipelago of satellite states beholden to the House of Saud’s ideological dictates.

Nawaz Sharif is part of that project. Sharif sought refuge in Saudi Arabia after being removed by General Pervez Musharraf in a May 1999 bloodless coup. Indeed, the Saudis intervened to stave the former prime minister’s appointment with life imprisonment by offering him exile in the land of Islam’s birth (albeit a very different one to that practised there today).

Since his return to Pakistan in December 2008, Sharif has been a vocal critic of the United States’ missile strikes in Pakistan, characterising them – correctly, if inadvertently – as an example of Pakistan’s subservience to the United States. More significantly, these criticisms have served to avoid scrutiny of the very real, murderous insurgency that is waging war with Pakistan.

The US itself has only exacerbated matters by increasing its missile strikes in Waziristan and, since last month, in neighbouring Kurram agency too. Only yesterday, the Obama administration publicly revealed that it is considering expanding strikes to include Baluchistan, geographically the largest state in the country and a region often gripped with violent calls for secessionism fuelled by the ethnic Baluchi’s marginalisation by the wider Pakistan state.
(Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/20/pakistan-afghanistan)

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Punjab’s Pakistan By RSN Singh Issue: Vol 22.4

Posted in News, Pakistan News by ppfcanada on March 24, 2009

Pakhtunkhwa: Matter of Identity By Dr. Sher Zaman Taizai

Posted in Pakhtunkhwa News by ppfcanada on March 24, 2009

The NWFP assembly at long last, passed the historic resolution on November 13, calling for naming this nameless province of Pakistan as Pakhtunkhwa. This day and event will be included as a golden chapter in the long and turbulent history of Pakhtuns, for which the provincial assembly deserves gratitude. The North West Frontier Province is not a name but identification of a geographical locality. With the creation of Pakistan, all its five provinces became frontier provinces due to their location on borders with other countries. Hence it became essential to change the name of this province. This point was raised, for the first time, by the great leader of the century, Bacha Khan, in the first legislative assembly of Pakistan who demanded he name Pakhtunistan for the province. The then prime minister Liaqat Ali Khan used the word Pathanistan, but Bacha Khan corrected him saying it was Pakhtunistan.

Nevertheless, political jugglers did not allow passage of a constitution, nor considered the fundamental issue of identification of the nationalities of Pakistan. They rather denied the identification of nationalities against all norms and mores of religious tenets, political and social sciences, with strange and baseless arguments. In fact, Pakistan was taken over by a particular group of imported bureaucrats, who implicated the people of Pakistan in self-made issues, exploited sectarian and ethnic diversities and suppressed political freedom. The group strengthened its hold on the print and electronic media to force the people, instead of serving them, to surrender to their whims and wills. All media were made to distort events ridicule dissert and dishonour the Pakistani leaders and at times them as traitors.

Punjab was divided in two parts but the name remained the same because majority of its population considered themselves Punjabi, whereas names of cities, streets and parks were changed. But the alien and un-Islamic names of Haripur named after Hari Singh Nalwa, Abbottabad built by an English bishop Abbott and Mansehra after General Mian Singh, were not changed. In Peshawar, Burj Hari Singh has been obliterated, but many other names like Hari-Chand, Rampura Street etc have not yet been changed.

Efforts were made to ruthlessly suppress the question of identification of the people of East Pakistan. The result was secession of one wing of Pakistan. The loss of East Pakistan ensued economic depression in the remaining part of Pakistan. For the first time, the Bhutto government devalued Pakistan currency by 130 percent. The process of devaluation continues at an uneven pace. By now, the value of Pakistan currency has gone down by more than 2,500 percent.

When the Sindhi language was granted official status in Sindh, during the regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it was hoped that other provinces would also follow suit. But the government of Maulana Mufti Mahmood in Pakhtunkhwa did not consider the status of Pashto enough to grant it recognition as the official language of the province and introduce it as medium of education. The provincial government was shared by Jamiat-ul-Ulema and National Awami Party. The latter received a shocking setback with this policy.

During the rule of General Zia-ul-Haq, secret agencies analysed the issue convincing the general to change the name. General Fazal Haq governor of the province introduced Pakhto as medium of education at the primary level. At that time the anti-Pakhto and anti-Pakhtun elements, in the government services, moved to sabotage the whole process. They put introduction of Pakhto language in educational institutions to surveys in order to bring out fabricated statistics against the decision. It was ridiculous! They were not asked by the authorities where and when such surveys were made! Had any such surveys even been made for introduction of Persian, English and Urdu languages in educational institutions in the sub-constitution? In fact, there were people in the government of Pakhtunkhwa who sponsored such elements against the interest of overwhelming majority. General Zia-ul-Haq had agreed in principle to give the province a name, but he was a little wary of new name Pakthonistan for fear of to its exploitation by the anti-Pakhtun lobby . At that time Khan Abul Wali Khan ,a scholar of Pakthons history and a seasoned politician, came out with the alternative name of Pakhtunkhwa with a view to avert any such reaction. Pakhtunkhwa is an old name of the area inhabited by Pakhtuns. Greek historian Herodotus had recorded it as Paktia, but Pakhto poets from the time of Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori down to the present age, have been mentioning it as Pakhtunkhwa. The appellation of North West Frontier Province can be found only in the official papers and school books.

