Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sharia In Swat

From the BBC:
Pakistan's government has agreed to pull troops out of a valley in the north-west under a peace agreement signed with pro-Taleban militants.

The authorities say they will also allow the militants to impose Sharia law in Swat in return for promises to close training camps and end attacks.

The move is part of efforts by the new government to end violence in the area.


Let's ignore for the moment the vast security implications of this move (for one thing, I doubt the U.S. will let it last, one way or the other). Think, instead, about it what it represents - the caving in by the government to militants in an area under the jurisdiction of the state and government of Pakistan.

I have had many, many arguments on this issue over the last two or three years. The most common refrain I have heard centers on the following three claims:

1. They are our people.

2. They wouldn't be attacking us if our troops and military would leave them alone.

3. We are are attacking them only because of the U.S; it is not our war and not in our interest to fight against militants militarily.

Isn't this news somewhat damaging for that argument? If the militants have negotiated to impose Sharia law in Swat - essentially the government has agreed to formally withdraw its writ from the area - doesn't that mean the militants have expansionist motives? If they had purely defensive motives, wouldn't they want autonomy only in the tribal areas of Waziristan or FATA generally, the areas where they have historically enjoyed autonomy? Doesn't the fact that they've pushed their autonomy into areas universally recognized - until now - as purely Pakistani territory say something about what their goals are?

2 comments:

Ali said...

that's the thing about malignant cancers - it isn't confined to where it is planted.

AKS said...

@ Ali
I would disagree with the comparison that you have drawn. This is an entirely new 'cancer.' FATA, the tribal - militant - belt, Northern Areas have always operated in a special jurisdiction. Moreover, these areas had / have little interaction with the rest of the country.

Swat differs completely from those areas. It is (was?) very much part of the state 'proper.' It was a place where everyone went to on holiday. As Ahsan highlights, by signing on to this agreement, the government is ceding its control of a part of this country to the militants.

Can you imagine how pissed of this is going to make the Baluchistan Liberation Party and Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz - two parties that have been seeking autonomy / independence for decades. The difference between them and the militants is that they have not been as violent, and when they (mainly BLA) have, their violence has been targeted and limited to government officials in localised areas.

The militants were more violent and they've been rewarded in so handsome a manner that it boggles the mind. That's a dangerous precedence to set.