Sufi Muhammad’s judicial system in Swat: Is it really Islamic?

Daily Express, 22 March 2009


Saturday, March 21, 2009
We have never seen the detail of the agreement made between the government of NWFP and the TNSM, if indeed any such detail exists. For all the world knows it is nothing more than a sequence of sketched-out generalities and ‘understandings’ that can be interpreted flexibly by any of the parties to the agreement. The last week has begun to reveal the position of the TNSM in a number of areas, most especially relating to the Qazi courts. All the indications are that the TNSM now has sufficient leverage to dictate terms to the government at least in matters of the law. They are now, both literally and metaphorically ‘the law of the land’. Lawyers and judges have been told that they are surplus to requirements and that they should leave Swat immediately. They have been told that their safety cannot be guaranteed either in the courts where they are no longer welcome or in their own homes.

We would draw your attention to a report of 4th February 2009 of an announcement made by an illegal FM radio station in Swat that said that all lawyers and judges, being part of an ‘infidel judicial system’, would be killed if they did not quit their profession. Unsurprisingly, the Swat Bar Association president quickly confirmed that the lives of 300 of his co-professionals were under threat and he was trying to contact the extremists in an attempt to assure them that the lawyers were ready to work under an Islamic judicial regime. You can be killed for making a career-choice of lawyering? Killed because you are a judge properly qualified and appointed? Is this the only possible solution to the problem of how Swat transitions from one judicial system to another…the killing of all those who represent the ancien régime? The death of any who may disagree with the new dispensation in Swat seems to be their preferred option, which if nothing else should ensure full employment for gravediggers in the foreseeable future. Any attempt to attend their offices by judges and lawyers would be seen as a violation of the peace agreement, said Sufi Mohammed speaking on March 16 ; and he went on to say that Qazi courts would now be established in Lower and Upper Dir districts, Buner, Malakand Agency, Shangla, Kohistan and Chitral districts of North West Frontier Province. His statement seems to imply that the writ of the Taliban now runs much further than the confines of the Swat valley, extending even to the so-far peaceful Chitral, which has managed to avoid the extremes that have plagued other parts of NWFP.

Is there some agreement between the TNSM and the government, provincial or federal, to the effect that Qazi courts are to be extended as indicated by Sufi Mohammed? If there is it has not been publicized and one wonders whether the administrations of Lower and Upper Dir districts, Buner, Malakand Agency, Shangla, Kohistan and Chitral districts have been notified of the changes that are apparently imminent. There is a miserable irony that in the same week the people of Pakistan came out on the streets in their tens of thousands to support a secular movement, the lawyers’ movement that was made up of men and women of differing faiths and denominational adherence; that nobody has come out on the streets to protest at the gutting and filleting of Swat. Such is the power of those who now rule Swat that they can project that power strategically into other areas and there is little, seemingly, that can stop them. Whatever agreement has been made with the TNSM we need to see its detail, chapter and verse, and we need to see it now. Justice has been ill-served by an ill-judged arrangement expediently made.

(The News)

Nazir Naji, Jang, 22 March 2009