Swat: A Masquerade of War and Peace

Mahjabeen has sent us this heartfelt piece  from Peshawar

I opened the newspaper two days ago and read the news of the deal with the Taliban in Swat and the decision to sign the Nizam-e-Adal Regulation for the Malakand Division by the federal and the NWFP Governments. And, my heart sank. The state especially the political parties had capitulatd.

On the same page a well-know journalist had hailed the move and later on T.V I also saw a prominent journalist and the ANP praising this decision. The journalist was making it appear like a landmark peace deal, a moment to rejoice, a great event. In fact, it was being said that the whole nation was rejoicing. My question is what was the whole fuss about, what were they celebrating? This is like getting your child back after paying a heavy ransom to the kidnappers and then inviting the kidnappers for a tea party! Who asked the people of Pakistan or of the Malakand Division whether they supported such a move?

Yes, they were asked their opinion during the general elections and most did not vote for the fundamentalist parties. From the Malakand Division ten PPP, eleven ANP and only two JI candidates were voted in as members of the provincial assembly! And the two JI members of assembly are from Lower Dir, not Swat. The election mandate of the PPP and ANP was explicitly secular and that is what these people voted for.

Another channel, running a normal, unpretentious program, a female compere a much asked the simple question of a mullah: “What about the crimes that the Taliban have committed, will they be tried by the courts established under the Nizam-e-Adl and given punishment for killing, handicapping and displacing people, destroying schools, defying the writ of the state and the law of the land. She, like the child in the popular fairy tale, could see that the king was naked but our more prominent journalists kept praising the non-existent attire-giving it names like peace and home grown solution!

I was amused, albeit in a black comedy way, by the term home grown.  First we nurture home grown terrorists, feed, clothe and arm them and then we try to appease those terrorists when they turn on us through “home grown solutions” – forgetting that terror grows bigger and bigger the more it is fed. And this appeasement is “home grown” as opposed to fighting them physically, which is the “American agenda”. This is so warped. The Americans first create these terrorists on our soil, then want to destroy them, again on our soil, we ally with the Americans to create the terrorists, welcome members from all over the world, then when the enormous porridge pot keeps spilling in our country we try to plug it by feeding it to our own people who have no appetite for it!

This policy of appeasement is logically false. Why will it not encourage people following the same ideology to pursue the same path of violence and blackmail in other parts of Pakistan to achieve the same end? By extension why did then not the government release the 61 Taliban that the abductors of the Polish engineer were demanding for his release. What difference would the addition of 61 more Taliban make when the great deal for peace was going to be struck, when others like them were now part of the “peace” team, were being accepted, given money and would man the Adl courts-irony itself must be bewildered at this version of it!

It is being said that the deal is only to establish law courts under the Nizam-e-Adal ordinance. Who is naïve enough to believe that? The ideology of the Taliban is all-pervasive, it is all or none, in fact all and all. It pervades all aspects of life. They have been imposing purdah, making the women stay at home, targeting female education, destroying video shops and barber shops. Does anybody think, they will stop doing that or not haul all these people to the courts that do what they do not want them to do. All aspects of life such as culture, education, sports, the status of women etc will be sought to be Talibanised. Does anybody think that music and movies or free movement of women wearing what they please return to Swat. Such a situation certainly does not suit the Swatis. Their main business is tourism. Why was there no popular uprising in Swat like in Kashmir if they supported this movement? In fact, Kashmir is a good example as that is also a tourism-supported economy. Still, the Muslims of Swat, largely, participated in the movement for their rights. They are fighting against the aggression of the Indian state, the people of Swat, largely, participated in the democratic elections and are not part of a fight against the state.

At this stage one cannot help but question the capacity of the Pakistan army, which claims that it is capable of defending the country against its huge neighbour India. Will we not raise our eyebrows at this when it has not been able to defend us against a bunch of people within its own borders and that too within the borders of the settled area! Why was it that their food and ammunition supplies could not be blocked.

The Taliban hold Swat under siege and the Nizam-e-Adal has been issued for the whole of the Malakand Division, in areas where they do not have this kind of presence. What do they Chitralis for instance have to do with this battle – they have historically been a peace loving, liberal people. And what right does ANP have to call itself secular when striking this deal in the province where it was overwhelmingly elected over the mullahs, -what difference then between them and the mullahs. It was a chilling moment to hear Mr. Afrasiab Khattak, a self-declared communist, use the term “kar-e-khair” when describing this deal-appropriating the language of the right wing-you close your eyes and it could be any MMA or right-wing person talking-we really are part of a sinister masked ball.




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