By Babar Ayaz
February 14, 2014
Some leaders and journalists are telling us that all the killings in FATA were for the implementation of a quicker and more effective judicial system. If that is so then why are all the people of Pakistan not picking up arms against the corrupt and painfully slow judicial system?
Strange are the ways of politics: on the one hand, former president General Pervez Musharraf is being tried by the present government for violating the constitution by promulgating emergency, ostensibly to curb terrorism while actually it was terrorism against the judiciary and media, while on the other hand the same government has constituted a committee to negotiate with the terrorists who have ruthlessly murdered around 50,000 people including about 5,000 military Jawans (soldiers), not only violating the constitution but also all local and international laws. The dichotomy is glaring.
In Musharraf’s case the government has compromised and not tried him on the more serious crime, i.e. the coup against an elected government on October 12, 1999 because of the consideration that it would have required indicting not one general alone but the whole military. And that’s not all — the judges who provided legal cover to the military coup and even obliged the general by allowing him to change the constitution where required.
Musharraf’s coup against the former Chief Justice (CJ) and his colleagues has taken precedence over the coup against an elected parliament. Now Musharraf is faced with a hostile judiciary and media, and his only bet is that the army supports an honourable exit from Pakistan, where he returned under the delusion that the people still love him. He may be having tacit support from his institution but does not have the firepower of the terrorist groups organised under the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) umbrella.
So what does this weak-kneed policy of the Nawaz government prove? That ballot power had to surrender to bullet power on the mountains and in the valleys of FATA? When the two committees sit down to negotiate, the obvious TTP demand is to release the terrorists arrested by the government so far for killing hundreds of innocent people and military personnel, and implantation of Sharia ala Mullah Omar and al Qaeda. Now the question is: will the military agree to release the terrorists in their custody, knowing well that these terrorists will join their cadres and strengthen the TTP? It would be foolish if they fall for that.
The second demand, regarding the imposition of Sharia may include, as it did in Swat, introducing the Nizam-e-Adl. Next they can ask to have Qazi courts with only madrassa (seminary) educated Islamic scholars. They can also ask to make an Ulema (cleric) body like the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) as the supreme body instead of parliament as they do not believe in democracy and elections, which, according to the TTP and al Qaeda literature, is the “curse of the western civilization”. They can also ask to make the rulings of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) final instead of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan and to appoint only muftis to the FSC.
Will all this be acceptable to the government and parliament? Some Islamists are arguing that, with the insertion of the Objectives Resolution as the substantive part of the constitution in 1985, General Zia opened the door to the Islamisation of the constitution. They also quote Article 31 of the constitution to emphasise that implementation of sharia is possible under this provision but the point they miss is that it does not use the word ‘enforce’. Instead, it says that steps shall be taken to ‘enable’ the Muslims of Pakistan. Article 31(2) says, “shall ‘endeavour’” while only 2(a) says, “make the teaching of Holy Quran and Islamiat ‘compulsory’”. Article 2(b) says, “‘promote’ unity and the observance of Islamic moral standards” and 2(c) enjoins “to ‘secure’ the proper organisation of Zakat, [ushr] auqaf and mosque”. Now, 2(a) and 2(c) have already been implemented in Pakistan. The rest of Article 31 does not provide for forcible enforcement, as the TTP and its advocates want.
Leaving the constitutional issue aside and without indulging in the debate that there are various interpretations of Sharia that divide the Muslims of the world as nothing was written for over a century after the Prophet (PBUH), the real problem in Pakistan is separating politics and religion. Rising religiosity and the attached militancy have not only made religious teaching controversial and divisive, they have also kept Muslim societies way behind the developed world, which moved towards secularism centuries ago.
Some leaders and journalists are telling us that all the killings in FATA were for the implementation of a quicker and more effective judicial system. If that is so then why are all the people of Pakistan not picking up arms against the corrupt and painfully slow judicial system? Killing and hanging bodies on poles, bombing and whipping for a civilised cause are not justified from a democratic and secular standpoint. It is barbaric. So it is naive to believe that the long-drawn Taliban battle was just for Sharia. There is definitely more to it than our detractors want us to believe. Inspired by al Qaeda, these Taliban leaders believe in the world’s ‘Islamic revolution’ starting from a base in Pakistan.
Undoubtedly, peace is important and any little respite is welcomed by the people who have been living in the crossfire between the Taliban and the army. So, if you move the camera around to ask whether peace talks should be given a chance, people are not going to criticise these talks with the TTP. They also fear for their lives before commenting on the talks because the Taliban have been silencing all dissent across the country.
Yes, in politics we have to be pragmatic but that does not mean we should disregard what is good and what is not good for the country in the long run. The government should have encouraged and supported the local people in resisting the Taliban. People want an ally that can be relied on in the struggle against the Taliban, not a government that will give in to fascist forces.
It is advocated by the supporters of the talks that the government has to negotiate with these people as one cannot use the military indefinitely against our own people. Absolutely right! However, what they fail to recognise is that if a group of people has taken up arms against its own people and the state, one only negotiates peace from a position of strength. Everybody knows that eventually solutions are found on the negotiation table but it should not be while compromising on basic democratic principles.
In spite of the violation of this basic principle of politics and negotiation, there are slim chances for any accord unless, to appease the TTP, the government succumbs to further distortion of the constitution by Talibanising it. Indeed, this is likely to be resisted by secular forces democratically. The signs of this resistance are visible on the political horizon.