Swat:Taliban’s deadly ‘justice’ cows Pakistan

FORCED face first into the dust and pinned down by three men in black hoods, a young offender faced the merciless force of Taliban justice in Pakistan last week as he was beaten 30 times with a hard rod fashioned from old car tyres.

The punishment – for smoking cannabis – was inflicted in front of a silent crowd of approving bearded men and curious young boys in the North West Frontier Province village of Ser Talergram, a few miles from the once-popular ski resort of Malam Jabba.

In the nearby village of Dherai, three men in their thirties, Amjad Ali, Sarar Ali and one named only as Manai, were publicly lashed by armed, hooded Taliban policemen for drug dealing. Scarred by the beating, one of the men was so humiliated that he would no longer leave his home.

More than 70 Taliban courts are now ruling on hundreds of cases of “immoral activity” every week in the Swat valley, whose mountains, lakes and meadows were once a draw for tourists.

As insurgents vie for control of the area and impose sharia (religious law), harsh punishments are meted out for smuggling, using drugs or selling alcohol.

For women, refusal to wear a veil and dancing in public are punishable by death. The lesser charge of using a musical ring-tone can lead to the confiscation of the offending mobile phone or a hefty fine.

The Taliban’s reign of terror has prompted a series of advertisements in local Urdu newspapers from petrified Swat residents trying to renounce their offences to avoid brutal punishment. “I’ve stopped selling drugs and decided to earn my living by manual labour. In future, I won’t conduct un-Islamic business. Also, I’ll not use drugs,” said an advert published in a local Urdu paper by Nasirul Mulk, from Swat’s capital, Mingora.

The Taliban recently warned faith healers through their pirate radio station that they would face retribution if they did not stop “un-Islamic” practices. Yesterday a faith healer was found beheaded near Peshawar.

Other inhabitants endure the cruel consequences of the new hardline morality code. In Swat’s Mangalwar village, one man arrested for smuggling fell unconscious during a beating, but his tormentor insisted on carrying on until he had received all 30 lashes.

The 71 Taliban courts operating in the Kabal, Matta, Khwazakhela and Charbagh districts of Swat amount to a parallel legal system. Their judgments on finance, land disputes, smuggling and narcotics are arbitrary and handed out by self-proclaimed Taliban judges with scant legal or religious knowledge.

Taliban informers spy on people alleged to be breaking Islamic law, who then receive a three-day warning to shut their business. Most obey instantly, but anyone defying the order is arrested by armed Taliban and dragged to court for a summary trial the next day.

One Taliban judge in the Kooza Bandai region boasted that he had ruled on 55 cases in the past week. Almost all the decisions are verbal and there are no formal procedures.

The emergence of a parallel Taliban legal system has a sinister objective. “This is our first step towards the implementation of sharia in Swat,” said Muslim Khan, a Taliban spokesman. In the next phase, Khan said, the courts would begin to carry out harsher punishments, such as execution or chopping off hands.

Villagers said the Taliban were already killing people who defied their orders. “They didn’t even spare barbers and women coming out of markets without wearing their veils,” said a Mingora resident.

There have been 51 Taliban executions since the start of the year, he added. The victims include politicians, security men, dancers, prostitutes and shopkeepers selling alcohol.

Swat is not the only region now subject to Taliban justice. A fortnight ago a group of militants declared sharia in the Hangu district of the North West Frontier Province. The next day four men accused of robbery, their faces tarred, were paraded through a market on donkeys.

Other groups are also determined to deliver their own form of justice. Near the Khyber Pass, close to the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam publicly executed two people for killing a taxi driver. The accused were blindfolded and paraded before a crowd chanting, “God is great.” Two bearded men then opened fire and killed them with a burst from AK-47 rifles.


For a complete account of what is happening in Swat to understand the unholy nexus of ISI/Pakistan Army and the Taliban, you may like to read quite a few articles: