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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 4 May 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan: Unmaking of the State

By Adil Zareef


"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma!" - Winston Churchill


PAKISTAN in this age and time clearly fits this description. The US prediction that the next 9/11 would come from Fata is no less ominous - Pakhtunkhwa certainly is in the eye of the storm.


Only last week, the Pak-India Forum for Peace and Democracy meeting scheduled in Peshawar for May 24-26 was postponed for 'security reasons'. It had last met in Peshawar in November 1998 in an altogether different world. There was music and classical dancing by the Sheema Kermani troupe as well as panel discussions on diverse issues between the two rival neighbours. Our world seemed to be inching towards normality.


Most ordinary folks ask the question: from where have the Sufi Mohammads, Nek Mohammads, Baitullah Mehsuds, Fazlullahs, Mangal Baghs, Namdaars and their ilk suddenly appeared and fortified their positions, taking the public hostage and challenging the state? Why do these things not happen in Punjab where they have Raiwind, Mansoora and the renowned 'bazaar' alongside the famous Badshahi mosque? How do the profound and the profane coexist as their economies thrive? And here in our land known for centuries for its peaceful civilisations and syncretism of cultures there has suddenly emerged the most violent interpretation of religion threatening to take the country into the dark ages.


As Swat's tenuous peace holds after a controversial agreement with the militants, cynics have termed it a total capitulation of the traditionally secular ANP and PPP to the Wahabi-sponsored movement supported by state

intelligence agencies. The argument goes like this.


The caretaker government led by former Chief Minister Shams ul Mulk had already prepared the blueprint of this deal with the establishment's man, Maulana Sufi Mohammad, who instigated the insurgency against the state for imposition of the Islamic system in 1994, and later on led thousands of gullible Pakhtuns to their deaths in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. He was not the only one who was indemnified for his crimes. Mullah Fazlullah, another shadowy character, who sprang into prominence last year after taking the entire Swat district hostage, also got official reprieve for his gross violations of human rights despite the fact that he had inflicted heavy losses on the provincial economy and

infrastructure. In fact, both men have been rewarded with this peace agreement.


According to one Swati academic, "The liberal intelligentsia is pitched against the Taliban backed by the agencies to enforce Wahabi Sharia in the entire Malakand division. As a result there is a stifling silence and suffocating fear.

In fact, Sufi Mohammad never signed the peace agreement but many others did on his behalf as Mullah Fazlullah was on a special umrah visit to Saudi Arabia. Armed vigilantes are defying the ban on weapons display and still targeting their opponents."


According to another source, the government made commitments to the militants some of which have not been made public. As a result, the militants have started roaming around freely and are doing what they had done previously. Very few residents in Kabal, Kanju, Matta and Mingora are convinced that militants would abide by the guarantees given in clauses 3-16 of the agreement.


Talking to the people of Swat, I found that they resent the fact that a few unrepresentative hardcore militants should decide their future. They feel that by acquiescing to the demand for complete Sharia, the provincial government may

further erode the credibility of the already vulnerable state institutions. No relief has been provided to the victims of the upheaval. To fill in the vacuum left by the destruction of institutions, a multi-pronged approach with a comprehensive participatory development plan and transparent governance is immediately needed. Both peace and development are essential components of this deal, which are not yet in sight.


Closer to Peshawar, in the Khyber Agency, Mangal Bagh representing the Lashkar-i- Islam is consolidating his position after eliminating all opposition. The recent gunning down of several followers of MNA Noor ul Haq Qadri's relatively

peaceful Qadriya silsila is equally disturbing with hardcore Taliban backers and notorious drug barons of the region having openly sided with the menacing Mangal Bagh brigade. The political authorities always look the other way.


When the killers of Qadri's men were nabbed by the authorities, they were immediately freed within hours through 'high level' contacts. People living in the area also say that whenever a new killing spree takes place, the security personnel conveniently disappear from the scene. A representative of the Shia Toori tribe in Parachinar also reported the political

authorities' pressure to give safe passage to the Taliban into Afghanistan after the peace deal was struck in Fata.


Banned FM radios go on and off sermonising to the people on their dress code, religious rituals etc. The presence of over 200 brand new vehicles is tolerated by the political authorities and no action is taken against them. The Lashkar-i-Islam has virtually taken over Bara tehsil and the public is subjected to heavy fines for missing a prayer. Even old men are ducked in water for not following one Islamic code or another. In fact, people live under the shadow of intimidation.


For this reason, the ANP-PPP's role has come in for a lot of flak from opponents for making a deal with hardcore Islamists. But Dr Minhaj ul Hasan who heads the history department at the Peshawar University has another view. He finds this approach to be in line with 'atamam-i-hujat', which, according to the Quran, is the last step to avoid a full-scale catastrophe which is the alternative to this peace agreement. "If peace fails this time we are in for big trouble," he remarked.


Dr Fazl ur Rahim, who accompanied Dr Minhaj to Kabul to participate in the Bacha Khan peace conference, agreed, saying, "What we gathered from Nato officials there is worrying. If Pakistan does not get the Taliban to put their

act together it may not be just pre-emptive missiles from across the border that we will get but the total obliteration of Fata and perhaps more!" he said.


A parody of Sufi poet Rehman Baba's famous lines is making waves these days, "Da sabab da jahilanoTalibano - kor au gor au Pekhawar dree wana yo di!" (On account of the illiterate Taliban - our homes and graves and Peshawar have all become synonymous!)


Soruce: Dawn, Karachi