In 1981, census was carried in Pakistan. According to that census, Pashto is the second largest language, next to the Punjabi, in Pakistan. Mother tongue of 68.3 percent of the population of Pakhtunkhwa is Pakhtu. The ratio of Hindko speakers was 18.13 percent. The rest 13.57 percent speak other languages, like Khowar (Chitrali), Kohistani, Gojri, Shina etc. The anti-Pakhtunkhwa reaction makes it clear that the 18.13 percent Hindko speaking population included the people of Hazara and Dera Ismail Khan also, who now claim that they are not Hindko speakers. Main languages in the Hazara division are Potohari and Pakhto, and in Dera Ismail Khan division Pakhto and Saraiki. Excluding these groups, Hindko is limited to Peshawar and Kohat cities only. Thus the ratio of non-Pakhto speakers in Hazara falls, at province level, to less than ten percent. In that division, 40 percent of the population are Pakhto speakers. Hazara Pakhto Academy has, so far, published many standard books in Pakhto. Its output is much more quantitatively and qualitatively, than every other language of the division. The rest 60 percent population of Hazara division speaks not only Potohari but many other languages, although most of these people belong to Pakhtun clans, such as Jadoon, Swati, Tarin, Mashwani etc. As far as Dera Ismail Khan is concerned, it had been raised by Sardar Ismail Khan Sadozai. Petty states in that division, including Tank, were ruled by the Sadozai Nawab till very recently. Majority of the population of Dera Ismail

Khan city comprised Sadozais who speak Saraiki. Now the Masood tribesmen, living in Dera Ismail Khan city, have considerable influence in the social and political life of that city. They speak nothing but Pakhto. A small portion of the population of Tank city speak another language, which is different from Siraiki. Majority of its population comprises Masood, Kundi, Bhittani, Sherwani and Marwat, all Pakhto-speaking groups.

In the tribal belt, 99.7 percent people are Pakhto speakers. The rest 3 percent are Hindus and Sikh who speak Hindi and Gurmukhi.

Now, we come to those people who oppose the name of province. Naib Amir of Jamaat Islami, Liaqat Baloch, says that the people have rejected the name What does he mean by the people, and who are the people he represents. He himself had been rejected by the people of his own constituency in the general elections. This rejected and dejected group pushes people into trouble to take revenge on them for having rejected it. As regards the Saifullah brothers, the storm-in-the-cup show have exposed their shallow stance. Having opposed the resolution on the floor of the assembly, they are not able, now, to show up in their own constituencies. They have rushed to Abbottabad to mislead the people and prepare grounds for their return to their home constituencies. These brothers are not interested in any issue but power. The people and political parties of Pakhtunkhwa do not consider them important.

There was a statement in the press attributed to some ulema of Hazara, considering the name of Pakhtunkhwa un-Islamic. First of all, we do not believe that such a vague and funny statement have come from an alim. Not in reply to the respectable ulema, but in response to that statement, we may submit that we ourselves do not like any un-Islamic name and term. We want that the un-Islamic names of Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra should be replaced with names of having Islamic and cultural touch. Would it not be advisable to rename Haripur as Goharabad (after the name of Gohar Ayub Khan Tarin), Abbottabad as Afzalabad (after the name of Afzal Khan Jadoon) and Mansehra as Zarinabad (after the name of Zarin Khan MPA)? We may also demand that the name of Lady Reading Hospital be changed to Rahman Baba Hospital and Lady Griffth School to Nasim Wali Khan school. We hope that the ulema would support these demands to do away with the un-Islamic traditions. We request the ulema mentioned in the statement of denounce that statement, advise the people of Hazara to change the un-Islamic names in that division and provide them their much needed judicious guidance. We may also ask those who have called Pakhtunkhwa un-Islamic that is North West Frontier Province an Islamic name with which they have been living for over fifty years!

Another theme of the speeches and statements of the opposition is related to the rights of the minority peoples. In this regard, this much suffice to ask these people certain questions. In Pakistan, Qadiani, Hindu, Sikh and Christians also live, beside sects of Muslims. Seats have been reserved for them in assemblies. Are they deprived of their rights due to the name Pakistan? Are the hundred thousands Pakhtun and Baloch, living in Punjab, deprived of their rights in that province with the name Punjab? Are those millions of Pakhtuns and Punjabis, living in Sindh deprived of their rights with the name Sindh? Are the forty percent population of Pakhtun, and the Brahvi-speakers, living in Balochistan, deprived of their rights with the name of Balochistan? Is the problem of violation of the rights of minorities feared only in Pakhtunkhwa, or in other provinces of Pakistan and in Pakistan itself also? This exposes the integrity of people who consider only themselves and their own interest and environment instead of the of the national interest, and oppose the name Pakhtunkhwa. In fact, these people are opposing the very concept of the name of Pakistan by opposing Pakhtunkhwa!

It may be noted here that the people who speak Hindko called themselves Hindkian and not Hindkowan. These Hindkowan are a new breed. Hindkian do not consider themselves separate from Pakhtuns. During the second of half of the Nineteenth century, Pakhto Munshi Fazil and Adeeb Fazil classes were included in the syllabi of the Punjab University on the recommendation of the Allama Mir Ahmad Shah Rizwani. Text books for those courses were also written and compiled by him. The forefathers of Allama Rizwani had migrated from Bokhara and settled, at last, at Akbarpura, district Nowshera. Another literary figure from the same village was Syed Azim Shah Khyal Bokhari who had a good record of service in Pakhtu Academy, Peshawar University. He had served as Director of the said academy also. His books are included in MA syllabus of Pukhto. Wali Muhammad Toofan was a national poet of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement who put the spirit of revolution and nationalism in Pukhto ghazal. The Adbi Tolay of Nasrullah Khan Nasr had given him the title of Umar Khayam of Pukhto, but he himself and Dost Muhammad Khan Kamil did not like such titles. Hussain Bakhsh Ghorya Khel was not only a close and trusted comrade of Bacha Khan, but a scholar of Pakhto language also. His book on philology, tracing the origin of Pakhto language, has attained international status. Ashraf Hussain Ahmad has brought out two anthologies of short stories in Pakhto. And Yunus Qiasi has got an singular position among the song writers of Pakhto films.

Pakhtunkhwa is not an issue of Pakhto and Hindko. There is a particular group which call itself Hindkowan and is bent upon disturbing the peaceful atmosphere of Peshawar. Some of its vocal members have occupied the Abasin Arts Council also, and want to dictate radio, television and press also. What power of force is behind this group, is another matter. But it is not a secret that these few people,having failed in creating sectarian riots in Peshawar, are bent on disturbing the political atmosphere of this city. Their statement carry no logic and no sense but they have the pen which they lend to every one at any rate. There is a clear line of distinction between these Hindkowan and the original Hindkian. The latter have been living, for centuries, together with other peoples of this area in peaceful and brotherly atmosphere. They do not even accept the term Hindkowan for them. They consider themselves Pakhtun. Out of Pakhtunkhwa, every where in Pakistan and in any other country, every one from this province is considered Pakhtun!

