Feb 16, 2009

Well done Mr president

President Asif Zardari’s nod to the proposed peace deal in Swat is perhaps the first major political initiative of the present government to save the valley from bleeding to death.Now when President Zardari needs to be encouraged and given a pat on his back for having agreed to this home-grown solution, overcoming his earlier hesitation to this peace deal, some confused and ill-informed political analysts and media commentators have instantly launched a campaign to derail a process which could bring back the desperately needed sanity, relief, peace and hope.Maulana Sufi Muhammad, chief of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), had assured the authorities two months ago that he would ensure peace in the troubled Swat only if his demand of setting up of an Islamic appellate court named Darul Qaza is met to ensure quick justice. The president, who was initially scared of the expected international pressure in case he approves the Shariah system in Swat but has now agreed to this and given a go-ahead to the Frontier regime to sign and announce the peace deal.What is wrong with such a localised deal in a highly troubled and violence-hit area is beyond understanding, though Zardari and some of the critics feared that the US may object to what may be perceived by Washington as a concession to the extremists.But the US cannot object if through an internal judicial restructuring, or renaming the courts, a large and potentially dangerous theatre of violence can be pacified and thousands of troops being used there can be diverted to fighting the war against terrorism in other places.While the peace deal is said to have already been signed between Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi’s (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad and the NWFP government on the enforcement of Shariah in the Malakand division and is likely to be announced on Monday, the propaganda campaign unleashed on private television channels is depicting it as a move that would seriously disfigure the existing systems in the country and might encourage people in other areas, too, to demand enforcement of Shariah in their regions.These critics don’t refer to the fact that what has been agreed between the TNSM chief and the present regime was originally approved during Benazir Bhutto’s second government and later endorsed during Nawaz Sharif’s regime but never implemented.Instead an impression is being given as if something strange is going to happen to Swat. The historic fact is that in Swat the Islamic judicial system has been part of their history even during the British rule. In the days when Swat was a state run by a Wali, the judicial system was totally unique to its own needs, as it would be now, but under a different name.The critics are also ignoring the fact that all the political forces concerned, including even the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan People’s Party, are fully supportive of this peace deal. Though, the demand for the enforcement of Shariah is generally linked to the TNSM or the followers of Maulana Fazlullah and the Taliban, the fact remains that the Swat MPs, even those belonging to the PPP, are pressing for the same as the people of Swat, irrespective of their party affiliation, demand an Islamic Justice system (Islami Nizam-e-Adal) to ensure quick justice.Justice, and swift and speedy one, is thus the crux of the whole argument and has caused such terrible loss of lives and trauma for the thousands of citizens living in the troubled area. While these analysts cast doubts on the possible outcome of the deal, Maulana Fazlullah of the FM Radio fame who controls may minds and warriors, announced on Sunday an initial ceasefire for at least 10 days. This may be one of the biggest breakthroughs for the PPP government of Mr Zardari if pursued sincerely and seriously and taken to its logical end.Maulana Sufi Muhammad would start addressing rallies and processions in Swat and would launch this campaign from Matta, the most troubled Tehsil of the valley. He would go there on Feb 17.While the constitution provides for different set of rules, regulations and laws for different areas of Pakistan and this is even true in case of other countries, including the US, the naÔve TV critics cannot understand how would the special Swat arrangement work. They are creating a confusion, perhaps oblivious of the fact that laws in tribal areas of Pakistan, provincial tribal areas including Swat, cantonment areas, etc., are different from other parts of Pakistan. And different systems for such different areas can work and have been working for ages.Maulana Sufi Muhammad, chief of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), had assured the authorities two months ago that he would bring peace in the troubled Swat only if his demand of setting up of an Islamic appellate court named Darul Qaza is met to ensure quick justice. The News recently also published the image of the draft agreement, which was prepared and signed by Sufi Muhammad after dialogue with the government authorities.The agreement announces that Shariah would be enforced in the Malakand division which includes Kohistan and Hazara. It added all un-Islamic laws and those in conflict with the holy Qura’an and Sunnah would be abolished as was agreed during the PPP and the PML-N governments of Aftab Sherpao and Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan Abbasi.As has been agreed so many times before, the agreement also said that the system of Shariah courts would be introduced and decisions would be taken in accordance with the holy Qura’an, Sunnah, Ijmah and Qiyas. No decision would be taken outside the limits set by these sources of Islamic jurisprudence.While the Qazi Courts are already operating there and most of what is written in the draft agreement is also part of the regulations issued earlier, the draft agreement demands the setting up of Islamic appellate court named Darul Qaza, which would be the final appellate authority, meaning thereby that the decision of Darul Qaza could not be challenged in any high court or the Supreme Court.Then the draft agreement envisages setting up of a committee to ensure implementation of the Islamic justice system. Contrary to those creating confusion, this is very much in line with the constitutional provisions.If such a local arrangement can be made to work and peace and tranquillity returns to Swat and other parts of the NWFP, it could also provide the fighting Islamic militants of Fata to consider similar localised arrangements within the state and writ of Pakistan and stop fighting and draining critical military and strategic resources to the detriment of the nation. What is encouraging is that all this is possible and doable but only if President Zardari and his coalition partners do not get cold feet under pressure of TV critics.

By Ansar Abbasi

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