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Is There Any Justification For Another Deal?

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There must be rule of law in the world as this is the only anwser to the issue of terrorism. Rulers of Pakistan have again been making blunders by dealing with the militants.

According to The News comment, which is very relevent, in what the ANP-led government in the Frontier province is describing as a major success against militancy, an agreement aimed at restoring peace in the Swat valley has been signed with Maulana Fazlullah. Just hours before the talks between a delegation from the government and the pro-Taliban militants began, the area saw an orgy of violence. Two schools for girls, a gas pipeline, two picnic spots and a private house were blown up or burnt. In another incident, a policeman was killed during an attack on a check post. Policemen had also come under fire a day earlier, in the Matta area. The violence underscores the need for peace in the area, so that people can resume some kind of normal life. At the same time, the attacks illustrate some of the difficulties in establishing order. It is understood militants who had been denounced by a spokesman for Maulana Fazalullah and are not under his control are behind the attacks, apparently in an effort to block peace talks. There are reports that these militants include those linked to more hard-line, banned militant groups and include fighters from outside Swat, including a sizeable number from Punjab.

As such, even after the agreement with Maulana Fazlullah, ending violence in Swat will undoubtedly prove to be a challenge. The deal, however, must be welcomed on the basis that it at least offers an immediate end to fighting and some respite to local people. Dozens are known to have died since the military operation began in Swat Valley in November last year. Many houses and shops have been destroyed or badly damaged. For local people, many of whom depended for their livelihood on the once thriving tourist industry in the area, the loss of income has had an immense impact. Inevitably, it will take years for this sector to revive -- and the possibility of this happening is dependent on the success of the peace deal. Under the agreement, the military will gradually withdraw from Swat. The militants will halt attacks on government installations, on girls' schools and on other targets including video shops. Polio vaccination drives will not be obstructed. No one will be permitted to raise private militias. The militants will help tackle crime, militant training centres will be eliminated and the government will compensate those who have lost family members or suffered damage to houses during fighting. An Islamic university is to be set up at Imam Dehri, the former stronghold of Maulana Fazalullah.

That an agreement has had to be signed on these points is revealing. It shows a complete inability to uphold the law over previous years. It is this retreat of law that permitted the descent into chaos, the rapid growth of militancy and soaring rates of crime. The state failed too to safeguard the basic rights of people, including that of having children vaccinated against potentially fatal sickness or educating daughters. People will naturally be overjoyed if the agreement leads to an improvement in their lives, as one must hope it will. However, the caveat that much of what the agreement seeks to achieve should, anyway, have been the responsibility of the government stands. Besides, this, there are other aspects of the accord that are alarming. These include the withdrawal of cases against militants, the permission given by the government to Maulana Fazlullah to continue to run his illegal FM radio station and the promise to establish Shariah law in the area. The last point is particularly problematic because it means that the elected government -- and one which makes it a point to say that it is the opposite of the previous MMA-led one -- is wilfully bartering away the rights of citizens of the province to have access to justice of the mainstream judicial system. Allowing the militants to demand political changes in this manner completely undercuts the legitimacy of the elected government and will be seen by the militants as a victory in their efforts to turn the whole country into a Taliban state.

It must be recalled that similar concessions to militants have in the past made it possible for them to grow stronger and more dangerous, mainly because such agreements were never enforced and monitored. The radio station used by Fazlullah has acted as a means to spread much hatred in the area, while the entire notion of a separate legal code for specific parts of the country is highly questionable. The concerns being voiced in Washington are therefore, in some ways at least, understandable. A State Department spokesman has said it will, for the moment, "reserve judgment" on the matter. But, despite these reservations, the accord needs to be given time. If it succeeds, it will bring an improvement over the existing situation in the area. For this to happen, close monitoring is required over the weeks ahead to ensure militants keep their side of the bargain and do not violate the agreement, as has repeatedly happened in the past, destroying efforts to establish peace in various tracts of Pakistan's turbulent northern areas.
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Muhammad Khurshid, a resident of Bajaur District, tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border is journalist by profession. He contributes articles and news stories to various online and print newspapers. His subject matter is terrorism. He is (more...)

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