When riots were ignited in Karachi during the regime of Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, the poor people of Hazara suffered the most. It was Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour and Ajmal Khattak who played their nationalist and Islamic role of bringing the Muhajir and Pakhtuns in Karachi to an understanding, in order to protect the lives and properties of Pakhtuns there. None of the people, who now, excite the people of Hazara was there to help the victims from Hazara.

In social sciences, the basic element for identification of a nation is the language. And the language should have political and literary history. Pakhtuns had ruled India for more than three centuries, and have been ruling Afghanistan since 1747. When the East India Company was mobilised to conquer India, it was confronted with stiff resistance from those more than 550 states in India which were ruled by Pakhtuns. Having taken lessen from those struggles, which spread over centuries much beyond their expectations, the British government tried its best for almost a century to obliterate Pakhto from the minds of Pakhtuns in Pakhtunkhwa. But it could not succeed. Because the Almighty gave Pakhtuns a leader in the person of Bacha Khan who gave due attention to the importance of the language. Having been inspired by Haji Sahib of Turangzai, Sheikh-ul-Hind Mahmud-ul-Hassan and nationalist poet of Pakhto Makhfi, he established a chain of Azad schools to impart education to Pakhtuns in Pakhto. Then the British and parasite classes under the patronage of that government, turned against him. This present storm has also been raised by descendants of those people.

The Oral history of Pakhto stretches over six thousand years which includes certain stone slabs. Written history of this language starts from 139 AH, and regular history from Pir Rokhan who raised the standard revolved against the Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great Pir Rokhan propounded the theory of Pakhtun nationalism at a time when there was no such concept in the sciences in Europe and other parts of the world. The theory was taken to its apex by the ageless and matchless poet and writer, Khushal Khan. At present there are more than 150 Pakhto literary associations. At least two books on these associations have been published so far; one being a thesis for M. Phil degree. The number of Ph.D and M. Phil scholars is increasing. Director Pakhto Academy Rajwali Shah Khattak, Chairman of Pakhto Department Iqbal Nasim Khattak and Chairman of Oriental Languages Muhammad Azam Azam all hold doctorate degrees in Pakhto. In contrast to this status of Pakhto, when the provincial assembly appointed a committee in 1990 under the chairmanship of Pir Sabir Shah, that committee did not accept Hindko as a language even. According to its report, Hindko was considered to be introduced in the assembly.

Pakhtunkhwa is neither a political nor a religious issue, but the religious, political and social right of identification of the second largest nationality of Pakistan. Therefore, we hope that the national assembly will perform its national and parliamentary duty to consider the right, integrity and status of the provincial assembly and approve its resolution on Pakhtunkhwa.

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No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier”

Posted in Pakhtunkhwa News by ppfcanada on January 29, 2009

No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier”

Journal Article, International Security, volume 32, issue 4, pages 41-77

Spring 2008

Authors: Thomas H. Johnson, M. Chris Mason

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Quarterly Journal: International Security

SUMMARY

The Pakistan-Afghanistan border area has become the most dangerous frontier on earth, and the most challenging for the United States’ national security interests. Critically, the portion of the border region that is home to extremist groups such the Taliban and al-Qaida coincides almost exactly with the area overwhelmingly dominated by the Pashtun tribes. The implications of this salient fact—that most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s violent religious extremism, and with it much of the United States’ counterterrorism challenge, are contained within a single ethnolinguistic group—have unfortunately not been fully grasped by a governmental policy community that has long downplayed cultural dynamics. The threat to long-term U.S. security interests in this area is neither an economic problem, nor a religious problem, nor a generic “tribal” problem. It is a unique cultural problem. In both southern Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, rather than seeking to “extend the reach of the central government,” which simply foments insurgency among a proto-insurgent people, the United States and the international community should be doing everything in their means to empower the tribal elders and restore balance to a tribal/cultural system that has been disintegrating since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Introduction:

By 1932, British troops had been waging war of varying intensity with a group of intractable tribes along and beyond the northwestern frontier of India for nearly a century. That year, in summarizing a typical skirmish, one British veteran noted laconically, “Probably no sign till the burst of fire, and then the swift rush with knives, the stripping of the dead, and the unhurried mutilation of the infidels.” It was a savage, cruel, and peculiar kind of mountain warfare, frequently driven by religious zealotry on the tribal side, and it was singularly unforgiving of tactical error, momentary inattention, or cultural ignorance. It still is. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border region has experienced turbulence for centuries. Today a portion of it constitutes a significant threat to U.S. national security interests. The unique underlying factors that create this threat are little understood by most policymakers in Washington.

This region, which is almost certainly home to both Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has once again become a locus for a regenerating al-Qaida network. The July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorist threats to the United States — an intelligence product known to analysts as the mildest common denominator everyone can agree on — corroborates this assessment. The NIE states that al-Qaida, with uninterrupted funding from radical Saudi Arabian Wahabist sources, not only has rebuilt its command structure in the border region, but has continued to recruit and train operatives to infiltrate the United States and other Western countries.

The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is 1,640 miles long, much of it spanning terrain so remote and so mountainous that it is virtually inaccessible. For Pakistan, instability extends beyond both endpoints. To the east, the border with China along “the roof of the world” runs 325 miles and separates Pakistan from China’s discontented Uighur Muslim minority in Sinkiang Province, a land once known as the independent Khanate of Kashgaria. Far to the west, Pakistan shares a 565-mile border with Iran, home on both sides to restless Baluchis and drug smugglers. Stretched on a map of the United States, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border would run from New York City to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Even in ancient times, the vast area that lies along this border served as both barrier and gateway and was a refuge for insurgents, smugglers, and bandits.

