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Surrender of Swat as humiliating as the fall of Dhaka

Nizam-e-Adl in Swat

By Zafar Hilaly

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The surrender of Swat politically was as humiliating as that of Dacca was militarily. It matters not that Adl is good or bad, barbaric or Islamic; or that court judgements will be super-quick or delayed; or whether presiding officials are called Qazis or Justices. What matters is that the agreement was extracted by force and specifically by the slaughter, amputations, abductions, rape and terrorising of innocent citizens.


Again it matters not that once upon a time the laws and practices under Adl existed as part of the customary law of Swat. So did suttee in India; infanticide in Arabia and karo-kari in Pakistan but they will never be enacted into law notwithstanding demands of locals or a parliamentary resolution. But it is unconscionable that Swati women should be denied education and work when no less a person than the Prophet (pbuh) permitted it in Islam.


Muslim Khan, the ubiquitous Taliban spokesman announced gleefully that there would be more executions, showing off a list of those the Taliban want to try under the new Adl Courts. His list included senior government servants, a woman whose husband serves in the US military and many others.


Already Swat is full of Taliban militants, who in due course will invite drone attacks. They will go about their deadly task; in which case Nizam-e-Adl will have brought death and destruction rather than peace to Swat.


Within a day of the accord being announced the Taliban spokesman said that contrary to what was agreed the Taliban in Swat would not surrender their weapons on the grounds that Islam permitted the carrying of weapons. The ANP spokesman quickly explained that what the Taliban spokesman had meant was that "personal weapons" would not be surrendered. Earlier, Muslim Khan had made the Taliban forsaking weapons conditional on "the enforcement of Sharia on the ground by the government" when no such condition was included in the infamous agreement with the ANP. We look forward to viewing the cache of weapons comprising rocket launchers, rocket propelled grenades, ground-to-air missiles, anti-tank mines, mortars, etc, surrendered by the Taliban in Swat. One suspects that we won't ever get to see them, for the simple reason that none will be surrendered.


The Taliban spokesman further stated that the Taliban would abide by the decision of the Qazi in all matters. As if a Qazi selected, monitored and supervised by the existing Taliban-friendly administration in Swat (headed by the current commissioner, reportedly an avid Maulana Sufi/Taliban loyalist) will act in defiance of their wishes. However, for the rest of the population defying the Qazi's verdict, the Taliban spokesman said, would amount to kufr, a crime that carries the death penalty.


With the acceptance of the Adl demand the fear that extremism may overwhelm Pakistan has been replaced by the certitude that it will. Lives are being planned accordingly and so too investments. Sadness stalks the land. It is heart-wrenching to have a countryman walk up and ask "Sir, please tell me what should we do. What will become of us?"


In moments of national stress the people look to their leaders and in moments of national peril to the armed forces. In Pakistan today neither is evident.


Of the national leadership, including that of the opposition, the less said the better. The stifling of debate on the legislation in Parliament notwithstanding the historic nature of the Adl law which virtually creates a state within a state; the decision to forego secret balloting meant that many, perhaps the majority of MNAs, who opposed the law were silenced. Or was it that terrified by the Taliban threat to kill those who did not support the legislation, MNA's thought that discretion was the better part of valour and opted for a voice vote? Whatever the reason the haste in which the law was approved was undignified and reflects Parliament's weird notion of where lies its duty to the electorate.


Of the Army, public expectations were high and hence the disappointment greater. If the truth be told one of the largest standing armies in the world, with nuclear weapons to boot, is in headlong retreat. A rag tag gang of ruthless killers has it on the run.


Pakistanis are waking up to the prospect that they have no one to defend them but themselves. As one recently retired major, discounting any opposition by the establishment to the seemingly irresistible advances of the Taliban, said: "Oil your guns, Sir, and keep the ammo handy; it is we, the public, who will have to do the fighting."


It seems that the crucial psychological moment when a people and a society take destiny in their own hands is happening. By the time this process, whether forced on them by circumstances or undertaken by their own will is completed, Pakistan would have changed, nay been irretrievably transformed. One can only pray that the metamorphosis that takes place will be for the better.



The writer is a retired ambassador. Email: