For all practical considerations the Swat peace deal is dead. The Taliban refused to put down their weapons till after the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations (NAR). When the government wanted to talk about Dar-ul-Qaza and Qazis, Sufi Mohammad became unavailable; he wanted a stop to the army action in Buner and Dir first. The ANP government went ahead with the setting up of Dar-ul-Qaza. Sufi Mohammad refused to accept the government’s nominees. Army action became inevitable and another peace deal went sour. Most of the people involved knew this conflict cannot be resolved by army action. What went wrong again?
Peace means more than the absence of war and an end to military action. For peace to be meaningful and lasting one has to establish an order acceptable to both sides: Sufi Mohammad and the Taliban on the one side, with the Swati people, the NWFP government and the rest of Pakistan on the other. The negotiations should have clearly defined the territorial and factual limits of the peace agreement.
This deal should have been limited to the valley of Swat, and could have been extended later to other areas. If that had been the case army action in Buner and Dir would be outside the Swat peace deal and having no relationship with it. Not spelt out clearly, both sides kept their versions of the deal in their minds but did not define it on paper. Sufi thought the government was weak and a Taliban coup could extend NAR to the whole of the Malakand division. He gambled and lost.
There is a second dimension also. Pakistan is not a uniform country according to western norms. The South Asian subcontinent is highly diversified with parts unevenly developed, with few urban centres and many tribal areas neglected development-wise for many years and poorly integrated. Because of the necessity of moving troops for Kashmir in 1947 while maintaining the sanctity of the Durand Line, which Afghanistan was refusing to accept as the boundary with Pakistan, a state Afghanistan did not recognize, the Quaid assured the tribal leaders that they would not come under Pakistani laws, keeping perks and privileges given to them by the colonial rulers for their own purposes.
In turn they vowed never to let Afghanistan violate the Durand Line, they kept their word. The Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) is a colonial and draconian law used by the British and aimed at preserving age-old tribal structures that suited their colonial policies, effectively excluding tribal territories from mainstream Pakistan. Archaic tribal structures and customs are thus preserved; these are labelled as following the teachings of ‘Islam’. FATA tribals always had a special status, they were without electricity but when it came they didn’t have to pay the bill.
They were prevented from voting until 1997 and political parties were not allowed to function. The political agent is the only representative of the Pakistani state, he acts like any British colonial administrator. Decolonization has actually never taken place.
The preservation of tribal structures and loyalties meant that the judiciary of Pakistan has no locus standi in the tribal belt. They believe in the authority of the jirga, their tribal peace committee and the authority of the tribal elders. The Pakistani constitution remains without consequence, tacitly and silently accepted by the state of Pakistan over the course of many governments. Swat is even a worse case because it was not part of Pakistan even on paper until 1969. The current situation must be seen under this aspect. The history of the mismanagement of the Pakistani state and failure to properly integrate Swat into Pakistan is a matter of sorry record.
Different parts of Pakistan are rather loosely integrated from the points of communication, education, taxation, and of course – the judiciary system. Pakistan acknowledged this by accepting the peace deal in Swat and agreeing to implement the ‘shariah’ there. Sufi Mohammad refused to accept this; it gave him and his lot jurisdiction in Swat only.
He maintains democracy is un-Islamic, and by saying so he interferes with the political system of the rest of Pakistan. Our democracy is very much in accordance with Islam as spelt out in the Objectives Resolution of our Constitution. But this was out of Sufi Mohammad’s jurisdiction after NAR. If NAR had been working to the satisfaction of the people of Swat – it would have been a splendid propaganda for its implementation elsewhere, its extension into the Malakand division would have been possible without a single ‘boot on the ground’. Sufi Mohammad lost another chance (and face) after his misadventure in Afghanistan. How many more chances should be given to someone like him? Whatever the army action will achieve, it will not bring peace. To achieve this we may have to turn back to Sufi Muhammad later, it would be better to do this on the basis of firm principles:
Pakistan is the home of a host of ethnic, religious and even different Islamic communities who pledged to live together in 1947. if Sufi wants us to tolerate him he has to tolerate us. Pakistan’s Constitution allows all Muslims to order their lives in both private and public in accordance with Islam they way they understand it. The Constitution and Islam both protect the free profession of all religious belief and cultures by Pakistani communities. Anyone who does not accept disrupts the unity and the very existence of Pakistan, he is an enemy of the country.
Tribal communities in general, and Pashtuns in particular, have their own customs, values and loyalties which have grown over centuries and which sometimes clash with state authority and the judiciary. Pakistan should slowly integrate those territories and communities into mainstream Pakistan by encouraging economic development, creating jobs and income opportunities providing education. They should have their tribal autonomy but cannot extend their privileges and customs thereof to the rest of Pakistan.
This should not be a ‘commando action’ by a limited lot of decision-makers. It needs a public discussion even outside parliament. So far parliament has failed to develop any good idea or policy. Questions about the character of our state, the role of Islam in it, the attitude towards other Muslim and non-Muslim communities and about what Islam actually is all about need to be answered by being put in the educational institutions of Pakistan at all levels. The text of the ‘Objectives Resolution’ should be taught to children from early stages in a child-friendly way. Questions related to it have to be allowed and even encouraged. Teachers need to be prepared for discussions on those topics.
For too long we have been taking Pakistan for granted. It was achieved by the efforts of thousands of people and only the efforts of thousands and millions of people (keeping the population growth in mind) will keep Pakistan it alive and intact.
(Acknowledging with gratitude research by Dr Bettina Robotka of IBA, Karachi)
The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org