A portion of this border area continues to be home to a host of militant groups bent on exporting jihad. Foremost among them is the Taliban. Since retreating from Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion in October 2001, thousands of Taliban fighters and virtually the entire intact Taliban senior leadership shura (religious council) have found sanctuary in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) at the center of the border, as well as in parts of the Pakistani province of Baluchistan to the west and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to the east and south. These areas coincide almost exactly with the area of Pakistan overwhelmingly dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group. The Taliban and the other Islamic extremist insurgent elements operating on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are almost exclusively Pashtuns, with a sprinkling of radicals from nonborder ethnicities. The implications of this salient fact — that most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s violent religious extremism, and with it much of the United States’ counterterrorism challenge, are centered within a single ethnolinguistic group — have not been fully grasped by a governmental policy community that has long downplayed cultural dynamics.

This article explores the reasons why religious and political extremism in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region ends neatly at the borders of the Pashtun lands. It begins with a brief overview of the geography and typography of the border, followed by a condensed study of the key ethnographic and cultural factors. An understanding of the tribal and social framework of the border, particularly its alternative forms of governance, is critical to the subsequent discussion of the current instability and radicalization. In addition to religion, tribal mores that predate Islam shape insurgent behavior and should inform all aspects of engagement on both sides of the border. The article concludes with an examination of the history and the unintended consequences of border politics, and offers policy recommendations to begin to reverse the ongoing slide into Talibanization.

* IS3204_pp041-077_Johnson_Mason.pdf (1.5 MB PDF)
http://www.pdfdownload.org/pdf2html/pdf2html.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fbelfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu%2Ffiles%2FIS3204_pp041-077_Johnson_Mason.pdf&images=yes

http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/18241/no_sign_until_the_burst_of_fire.html?breadcrumb=%2Fpublication%2F18240%2Frise_of_afghanistans_insurgency
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Posted in Pakhtunkhwa News by ppfcanada on January 29, 2009

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Deconstructing the Taliban

Posted in Pakhtunkhwa News by ppfcanada on January 29, 2009

Deconstructing the Taliban
June 22, 2008

Abu Muqawama’s newest blogger is Troy, who christens that blog by reviewing two articles about Afghanistan in the most recent issue of International Security. The first piece, by Seth Jones, argues that the neo-Taliban insurgency emerged due to the lack of state authority, a structural factor. Thus, Jones’s solution is fairly conventional as Troy admits, namely extend governance into Pashtun areas and restore law and order. One the other hand, Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason make a cultural argument: the values and norms of Pashtun society, in particular pasthunwali, or the Way of the Pashtun, makes this group resistant to the central authority emanating from Kabul and sympathetic to Fundamentalist Islamic movement when threatened. His recommendations are to give the Pashtuns greater autonomy and rebuild traditional tribal structures that have a better record of keeping peace and order. As Troy points out, this is completely opposite our current strategy in Afghanistan. He concludes by admitting a bias towards governance based strategies for COIN and suggests that culture should not be seen as ’the’ preeminent variable.

Both arguments are good, and soundly based in traditional social science approaches to violence and insurgency. However, they can be merged. Alex Wendt does just this in Social Theory of International Politics. That is, structure and culture may not necessarily be two separate variables in causing political behavior. Culture itself is a structure that constrains and alters the behavior of actors (pp. 249-250). For example, if two states believe that each is likely to seek the destruction of the Other, then they will act with hostility towards each other and confirm those hostile beliefs. In this way, culture can be a self-fulfilling prophecy (pp. 184-189).

I should add that by culture, Wendt is referring to ‘common knowledge’ held intersubjectively by each state about its own identity and the identity of other states (pp. 157-164) This knowledge of Self and Other implies that each state should behave a certain way toward other states. Thus, culture provides states with their identity and norms of behavior depending on the perceived identity of the other state. Again, culture itself is a structural variable: it imposes itself on the behavior of states and drives them to act in a certain way.

This isn’t to say that culture-structure is unchanging – it does. Based on the perceived identity of Other states, the Self has certain expectations about the behavior of Others, that leads to certain behaviors based on those expectations. However, if the actions of Other states run contrary to the expectations of Self, then Self has to revise his understanding of their identity. In Social Theory, Wendt argues that this process of cultural-structural change has led to great cooperation among states. In fact, as states falsify each other’s belligerent expectations, they could to see they are more alike than different, and a shared identity emerges between them. Thus, through social interaction, staes become socialized to coopereate with each other and eventually see themselves in each other.

What does this have to do with the Taliban? Again, its not culture or structure, but how culture-structure imposes itself upon actors, or how identity constitutes an actor with self-interest and gives meaning to observations of power. Thus, to win over the Pashtuns, the solution would be to alter their perception of Self (their identity) and Other (the identity ascribed to the state, and Western powers). At the moment, we can assume that the Pashtuns perceive us as hostile threats to their identity: we are Western crusaders who want to subjugate them and destroy Islam (Taliban propaganda). To alter this identity which is ascribed to us, we must falsify it by taking actions which run contrary to Pashtun expectations. From these interactive experiences, Pashtuns will learn to ascribe a new identity to us, one that is not hostile and perhaps neutral, or even friendly.

But, how can we be sure that our new actions will falsify their expectations of us? Who is to say that the Pashtun won’t simply mentally discard these new observations and retain their hostile perceptions?

This is where indigenous cultural norms such as pashtunwali come in. If we want to make friends with Pashtuns, we must take actions that Pashtuns know correspond with friendship. We must learn the Way of the Pashtun as if we were Pashtuns ourselves. This would give us knowledge about how to act like a Pashtun in different contexts: what would constitute a demonstration of honor or respect which would necessitate civility, or what would constitute dishonor and disrespect, necessitating revenge and hostility. Once we learn how to operate within the cultural code of the Pashtun, we can then use it to turn the Pashtuns against the Taliban. Once we develop an intersubjective understanding of honor, respect, and civility, we can point to Taliban actions which violate that understanding, suggesting an appropriate response to deal with them.

