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: firstname.lastname@example.org