After a long dialogue with the Chief of Tehreek-e-nifaz-e-shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) (The movement led by Sufi Muhammad, the religious saint in the region), the provincial government led by the Awami National Party (ANP), reached an agreement for the implementation of Nizam-e-Aadl. It is appreciated by different sides and it also receives harsh criticism by those calling it a great surrender of secular or nationalist party interests. After considering the ground realities in Swat, it is very difficult to appreciate or criticise the agreement as it has potential for both. It can help the law and order situation and it also can make it worse.
Last year in May, the ANP led government signed an agreement with Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat (Taliban movement Swat Chapter), where neither of them had a mandate to do so. Maulana Fazlullah (Chief of Taliban movement in Swat) of Swat has not announced the breaking of that agreement thus far. It was Baitullah Mehsood (Chief of Taliban Movement, Pakistan), who not only announced the breaking of the agreement, but he also threatened the provincial government to quit the alliance with the power (the coalition government). On the other side, ANP led government also has not announced, the breaking of the agreement to this date, but it was the federal advisor for interior ministry, Mr Rehman Malik, who announced its breakage and even denied the existence of an agreement. In such a case, where both of the parties were helpless, the agreement was useless. There was no guarantor between the two groups for maintaining the agreement and, also, there was no one to supervise the parties to the agreement or to observe any violation of it after its implementation. The well organized Taliban in the region used the time interval for re-grouping as there was no authority watching them to stop them from doing so. The provincial government was enjoying themselves at that time and sleeping. The result was a worse situation, which cost many lives, including leaders of different political parties, especially those connected with the ANP. Their houses were burnt or destroyed and their relatives were brutally murdered. Many of them left the area. The exception was Afzal Khan Lala (One prominent, Pashtoon Nationalist leader, belongs to ANP). Meanwhile the central president of ANP was also attacked at his home in Charsadda (a town near Peshawar), but luckily he escaped.
This time situation is a bit different, as Sufi Muhammad is the chief of his banned TNSM and he is not under the influence of any one. However, it is really difficult to analyze whether or not he will have the power enough to convince Fazlullah to put down his weapons. There may be some reasons for that.
- If he puts down his weapons, who will give the guarantee that he and his followers will be allowed to live peacefully in the area. Although some of his activities should be banned, a wholesale refusal to give him a chance to live will be seen as a refusal of the agreement. We have a big example in the case of the Ex-president of Pakistan to whom immunity was given, although he is a criminal of the same grade. If we look back at the past year of army operations, we can easily see that either Pakistani armed forces did not perform whole-hearted operations, or they were unable to do it. All this experience of the last year tell us that we should do our best to bring the Taliban to the table and to defeat them at that table since we have been unable to put them down on battle field.
- The implementation of Nizam-e-Aadl was the demand of TNSM, but if we look at the activities of the Taliban Movement, it is far more than that. TNSM was established especially to fill the vacuum in the justice system of the Wali-e-Swat (Chief of Swat) after the integration of the Swat state into Pakistan. If this present Nizam-e-Aadl satisfies the TNSM, the masses and the Taliban, it will be a great achievement because the Taliban, not only banned girls from getting an education, but also stopped women from working in offices, destroyed tourism, hair dressers, CD shops, and any development which they considered in accordance with Islam in their extremely narrow interpretation.
- The agenda of Tehreek-e-Taliban (Taliban Movement) Pakistan is to implement their extremely narrow interpretation of Islam in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If the central command sitting in South Waziristan (The region near Pak-Afghan border, from where the Taliban movement in Pakistan started) that will allow the Taliban of Swat to have satisfaction by having Nizam-e-Aadl in the Malakand division (The region around Swat, including 6 districts). If Baitullah Mehsood stops helping Fazlullah, he will be an easy prey for the Pakistani government. Will he rely on the Pakistani Government? Will he not be handed over to the USA? We have a black track record of that by handing over the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mr Mullah Abdulsalam Zaeef.
- The main reason for the start of Taliban Tehreek (Movement) was invasion of Afghanistan by US and NATO forces which are still present there. The new US President Barrack Obama gave permission to send 17,000 more soldiers. Will the presence of a total of 73,000 foreign troops allow Fazlullah to sit peacefully in Swat? If they try to cross the borders towards Afghanistan, what Pakistan will do? Will that lead again to the breakage of the agreement? US and NATO forces in Afghanistan know very well the consequences of the peace agreement for them in Afghanistan that is why they are against it, in order to keep the Taliban busy in Pakistan, as they have nothing to do with the peace or unrest in Pakistan.
- The success of this agreement will encourage other religious groups to pressure government for such a justice system in other areas, and this can also destroy the law and order situation in other areas.
There can be some positive achievements and hope for this agreement which include following.
- It will increase the credibility of the ANP led government. If the Taliban breaks the agreement that will strongly reduce the mass support of the Taliban in the area, which has been much reduced after first agreement of last year was broken.
- It can bring pressure on the Taliban from the supporters of Sufi Muhammad. They can then start an armed confrontation with the Taliban, which can be dangerous too, but can be better than the national lashkars (armed civilians against the Taliban) led by tribal chiefs with unorganized youth. It will be very difficult for Fazlullah then to defend his struggle for Islam, as Sufi Muhammad will be speaking against him. Although, if Fazlullah does not want to abandon his position, there are chances that he will do it and will surrender to Sufi Muhammad.
- This time can give chance to government to re-organize and to revise their strategy, and also to look for the hideouts of the Taliban. During this time, the government should strictly check the entrances and exits of Swat in order to prevent the movement of weapons and soldiers from other regions.
Above all we should think positively and hope for success and positive results. We should avoid irrelevant criticism, as government has very limited options for peace, with both internal and external forces are keeping them under stress. In such a situation, it is difficult to decide correctly and we should not ask them for immediate results. All these things can only move step by step.
Wish for a long lasting peace.