Here’s the point: culture and structure are not separate causes of action, they impose themselves on actors as identities, which make certain actions rational. If we want to make violent resistance irrational and quiesence rational, we must construct a shared identity with the Pashtun. At the same time, this would deconstruct the shared identity between the Pashtuns and the Taliban. The cognitive frames by which the Taliban mobilize against us (Crusader/Imperialist) would no longer be effective, instead they would crash against the shoals of social experience developing between us and the Pashtuns. In this way, our very social presence can alter the structure-culture of the Pashtuns. More broadly, it should alter the entire structure-culture of Afghan society. Zenpundit quotes Nagl saying something quite similar in describing the necessary operational capabilities of a SysAdmin force: “The soldiers who will win these wars require an ability not just to dominate land operations, but to change entire societies.” This is the key to victory in contemporary warfare, War Amongst the People, or 5GW, however it might be labeled. We win by manipulating identities, worldviews, perceptions of reality itself, within the simulcra that makes reality (if I’m using the concept of simulcra incorrectly, please let me know, I’m new to the Baudrillard stuff).

Lastly, I haven’t talked about governance so much here, which, as Troy points out, is the traditional solution of COIN. Michael Fitzsimmons also notes this, but argues that new COIN theory should inquire into the impact of identity, as the cultural content of some identities makes building legitimacy impossible through simply applying ‘good governance’. I hope the above analysis demonstrates a theoretical path to square this circle: yes, some identities will make attempts to build legitimacy through applying good governance unsuccessful. But, we can also work within those identities and the cultural norms they encompass to figure out exactly what ‘governance’ means to an indigenous population. The next step is to think about how to initiate the process of state and institution building, so one day we can pack up and go home.
Posted in Alexander Wendt, Constructivism, Counterinsurgency, Insurgency |
5 Responses to “Deconstructing the Taliban”

1.
Dan tdaxp Says:

June 23, 2008 at 1:57 am

One reason that I’m skeptical of Self/Other interpretations is that it is too simple. Humans are competitive-cooperative, naturally forming coalitions against rival coalitions. This does not boil down to a Self/Other dichotomy though, as there is Self, In-Group, Out-Group, and Other-Groups.

Presenting some evidence of a progressive research agenda and real-world success with that sort of analysis would help, too.

"No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier"

Posted in Pakhtunkhwa News by ppfcanada on January 29, 2009

“No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier”

Journal Article, International Security, volume 32, issue 4, pages 41-77

Spring 2008

Authors: Thomas H. Johnson, M. Chris Mason

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Quarterly Journal: International Security

SUMMARY

The Pakistan-Afghanistan border area has become the most dangerous frontier on earth, and the most challenging for the United States’ national security interests. Critically, the portion of the border region that is home to extremist groups such the Taliban and al-Qaida coincides almost exactly with the area overwhelmingly dominated by the Pashtun tribes. The implications of this salient fact—that most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s violent religious extremism, and with it much of the United States’ counterterrorism challenge, are contained within a single ethnolinguistic group—have unfortunately not been fully grasped by a governmental policy community that has long downplayed cultural dynamics. The threat to long-term U.S. security interests in this area is neither an economic problem, nor a religious problem, nor a generic “tribal” problem. It is a unique cultural problem. In both southern Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, rather than seeking to “extend the reach of the central government,” which simply foments insurgency among a proto-insurgent people, the United States and the international community should be doing everything in their means to empower the tribal elders and restore balance to a tribal/cultural system that has been disintegrating since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Introduction:

By 1932, British troops had been waging war of varying intensity with a group of intractable tribes along and beyond the northwestern frontier of India for nearly a century. That year, in summarizing a typical skirmish, one British veteran noted laconically, “Probably no sign till the burst of fire, and then the swift rush with knives, the stripping of the dead, and the unhurried mutilation of the infidels.” It was a savage, cruel, and peculiar kind of mountain warfare, frequently driven by religious zealotry on the tribal side, and it was singularly unforgiving of tactical error, momentary inattention, or cultural ignorance. It still is. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border region has experienced turbulence for centuries. Today a portion of it constitutes a significant threat to U.S. national security interests. The unique underlying factors that create this threat are little understood by most policymakers in Washington.

This region, which is almost certainly home to both Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has once again become a locus for a regenerating al-Qaida network. The July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorist threats to the United States — an intelligence product known to analysts as the mildest common denominator everyone can agree on — corroborates this assessment. The NIE states that al-Qaida, with uninterrupted funding from radical Saudi Arabian Wahabist sources, not only has rebuilt its command structure in the border region, but has continued to recruit and train operatives to infiltrate the United States and other Western countries.

The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is 1,640 miles long, much of it spanning terrain so remote and so mountainous that it is virtually inaccessible. For Pakistan, instability extends beyond both endpoints. To the east, the border with China along “the roof of the world” runs 325 miles and separates Pakistan from China’s discontented Uighur Muslim minority in Sinkiang Province, a land once known as the independent Khanate of Kashgaria. Far to the west, Pakistan shares a 565-mile border with Iran, home on both sides to restless Baluchis and drug smugglers. Stretched on a map of the United States, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border would run from New York City to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Even in ancient times, the vast area that lies along this border served as both barrier and gateway and was a refuge for insurgents, smugglers, and bandits.

A portion of this border area continues to be home to a host of militant groups bent on exporting jihad. Foremost among them is the Taliban. Since retreating from Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion in October 2001, thousands of Taliban fighters and virtually the entire intact Taliban senior leadership shura (religious council) have found sanctuary in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) at the center of the border, as well as in parts of the Pakistani province of Baluchistan to the west and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to the east and south. These areas coincide almost exactly with the area of Pakistan overwhelmingly dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group. The Taliban and the other Islamic extremist insurgent elements operating on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are almost exclusively Pashtuns, with a sprinkling of radicals from nonborder ethnicities. The implications of this salient fact — that most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s violent religious extremism, and with it much of the United States’ counterterrorism challenge, are centered within a single ethnolinguistic group — have not been fully grasped by a governmental policy community that has long downplayed cultural dynamics.

This article explores the reasons why religious and political extremism in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region ends neatly at the borders of the Pashtun lands. It begins with a brief overview of the geography and typography of the border, followed by a condensed study of the key ethnographic and cultural factors. An understanding of the tribal and social framework of the border, particularly its alternative forms of governance, is critical to the subsequent discussion of the current instability and radicalization. In addition to religion, tribal mores that predate Islam shape insurgent behavior and should inform all aspects of engagement on both sides of the border. The article concludes with an examination of the history and the unintended consequences of border politics, and offers policy recommendations to begin to reverse the ongoing slide into Talibanization.

* IS3204_pp041-077_Johnson_Mason.pdf (1.5 MB PDF)
http://www.pdfdownload.org/pdf2html/pdf2html.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fbelfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu%2Ffiles%2FIS3204_pp041-077_Johnson_Mason.pdf&images=yes

http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/18241/no_sign_until_the_burst_of_fire.html?breadcrumb=%2Fpublication%2F18240%2Frise_of_afghanistans_insurgency

Taliban Commander Issues list of Wanted Politicians in Swat Valley

Posted in Pakhtunkhwa News by ppfcanada on January 29, 2009

Maulana Fazlullah, Taliban Commander in Swat Valley of Pakistan

By Our Correspondent

MINGORA: Maulana Fazlullah, Taliban commander in restive Swat Valley of North Western Pakistan while issuing a list of the names of 40 political and social leaders on his illegal FM Radio here on Sunday has warned that these people immediately appear before his Shariah court for a trial otherwise a strict action would be taking against them.

Delivering a speech on his pirated Radio after the break of two and half months, Maulana Fazlullah said that these political and social figures were responsible for all the destruction in Swat Valley hence they should appear before Taliban court in upper Swat valley to clarify their position.

“These are the people who encouraged military operation in the area and are responsible for the killings of both Taliban and civilians”, The Taliban leader explained in his live broadcast to hundereds of listeners in the conflict-ridden valley.
The list include names of former and present federal and provincial ministers, Members National Assembly, Members of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Provincial Assembly, local landlords and office bearers of different secular political parties.

Some of those who were issued warnings include Muhammad Afzal Khan Lala, former federal Minister and senior Pashtun nationalist leader, Shujaat Ali Khan, Former provincial minister, Ayub Khan Ashari, provincial minister, Waji Ali Khan, Provincial minister, Amir Muqam, former federal minister and present Member National Assembly, Dr. Shamshir Ali, Member Provincial Assembly, Shir Shah Khan, Member provincial Assembly, Waqar Khan, Member Provincial Assembly, Muzafar-ul-Mulk, Member National Assembly, Colonel ® Munir, Jamal Nasir Khan, District Administrator Swat and Dr.Haider Ali, Member provincial Assembly.
The warning has also been issued to local landlords and workers of different secular parties mainly Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party and their family members.

Pakistan Falters Against Taliban In Swat Valley

Posted in Pakhtunkhwa News by ppfcanada on January 28, 2009

Pakistan Falters Against Taliban In Swat Valley


More than 180 Educational Institutions Destroyed in Swat

By Shaheen Buneri
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — In October 2007, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf deployed more than 25,000 security forces to Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan to fight against Taliban militants under the command of Maulana Fazlullah and restore peace to the picturesque valley.

At the time, military commanders claimed that the whole mountainous region would be cleared of all militants within two weeks. The locals hoped the heavy deployment of security forces would be instrumental in defeating the rising tide of militancy that increasingly threatened their lives and property.

Fifteen months later, the inhabitants of Swat valley are witnessing a completely different scenario: Bearded militants, wearing camouflage outfits and carrying heavy machine guns, have destroyed schools and bridges, and openly administered “Islamic” punishments to so-called “U.S. spies” and government sympathizers, in broad daylight in the main square of Mingora, Swat District’s main town.

Officials claim that Fazlullah’s militants have destroyed more than 170 girls’ and boys’ schools in the area. The conflict has displaced half a million people out of the valley’s 1.7 million inhabitants.

Sher Ali Khan, a government employee and resident of Mingora, says government security forces have failed to arrest or kill any important militant commanders, and that the majority of people killed in the operation have been civilians. “More than 1,200 civilians, mainly children and women have been killed so far,” he told World Politics Review.

Military sources deny reports that the Taliban now control 90 percent of Swat Valley, and say that the military action will continue until the government’s authority is restored in the region.

But Ret. Brig. Mehmod Shah, a former administrator in Pakistan’s tribal areas, believes that the military cannot restore peace without the visible support of Pakistan’s civilian government.

“The President of the United States can visit Iraq and Afghanistan to raise the spirit of his soldiers, but you have not seen a political leader or a government minister who has gone to Swat and supported the military commanders fighting the Taliban,” he added.

The differences between civilian leaders and military commanders over the the strategy used in the operation further aggravates the situation. North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain recently assured media in Peshawar that the Pakistani army was in control of the situation in Swat, although he added that if it failed people had no other choice but to pray to God.

A number of Swat residents interviewed say that when Maulana Fazlullah started his campaign through his pirated FM radio station in 2006, the government completely ignored his activities and provided him the time and space needed to become a militant commander.

“I fail to understand who brought Fazlullah to Swat and who provided his militants with weapons to play havoc with our lives? Now he is the commander of his own army with weapons, vehicles and food supplies,” says Kabir Shah, who migrated to Peshawar when security forces shelled his village close to Mingora. He added that Pakistan’s political leadership is corrupt and directionless, while the military establishment is lacking both vision and a counterterrorism strategy.

Political analysts believe that if the Taliban are not defeated in Swat, they might spread to other settled districts of the North-West Frontier Province. Last month, Fazlullah’s militants targeted a boys school in neighboring Buner district with a suicide bomb that killed 46 people, including 15 children.

“Swat is a test case for the country’s military and political administration. It’s high time to know the real reasons behind the failure of military action in Swat and to devise a comprehensive strategy to fight terror in all its manifestations. If you lose Swat it means that you lost the whole of Northwest Pakistan,” says Syed Irfan Ashraf, a Peshawar-based political analyst.

Although the current wave of violence recalls the lawless tribal areas close to the Pakistan-Afghan border, Swat is located in a settled area of the North-West Frontier Province. Often called the “Switzerland of the East” because of its geography, it is a prime tourist destination and a major social and cultural center for the whole region. Its pristine beauty, snowcapped mountains, rivers and rare Bhuddhist archeological sites are known all over the world. It has not historically been an area where fundamentalist religious thought prevailed.

Shaheen Buneri is a TV and online journalist based in Peshawar Pakistan.

Courtesy: World Politics Review

For Whom Will the Gulai-Nargis Bloom this Spring in the Swat Valley

Posted in Pakhtunkhwa News by ppfcanada on January 28, 2009

For Whom Will the Gulai-Nargis Bloom this Spring in the Swat Valley

By Shaheen Sardar Ali

Today, the 15th January 2009 civilisation, democracy, human rights, rule of law, equality, justice and equity stand defeated. Today, the Government and people of Pakistan have succumbed to a disparate group of faceless, semi-invisible individuals hiding behind an opaque mask of religion and declared all girls’ education as outside the pale of Islam. ‘Iqra’[Read], a mandatory injunction in the Qur’an for every Muslim male and female, has been reduced to a meaningless word trampled under the feet of worldly gods speaking in God’s name. The great and glorious of the state of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in a state of complete denial whine and whimper as the state recedes under their very eyes…………….. For today, the parallel ‘taliban’ the only government with any writ in Swat has declared all girls’ schools closed forever.

But who cares for the Swat Pukhtuns from the back of beyond. Let them shut down girls’ schools and chop up heads, hang them from poles and tree tops. After all, Islamabad is thriving, we have a democratically elected President, Prime Minister and Parliament. Swat and FATA are very far away and only become significant when foreign masters are in town and demand action. After agonising, weeping, brooding and making angry conversations with whoever cared to listen, I decided to share these thoughts with anyone who may wish to read and capture the tormented soul of a Swati woman sitting continents away from her beloved homeland. Is the pain greater when one is far away from home and loved ones. Does everyone living in the ‘diaspora’ experience a sinking feeling at the sound of a ringing telephone in the early hours of the morning, fearing some horrible news awaiting at the other end of the telephone. Does everyone sit glued to the television set in the anxious hope of more news of Swat, FATA and the country.

How long before we will say: enough is enough and rise, speak and act. How much more suffering before we declare emphatically that we refuse to be harassed and silenced any longer and demand answers for the wrong doings meted out to us. How many more humans will have to be slaughtered, before we stand up and say NO. When will we shout from the rooftops of Mingora, Saidu, Kabal, Matta, Sangota, Manglawar, huprial, Dewlai, Madyan, Bahrein, Kalam: stop your underhand, hypocritical games, blowing hot and cold, killing us in the name of protecting us when all the while what is being protected, is power and wealth of a few and destruction of the people of Swat. Go and play your foul game elsewhere and leave us in peace. Stop our genocide.

But, who will listen to the pleas of the traumatised souls that are my compatriots: impoverished beyond belief materially, emotionally and physically. Not the evil Machiavellis of today who cast the net of violence over unguarded people going about their daily business. Not those perched in the superior location of the corridors of power and wealth who are in a state of denial, simply looking the other way and celebrating their power and opportunity to humiliate the people of Pakistan by decorating the perpetrators of their destruction with medals.

It is that time of year in Swat when the harsh winter breeze cascades from the peaks of majestic snow capped mountains spreading its icy cold wings throughout the valley. As a child, I had bittersweet sentiments for these freezing cold winds as they coincided with my winter vacations from the Sacred Heart Convent in Lahore. Just when the sun would start shining every morning and I would want to play outside, the freezing winds would make me want to huddle indoors by the fire. One of my aunts [and later my mother-in-law] once told me why those far away mountains I saw were always to remain covered with snow… this is called the gunaangaar ghar [sinful mountain]… it is under a curse and destined to carry the burden of a snowy cap….Turning my head to the other side of the valley, I would see illum, another grand mountain lying between my home valley and that of Buner. This mountain held a more positive image in popular imagination as a saying goes in Pukhto: May you become as tall in stature as the illum mountain.

I now wonder whether it was us Swatis as well as that far away mountain carrying its ‘cursed’ load of snow all year round and visible only on clear sunny days from Mingora, that may have been under a curse. Why else has tragedy of the present proportion struck Swat and her people, making a reported 5 lakh people homeless, rendering as many others homeless and thousands dead or missing. What merited this punishment and terror, is a complex and mysterious saga details of which we may never fully comprehend. The stark reality is that hundreds of thousands of Swatis who have been peaceful, hospitable, people now live a tormented life, inside as well as outside Swat and see their beloved homeland being destroyed by the histrionics of Machiavellian power play.

I know that at this tragic stage of our existence as God and human forsaken Swatis, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of recalling a romanticised past…. Yet for us forgotten and forsaken people, any respite must come from recalling our past and building on it towards a future. I cannot help but see, albeit in a mist and haze of tearful eyes and broken heart [but not broken spirit] images of those not so long ago times, when droves of tourists from home and abroad, would ply through the Malakand Pass and make their way to Swat. We never used the word ‘tourist’ for these people coming from ‘khakata’ [‘down’ country]; everyone used the word ‘meylma’ [guest’] for these visitors and holiday makers, film production teams, honeymooners and families proudly showing off the ‘Switzerland of the East’ to their children who would then go back to school in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Karachi, indeed all parts of Pakistan, and narrate tales of the gushing waters of the river Swat, the tall pine clad mountains, the narrow dangerous roads, the clear sapphire blue waters of mahodand [a lake beyond Kalam], the ‘white palace’ in Marghozaar where the tall mountains met…

I recollect those early years of my life when we had no piped water in the family home presided over by my grandparents, and when it was common every evening, before sunset, for women to walk through discreet side alleys, towards the ‘gudar’ and ‘gaaga’ to fill their mangee [earthern ware vessels] with fresh, cold drinking water for their families. Images of dozens of women in their chaddars artfully balancing mangee on their heads and often one in their armpit walking single file down narrow lanes against the backdrop of a glorious golden setting sun on the horizon are still fresh in my memory. We children were not allowed to distract this daily ritual but on the rare occasion when my cousins and I would cajole our mothers and aunts into letting us accompany those assigned to fetch water, I would wonder why all the men suddenly seemed to ‘shy’ off and turn their heads towards the walls of the lanes, creating a ‘private-public’ space for women.

