On Monday, April 13, 2009, Asif Ali Zardari, our president, finally signed the Nizam-e Adl Regulation, handing Swat over to the Taliban and thus leaving an indelible mark on our history. President Zardari has found his legacy. If General Zia-ul Haq’s legacy was the initiation of religious extremism in Pakistan and Musharraf’s its flowering into the terrorism that we are plagued with today, Zardari will go down in history as the one who succumbed to terrorist threats. Though that ignominy is not his alone and has to be shared by the parliament that approved the Nizam-e Adl, legitimised the Taliban’s activities and handed over a part of our country to them.
Responding to a question, Sufi Muhammad, who brokered the deal, categorically stated that none of the previous acts of the Taliban could be tried under the Islamic laws being imposed in Swat. In one sentence, the Taliban have been granted amnesty for the murder, rape, pillage and other crimes they have committed against the people of Swat. Sufi Muhammad also called upon the Taliban to lay down their arms. Fazlullah, his son-in-law, responded by telling him that arms will be laid down only after the Nizam-e Adl is implemented.
Since then, the Sufi has adopted the sharia route to garner support. Addressing a massive rally in Malakand, he declared all other courts ‘un-Islamic’ and issued a deadline for the commencement of lower qazi courts and senior qazi courts. Fazlullah responded by informing us that the peace deal was brokered with the TNSM and was not binding on his followers.
Meanwhile, Fazlullah is attempting to increase his support base by encouraging a revolt by the peasants of Swat against the families with large land holdings — most of whom have fled the area — and has distributed the land among the peasants. The expected infighting and power struggle between the two has begun.
Fazlullah also continues to terrorise the hapless people of Swat, who dare not oppose him. He has also not discontinued suicide bombings; the recent attack on a police post in Charsadda was carried out by a Swati. A less well-known fact is that Fazlulah has received massive support in terms of weapons and equipment and has a very large number of Tajiks among his followers.
Since Swat shares no borders with Afghanistan, where did these people and weapons come from?
According to sources, there was a massive build-up of Tajik presence in Bajaur, and they were equipped with sophisticated weapons. However, they chose not to offer pitched battle to the Pakistan Army when it wanted to clear the agency. Some of these Tajiks trickled into Swat, where they, rightly, expected a stronger base.
Why the army and the ISI were unaware of the build up in Bajaur, including artillery pieces, until it had grown to mammoth proportions is an unanswered mystery.
These are people who govern only by force and do not enjoy the people’s support. Is there anyone who thinks that Fazlullah would win the people’s support were there a fair, free and impartial election in Swat? There are some who might answer in the affirmative and, under the prevalent environment, they might be correct. However, the current environment is not conducive to a free and fair election.
The people of Swat are totally disillusioned with the military and the political government after two thwarted efforts by the army to win Swat back from these terrorists.
The first, under Musharraf in 2007, was totally inexplicable, at a point when the army was poised at the mouth of the Peochar Valley, where remnants of Fazlullah’s army were hiding. After this, all the well publicised plans of having a permanent army presence with cantonments in Swat were shelved.
The second effort was undertaken this year by the provincial government of the NWFP when it struck the infamous ‘peace deal’ with Sufi Muhammad.
Consequently, the Swati people’s current view is that they are doomed and have no option but to succumb to the Taliban. Therefore, were an election held now, they might vote in Fazlullah’s favour, but only in the interest of personal survival.
Buner fell to the Taliban within hours, though local residents attempted to organise what resistance they could. The fact that the people resisted indicates their real aspirations, but they only succeeded in becoming fair game for the Taliban. Those who survived were promptly executed. If an election is held in Buner tomorrow, Fazlullah will win. But will that represent the aspirations of the people or their fear?
Has anybody looked at the map to locate Buner? Haripur lies to its south-east, Mansehra to its east, Mardan to its west, and the GIK Institute south-west — all of them within a day’s march. Islamabad is a mere hundred and fifty miles away. If the Taliban expand towards either Mansehra or Haripur, they will control the Karakoram Highway, which links us with China.
The Taliban also attempted to take Dir, but have been only partially successful so far and are in possession of Malakand. They have taken over operations of three major emerald mines in Swat, and have auctioned all expensive items in the government facilities located in the territories under their control — calling them ‘bounty’.
The signing of the Nizam-e Adl will be President Zardari’s legacy for Pakistan. The hapless citizens await its consequences.
This article is a modified version of one originally written for the daily National. The author is a retired brigadier. He is also former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)
Reproduced by permission of DT