Feb 28, 2009

Grave implications for Pakistan in Swat deal

Call it political sagacity, expediency, surrender of the Pakistan army to the whims of a minority of religious zealots or a local solution to a local problem, but very few may deny that the Swat agreement has emboldened militants more than ever and may have grave implications for the rest of Pakistan.
Defence, legal and political analysts at a discussion on Swat organised by the Centre for Research and Security Studies here on Friday looked divided over the logic behind the peace deal.
They, however, were almost unanimous in pointing out that the people of Swat have accepted the deal in same conditions of anarchy and helplessness as the people of Afghanistan had surrendered to Taliban with the hope of a quick end to the years-long bloodbath and disorder.
Former chief of Intelligence Bureau Masood Sharif Khattak and former IG Sindh and ex-head of Federal Investigation Agency Syed Muhib Hassan Shah believed that there was no other option left with the government after the inability of the regular army to ensure peace after staying in Swat for almost two years.
'The Swat deal was an inescapable necessity under the circumstances but using it to reestablish the government authority and pre-empt similar demands from people in other areas is a much bigger challenge,' Mr Khattak said.
Col (retired) Khalid Munir, a defence analyst, however, saw the implication of the deal beyond the borders of Pakistan, saying it could pose a threat to the presence of the United States and Nato forces in Afghanistan.
He did not specifically mention the 'strategic depth' policy of Pakistan in the region that once advocated Jihad and the militant form of Islam in Afghanistan and even in some Central Asian Republics after the fall of Russia at the end of Cold War, but said Pakistan was still not clear 'whether fighting against terrorism is our war or that of the US.'
That Taliban came to Pakistan after the 2001 arrival of the US in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 was a false notion. In fact, they were present in the country even in 1997 and on and off burnt down CD shops and created hurdles for the local administration, he said.
'A group or groups are trying to force their values on people through force and guns,' Mr Munir said while attributing the 'failure' of the army in Swat to its lack of experience in the area and absence of political will.
Depicting a bleak picture, Mr Munir said he had information that now Taliban had started their activities in the Laki Marwat area of NWFP which was close to Mianwali, housing Pakistan’s nuclear power plant and uranium mines. The access of Taliban to Mianwali could give an excuse to the US to even attack Pakistan, he warned. Because, then the US would have enough grounds that Pakistan’s nuclear assets could fall into the hands of militants and may even take the United Nations and Nato countries on board on the issue.
Elaborating the causes of failure of the army in Swat, he said, 'After Russia’s failure in Afghanistan, some people in our army started believing, and some others still believe, that we should go beyond it. There is support for the Taliban in Punjab. Some media persons also unnecessarily call for negotiations though they are not well aware of the ground situation in Swat. And that the army did not have correct intelligence.'
Legal expert Ather Minallah described the deal as a failure of the state and the state institutions. 'The deal has been made out of political expediency. It is a kind of surrender to terrorists, militants and criminals. I would call this deal an aggression against the state,' he said.
Mr Minallah said Pakistanis had been kept deliberately ignorant of Quaid-i-Azam’s first address to the first Constituent Assembly as it contained all the fundamental principles to govern.
He regretted that the address had not been included in the syllabi.

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