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Swallowing up Pakistan

The imposition of the Nizam-e-Adl regulation in Swat is worrisome, writes Zafar Hilaly.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2009 22:37 IST

The surrender of Swat politically was as humiliating as that of Dhaka militarily. It doesn’t matter whether the Nizam-e-Adl regulation is good or bad, barbaric or Islamic. Or whether the 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 doesn’t matter that once upon a time the laws and practices under the Adl existed as part of the customary law of Swat. So did Sati in India; infanticide in Arabia and karo-kari (honour killings) 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 even the Prophet permitted it in Islam.

Muslim Khan, the Taliban spokesman, announced 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. Yet, they’ll go about their deadly task. In which case the Adl will bring death and destruction rather than peace to Swat.

Within a day of the accord being announced, Khan said, contrary to what was agreed, that the Taliban in Swat would not surrender their weapons on the grounds that Islam permitted the carrying of weapons. The Awami National Party (ANP) spokesman explained that what Khan meant was that “personal weapons” would not be surrendered. Earlier, 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.

With the acceptance of the Adl demand, the fear that extremism may overwhelm Pakistan has been replaced by the certitude that it will.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 are investments.

In moments of national stress, the people look up to their leaders and in moments of 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 that virtually creates a State within a State; the decision to forgo secret balloting meant that many, perhaps the majority of the Members of National Assembly (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, the MNAs thought that discretion was the better part of valour and opted for a voice vote?

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 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, been irretrievably transformed. One can only pray that the metamorphosis that takes place will be for the better.

Zafar Hilaly is a former Pakistani Ambassador

Courtesy: The News

First Published: Apr 16, 2009 22:36 IST