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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2706

Pakistan In Sharia Quagmaire

By Sarla Handoo - Syndicate Features

Within a day of the National Assembly of Pakistan passing the Nizami- Adl regulation and the president Asif Ali Zardari giving his assent to it, the worst fears have begun coming true. The Tehriki Nifazi- Shariati- Mohammadi has come out with a surprising definition of Nizami- Adl saying that the law will protect militants who are charged with killings and persecution of innocent people of not only swat but the entire Malakand Agency. That is because the Chief of the outfit Maulana Sufi Mohammad says that "past things will be left behind and we will go for a new life in peace."

The outfit has also made it clear that the law will not cover Mullah Fazalullah and his followers and as such the new Sharia courts can not hear complaints against mullah Fazulullah by the residents of Swat.

That being the case, one need not be surprised by the report that the Taliban has forcibly occupied 10 Sikh houses in Orakzai Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). They took their leader Sardar Kalyan Singh as hostage and demanded a ransom of Rs. 50 million as Jazia, the religious tax. Since the poor families could not pay the levy, they were forced to leave their homes for other areas. Media reports say there are only 15 Sikh houses in the area and that five households had left earlier for fear of their lives at the hands of Taliban.

The Sharia law provides for cutting off the hands of a thief and stoning and lashing people for different crimes. The area is now out of bounds for the modern civil law. What we will be seeing now is the repeat of the recent case in Afghanistan where a young boy and a girl were made to face bullets publicly. They loved each other and wanted to marry but their parents were against it.

The US has come out with a strong reaction to the move by Pakistani President to approve the law. It both said that the law goes against both Human Rights as well as Democracy. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the US is deeply concerned about the development. President Asif Ali Zardari is putting up a brave face in trying to make the world believe that he is not capitulating before the militants. But that is something no one, including the people of Pakistan, are going to believe. That Zardari tried to absolve himself of the responsibility by letting the Parliament pass the bill before he signed it is a ruse the people can clearly see through.

Even between the hard-line cleric Sufi Mohammad and the Taliban, there are contradiction. While Sufi Mohammad is clear that the Taliban have to lay down arms after the deal is implemented, the spokesman of Taliban Muslim Khan has said that lying down of arms by the Taliban is not part of the agreement reached between the NWFP government and the Taliban which was brokered by Mullah Sufi Mohammad. How is this contradiction going to be reconciled in the future is still an open question.

One of the ominous facts is that the Taliban of Pakistan, who largely constitute the Pakhtuns, are already in touch with militants in Punjab, the largest province of Pakistan which is home to half of the country’s population. In fact, there are reports that the attack on Marriot Hotel in Islamabad and the recent ones on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the Police Academy near Lahore were carried out jointly by the two militant outfits.

Taliban is now working for strengthening its position in Punjab and extending its tenterhooks to other areas of Pakistan. It has already announced that it is working for extending the Sharia law to entire Pakistan. It has adopted a well calculated strategy to destabilize Pakistan by taking the Punjab route. It seems to have realized hat for destabilizing Pakistan it is important to destabilize Punjab first.

The political leadership does not seem to realize the gravity of the situation. That is why President Zardari has buckled under pressure from the Taliban as well as a section of political parties, including the Awami National Party, which threatened to withdraw support to the PPP government in Islamabad.

It is in this backdrop that the US has warned Pakistan to beware of entering into peace deals with the Taliban and allow the Sharia law to be enforced in the name of Islam and thereby deprive the people of Pakistan of their basic human rights. And some behind the scenes arm-twisting from Washington, has forced President Zardari and Army Chief Gen Kayani to put their act together and checkmate the onward march of Taliban from Swat belt.

The US Administration is committing a mistake in trying to distinguish between the good Taliban and the bad Taliban. The fact is that there are no good Taliban at all and engaging what is perceived to be good Taliban will only worsen the situation. A leading American expert on South Asia Ashley Tellis argues that any effort at reconciliation with the Taliban will "undermine the credibility of American power and the success of the Afghan Mission." He describes it as the "worst possible approach" to deal with the problem.

Undoubtedly, application of Sharia law in Malakand area has been a decision inimical to the interests of Pakistan itself and of course, the rest of the world. It will prompt the US to intensify its drone attacks on the tribal areas, ignoring Islamabad’s protests.

The clouds on the Pakistani horizon are thus getting darker.

- Asian Tribune -

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