What about lawyers’ cause in Swat?

A new lawyers’ movement may be needed to address the crisis created for the legal profession in Swat after the Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi (TNSM) banned the lawyers from the qazi courts set up under the tutelage of its leader, Sufi Muhammad. He warned the lawyers and judges on March 17 to stay away from the courts, saying they had no role under the new system of Islamic law in the region, branding the present Pakistani jurisprudence as an “infidel judicial system”. He said only the people filing cases and the accused would be eligible to appear in the new “Islamic courts”.

The Peshawar Bar Council has expressed its concern over these developments and intends to protest with the NWFP government. It is important to note that the country’s lawyers’ community did not properly register the plight of the lawyers in Swat after some of them were killed and those who did not migrate out of the valley were kidnapped and remain unaccounted for till today. But even as the lawyers protest in Peshawar, the Taliban have kicked the NGOs out of Swat and are still resolutely opposed to polio drops for children. Five hundred lawyers plan to pack up their bags and leave Swat. Meanwhile, fourteen more Taliban terrorists were freed from jail on Sunday, taking the total number released so far to 48, so that they can enforce the writ of the Taliban in Swat!

Isn’t there anything anyone can do about this? What about the lawyers who abandoned their profession for two years to get the deposed chief justice of Pakistan reinstated? Getting thrashed by the police in Lahore is one thing, being beheaded by the terrorists in Swat, as the state watches from the sidelines, is another. But the contrast is stark. And the contrast is in the mindset of those who suffer the atrocities of the terrorists in the name of Islam and the thinking of those who fight for the “independence” of the judiciary in the rest of the country. In Swat, the judiciary is going to be the handmaiden of the illegal occupants of the valley. Soon this rule will be extended through qazi courts to the entire Malakand Division and Kohistan in the Hazara Division.

One doesn’t have to strain to predict that the judicial system of the Taliban will soon threaten the rest of the country. Let us examine why this will happen. Unfortunately, no clerical organisation, apart from some individual Barelvi scholars and independent thinkers like Mr Javed Ghamidi, accepts that shariat is in force in Pakistan through the 14th Amendment that establishes the Federal Shariat Court. Even non-clerical debaters complain of “many systems” in the country, ignoring the fact that the principle established by the Federal Shariat Court — that nothing against the Islamic precepts will be allowed to stand — Islamises even the Pakistan Penal Code.

The Swati sympathisers of the overthrow of the legal system under the Federal Shariat Court have been wrong in their claim that the population of Swat wants the reintroduction of the shariat operative under the Wali of Swat because the “infidel” system of Pakistani injustice is dilatory and corrupt. A lot of hype has been created by generally acknowledging, without proof, that the Wali had a shariat system so pure it is worth taking back through the Taliban.

The truth is that the system under the Wali was not shariat at all. It was a system of qazi courts unseparated from the courts run by the Wali and his elite supporters, and there were no hudood laws as under the 14th Amendment. No punishments, like the cutting of hands and stoning to death, were given; offenders were usually punished with terms in jail. It is true that the extension of normal laws into the valley in 1970 brought in the systemic flaws of the rest of the country, but since then Swat also saw a measure of prosperity and happiness that it has lost under the shariat of Taliban. (Daily Times, 24 March 2009)