The male public sphere of this small village-like town would transform itself for a short while into female space with mangee-holding women gracefully navigating the streets and narrow alleyways. The same principle applied to the gudar where the family laundry was done. This truly was a picnic where one could simply rollick about in the green fields, tap your feet in the cold water of the streams, play hide and seek behind a bush, greedily pick the blackberries that grew along the stream, and the occasional scream when pricked unceremoniously by the thorns in the blackberry bush. There was the even rarer treat in the autumn when wild peas were in bloom and we could cunningly pick a few pods as we sauntered through the fields on our way to the water. I must emphasise that this was a regular all-women excursion and the only male intruder would be at midday when a male helper would bring the much-awaited lunch.

At about this time of year, in a few weeks perhaps, when the sun starts shining with a bit more courage and looks down on this icy cold valley, the gulai-nargis [narcissus] and ghaantol [wild tulips] will take heart and peep out of the muddy soil on the slopes of the adjoining mountains. Scores of women will be awaiting these first signs of the turning weather in the hope that they can go saaba-picking [edible green clover leaves, chives and a host of other saag type vegetation which is the staple food of most of the population]. Travellers along the road from Mingora towards Peshawar will find the familiar sight of young boys and girls holding up bouquets of narcissus and wild tulips for sale.

That is how I remember life growing up as a young girl in the Swat valley. My husband went to a co-education school in the town and his female classmates are grandmothers now. Sixty years ago in Swat, girls and boys went to primary school together; secondary and higher secondary schools for girls were full to the brim from where hundreds of young women ventured forth to the colleges and university if Peshawar and beyond. My induction as the first woman cabinet minister in the NWFP government in 1999 was widely hailed and men and women alike shared in what they saw as a collective pride and recognition of one of their own.

So when, why and how did the present nightmare unfold for us unfortunate Swatis. When did this serene, hospitable valley get chosen as the venue of game playing individuals and groups, local, national, regional and international. What was/is the game plan, input and output and what is the desired result that perpetrators of the scheme aspire to achieve. Why choose Swat as opposed to adjoining territories with less accessibility to the outside world and governmental infrastructure. How true is it that so-called militant religious extremists are entirely responsible for all the horror, terror, death and destruction of Swat and Swatis and so-called ‘progressive’ democratically elected government is innocent and beyond reproach. How true is it seeds of the present situation were sown by institutions responsible for upholding and protecting the national interest in 1994 when Sufi Mohammad took

Swat and the entire governmental machinery hostage. The ‘black turbans’, as they were called simply emerged as if from nowhere and before anyone could take a deep breath, had spread themselves across the valley. The government of the time gave them some crumbs in the form of the Nizam-i-adl regulation 1994, re-named judges and courts by using the names Qazi, Ilaqa Qazi etc., and assigned supposedly Shari’a literate muavin or advisers to assist the Qazi in administration of justice to make sure it was Shari’a compliant. People of the Malakand division as it was then called, had a choice to use the ‘Islamic law’ or the ‘regular’ law of the country. It is no secret that apart from a few women daring to challenge their male relatives to obtain their inheritance by using Islamic law, all and sundry stuck to the civil and criminal law of the country.

Some time later, dissatisfied noises started being heard regarding unsatisfactory nifaz/promulgation of Sharia, but it actually turned out that some of the muavineen, or ‘Shari’a conversant advisers, were angling for a raise in their salaries. This demand was of course met, as that was the easy way out and then forgot all about the underlying million dollar question: Was/Is there a popular demand for Shari’a promulgation in the region; how is this to be gauged; what is the problem with existing offerings and what/who is the underlying, simmering problem and issues. Why is it that this demand emanates not from more urbanised centres of Swat including Mingora, Saidu etc., but from outlying, rural areas where class divisions are more pronounced and landed class unpopular among the general population. Surely, if the demand was the result of delays in court and administration of justice generally, ought the people from the urban centres not likely to be the ones more affected thus proponents of the demand for Shari’a……………..

Leaving the above critical question on the back burner to simmer and exacerbate, we now come to another governance and neglect issue in Swat. This is the issue of ‘custom-chor’ vehicles that have flooded the market. Cars, jeeps etc are available for unbelievable paltry sums creating avenues for all sorts of activities outside the perview of the law. Why was this not dealt with and nipped in the bud asap when the problem was first spotted. Receding and abdicating state control and remit are terms that come readily to mind. The question I pose here is: Was the state apparatus unaware of this and the wider, serious implications for government and governance not to mention the lost revenue and financial fallout. Is it rocket science to decipher the fact that when you give an inch, a yard is what is generally being conceded. The signal given to those who may have had intentions of violent adventures in the area would be quite clear: go ahead and do what you want; there is very little to stop you.

Deep in the forests of Swat, it was being reported that when government officials went on inspection tours of the area, they were stopped at the foot of the mountains where the thick pine forests started. The local population also reported periodic ‘earthquake-like’ happenings as if a bomb has gone off; they were spotting unfamiliar people on the roads, were generally confused but as unsuspecting people focussing on earning two square meals for their families, never thought more of it. Neither did they know who to say all this strange goings on to; who would listen to poor villagers in the first place….

Hospital staff in the several hospitals and health facilities recollect numerous men and women patients who ‘did not look like us’, spoke a very strong sounding language, the men had ‘long hair and sort of chinky eyes’, etc etc., These sightings started about two summers ago but no governmental, agency picked this up, or did they….

Is it possible that the few thousands of militants are so superior in arms and training that the 7th largest army in the world is unable to out manoeuvre them. Are the government structures and institutions so weak that access lines to arms and ammunition cannot be cut off. But the critical questions of all, that Swatis are asking themselves and the world: Who are these ‘people’ who have captured their land, terrorised them to death, why and for what end and purpose. As citizens of this country, Swatis demand answers to these questions and for the government to take responsibility for leaving them without security, succour and sustenance.

The writer is Professor of law, University of Warwick, United Kingdom, Professor II, University of Oslo, Norway and Member of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary detention. She was formerly Professor of law, University of Peshawar.

Email: s.s.ali@warwick.ac.uk