Taliban killed Musa Khankhel. Will Sufi Muhammad provide Shar’i justice to Musa Khankhel’s family?

Omens against peace in Swat…

As if in response to the Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi (TNSM) leader Sufi Muhammad’s “peace march” from Mingora to Matta in Swat, a gang of Taliban kidnapped journalist Musa Khankhel on Wednesday and then rigged him with bullets and beheaded his dead corpse. The Sufi did not comment, but the act was clearly addressed to him as a message. Musa Khankhel was following the grand procession of sharia led by Sufi and exhorting all to support the accord. At the very least, Sufi should have condemned the act. But he didn’t. Now the media is outraged over the fourth journalist killed in Swat. Significantly, however, no one is ready to name the killers.

Sufi Muhammad has suddenly got more positive publicity than the Taliban ever did. Almost the whole of Swat is behind him and willing to walk in procession in the hope of finally achieving peace. The Sufi is the redeemer; and the tormentors, though unnamed, are the Taliban who control 80 percent of the region. This publicity may have been unbearable for the elements who hogged it for the last two years to the detriment of the state. Warlord Fazlullah may be the Sufi’s son-in-law but his patrons may want him to resist his growing influence.

A message from South Waziristan is ready to hand if you want to heed it. The building of the press club in Wana was blown up the same day Musa Khankhel was murdered. One can only call it a “symbolic” act meant to be a message to Swat because the press club was no longer in use after all the journalists had fled the headquarters of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) some time ago. The media, which the warlords relied on for publicity, is suddenly no longer in favour because its focus has shifted to Sufi Muhammad who is now negotiating the sharia accord (which he has signed with the NWFP government) with the Taliban.

The Taliban, who actually rule Swat, have announced a ten-day truce and have made public their reverence for the Sufi; but they could not have liked the sharia accord in which the charismatic Sufi has given away some of the fundamental positions taken by the Taliban’s central leadership. For instance, Baitullah Mehsud’s Waziristan Taliban fired another warning shot to the Taliban of Swat when they blew up two more girls’ schools in Bajaur on Wednesday. This again was ritualistic and symbolic because the girls no longer go to school in Bajaur. Given this atmosphere, it is going to be difficult for Sufi Muhammad to persuade his son-in-law to relent and let peace return to the valley.

Journalist Musa Khankhel has laid down his life for a big cause, the cause of giving the people of Swat their lives back, and the media must highlight his sacrifice in the shape of protest. And this protest should not shy away from naming the culprits now that Sufi Muhammad has polarised the region. The protest will give heart to the Swatis who now walk behind him but might later be intimidated into giving up. The battle is on and should not be abandoned because the people are now in a position to opt for someone who is not Taliban.

The world outside sees the Sufi factor as the beginning of a rift within the Taliban movement. The killers may all be savage men but a section of them is killing in the name of Allah and owes allegiance to Sufi Muhammad. This is the section that will find it hard to obey Fazlullah if he decides to reject the peace plan being pursued by his father-in-law. But the situation on the ground is still loaded against the Sufi because his sharia will have to unfold when the Taliban control the region; and the police and other bureaucracy have long fled the scene. (Daily Times)

Ataul Haq Qasmi