Newspaper Articles

Swat: Taliban hit-list and two-finger sign

If international humiliation and domestic depression is what the Taliban wanted, they have found the device with which to do it in Swat. They have released a list of 43 people whom they have declared “wanted” and liable to punishment under the Taliban sharia. People on the list include former and current members of the national and provincial assemblies, district and local nazims, officials of political parties, local elders and other influential residents of the troubled valley.

And what is the Taliban sharia all about? Warlord Fazlullah says those on the list will face some sort of sharia court but he also says in the same breath that the “enemies” would “be arrested or killed by his men”. He promises that they would face the court only if they escape getting killed. The death sentence has already been passed and his men will most probably try to do the rough justice with their own hands. In his mind, Mr Fazlullah is content that the sharia court is there to back him up but only if he wants the court to do the job. There can be no doubt that he will make it clear to the court what kind of verdict he wants for his “enemies”.

This is not sharia. This is a clear stratagem of war.
It becomes clear when he announces amnesty for those of his “enemies” who have stopped opposing him. This he has done without reference to the sharia courts he presumably has functioning in Swat. The charade is lost on no one except those who forgive the atrocities of these people because in their minds these have come about only because the army has not been withdrawn from Swat as per the “unanimous” resolution of the Pakistani Parliament. Publicists opposed to the government continue to bring up witnesses from the Swat region who complain only of the “atrocities” committed by the army through collateral damage.

One can make an easy prediction. The ANP claim that “good news” will come from Swat “in fifteen days” will have to be swallowed without a glass of water like the earlier papers signed with the warlord. The hit-list is in fact his answer to the ANP’s “good news”. The scene in Swat is depressing and it is all the more so because it is a warlord’s two-finger sign in the face of our mighty army. Swat is the war that Pakistan will have to fight if it wants to survive. All other “threats” are political red herrings. (Daily Times)

No easy solution

THE news from Swat and Muridke is the latest evidence that militancy and terrorism are a hydra that defies an easy solution. Begin with Swat. Both the armed forces and the militants are changing tactics as fighting escalates. At the moment, the militants are in the ascendant and pressing ahead with the enforcement of their version of the Sharia. The Tehrik-i-Taliban have now demanded that some 50 prominent local political figures appear before a ‘court’ to answer what will presumably be ‘charges’ of ‘opposing’ Islam, i.e. the Swati Taliban. The charade is of course little more than a thinly veiled death threat. Given the disastrous security situation in the area, the Pakistan Army claims it has developed a “new strategy” to fight the militants which involves beefing up the troops in Swat and going after militants hiding among the locals and using them as human shields. Meanwhile, in Muridke the Punjab government has taken over the Jamaatud Dawa’s headquarters and appointed an administrator to oversee the welfare operations run by the group, including schools and hospitals.

Muridke, with its pro-poor face, and Swat, with its uninhibited, brutal militants, represent the two ends of the militancy spectrum in Pakistan. The tactics for uprooting the Jamaatud Dawa/Lashkar-i-Taiba in Punjab and the TTP in Swat must therefore necessarily be different. However, there are at least two commonalities between the two very different battles.

First, no military or law enforcement action will be successful without full political support. In Swat, the TTP has successfully cowed the politicians and across the political divide there are voices questioning whether the state should use force to reassert its writ. While there can be no purely military solution to militancy, the politicians must not be bullied into appeasement. Today the TTP has a hit list of prominent Swatis; what’s to stop them from issuing another list of politicians from Peshawar or the NWFP or even Islamabad? In fact, appeasing the TTP in Swat today virtually guarantees the militants will spread their tentacles further afield in Pakistan. The same goes for the Jamaatud Dawa. If the provincial and federal governments do not work together to ensure the group is shut down for good, in all likelihood it will re-emerge later in a new form, and perhaps with an even more virulent ideology. Second, a winning counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism strategy has to focus on the welfare of local populations. The Jamaatud Dawa’s welfare network must be absorbed by the state and its beneficiaries continue to get the services. Similarly, in Swat the terrorised locals must be looked after and shielded from attack. Militancy will only be defeated when the population sees the state as a protector and ally, and not as part of the problem. (Dawn)