| Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Only time will tell whether the peace deal signed in Swat bears fruit and brings lasting peace to the valley. In this regard, however, it may be worthwhile to give readers a background into the origins of the Taliban in Pakistan. Also, it will be seen that the nizam-e-adl regulation agreed to now is similar to what Sufi Mohammad’s Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM) had announced on its own way back in November 1994. Coincidentally – or perhaps not – that was also the month when the Taliban captured Kandahar.
Mullah Omer started his Taliban movement with less than 50 madressah students and after the fall of Kandahar, thousands from Pakistani madressahs rushed to join the new force and by December 1994 he had a force of 12,000. A new phenomenon had been created in Pashtun society – that of madressah students and mullahs, with guns in their hands, ruling the Pashtuns. In Pashtun society no clear role is defined for religious functionaries in the social system. Government officials posted in these areas and the Maliks/Khans are considered leaders, who get legitimacy from the authority they exercise on behalf of the state, with religious functionaries given a limited role of dealing with rituals.
Throughout the region’s history, the religious leaders had wanted a greater role for themselves in decision-making and that is why the area often saw uprisings led by religious personalities. The latter had hold of the leadership as long as the war/jihad was on but once the conflict was over, it reverted to the Maliks and Khans. The present Talibanisation is not just a movement for enforcement of Sharia; the mullahs want power, authority and a defined role in decision making in the social system of Pashtun society.
Events and political happenings in Afghanistan have always had some impact on NWFP in general and FATA in particular. The Durand line divided many tribes, and out of the seven tribal agencies, six have tribes on either side of the Durand line.
As for Swat, it is neither a tribal area and nor does it border Afghanistan – so the question arises that why has it become a stronghold of extremists. Being a fertile area it always attracted invaders. Till the 10th century most of the population were followers of Buddhism and were very peaceful and docile people. In the 16th century the Yousafzai tribe captured the valley. The area was divided between various sub-tribes. There was no central system of administration and the tribes resolved their disputes themselves. Except for a few years of central rule, this system continued till 1917, after which different tribes elected a central leader and Swat emerged as an independent state. In 1926, the British accepted the state of Swat and the ruler was offered the title of Wali-e-Swat. He formed his own central administrative system with two types of courts functioning in the State. Courts headed by the religious scholars, known as qazi courts, and judicial courts headed by the area tehsildars. The qazi courts dealt with cases of divorce, inheritance and some other minor cases involving Sharia while all other disputes were referred to the tehsildar court. The appellate forum was that of a hakim, and a final appeal could be made to the wali. All this process took only one month. In those times the social problems were also not very complex so generally, the population was getting free and speedy justice.
Dir and Bajaur were annexed by Pakistan in 1960 while Swat was merged in Pakistan in 1969. In 1975, these former independent states were declared as Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA). These areas were then conferred the status of districts which meant that they also got district administration and police force. The judicial system, however, was based on jirgas and the executive authority of district magistrates. In 1992, on a petition of lawyers, the PATA regulations were abolished by the courts. However, surprisingly no alternative system was put as a replacement and this created a judicial void which created unrest in the general public.
And it was this void which then created the seeds for the Nov 1994 uprising by the TNSM. This led to violence and the TNSM took control of six districts. New rules for traffic were introduced and all kinds of transport were forced to move on the right side of the road, the left being deemed un-Islamic. This resulted in numerous road accidents. Men were made to wear watches on the right hand. A sitting MPA of the PPP, the then ruling party, was killed. It took the law-enforcement agencies more than a month to dislodge the militants and to regain control of these areas.
As for the TNSM, it was formed by Sufi Mohammad in 1988. He himself is a simple and peaceful man who does not preach violence except in the way of jihad against non- Muslims. However, he does not have the leadership qualities and capabilities to control large movements. In the 1994 movement, besides the TNSM, many other elements also joined in and they included gangs of car-lifters, the timber mafia, farmers who had disputes with Khans, loan defaulters, smugglers and many other anti-social elements. Because of the violence, the then provincial government introduced the Nizam-e-Adal regulation in Malakand division in December 1994 and established qazi courts thereafter in 1995.
Besides the TNSM factor, there are other actors in Swat. In the aftermath of 9/11, many of the foreigners who fled Afghanistan crossed over to Pakistan and took refuge in many parts of the country. Quite a few landed up in Swat and they were joined by others more recently after the recent military operation in Bajaur agency. Another factor that may have contributed is the landless farmers who, during Bhutto’s era, took possession of lands which belonged to the Khans of the area — Matta tehsil of Swat was the most affected in this regard.
In case a focused strategy is evolved and pursued to a logical conclusion, the situation in both, FATA and Swat can be brought to normalcy if the following steps are taken: To develop consensus of civil society, all political parties, the media and all segments of society and the general public need to be educated that Talibanisation is a real and serious threat to the country and that if nothing is done to stop its advance then the anarchy will spread across the length and breadth of the country.
As for Sufi Mohammad’s demand for the establishment of an appellate court, this has already been done now. It should be noted however that the Adal act was already in place and so the establishment of an appellate court is not exactly a major milestone. One effect that the government will be hoping for is that Fazlullah may be sidelined or isolated to some extent because the people will see Sufi Mohammad as being the motivating force for the new system. At the same time, however, the governments should continue with targeted operations which should be conducted against the real terrorists through accurate intelligence. Once an area is cleared of militants, troops should remain stationed in it, so as to re-take control over all troubled areas in the district.
The office of the DC/district magistrate should be restored with its original powers. This will allow the return of local administration. Compensation should be paid immediately for damage caused to public and private property. Special funds should be provided by the federal government for reconstructing all damaged and/or destroyed schools. An army garrison should be established in Swat and should have the size of a brigade. The headquarters of the Swat Scouts should be shifted from Warsak to Kanju. The scouts should be reorganized into five wings corps and also FC posts should be set up in all suitable areas. The strength of the police force should be increased and the Frontier Constabulary should be deployed wherever required.
The local people who are against the present violence should be provided security. Their resistance against the militants can be maintained only if they believe that the government is serious in eliminating the Taliban. Also, the judicial system should be made more effective by taking suitable steps for making provision of justice both speedy and affordable.
Negotiations with terrorists should be held on a two-point agenda: that they surrender and lay down their arms and that their leaders give an undertaking that they will not run a parallel administration and not interfere in the state’s domain. If these conditions are accepted, and a monitoring system put in place confirms that they are being adhered to then a general amnesty to those not involved in heinous crimes could be considered. (The News)
The writer is a former brigadier who served as chief of military intelligence and of the ISI for NWFP, FATA and the Northern Areas. He also commanded the Dir Scouts and raised and commanded the Swat Scouts. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org