You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Swat deal and western pressure

Excerpts from a letter to the editor:

The West in particular and some people within Pakistan are opposing the pact with the TSNM, saying we should not stop fighting the militants. First, Soofi Muhammad cannot be seen as a militant, given his peaceful protest camp in Timergara and, now, the very impressive effort to promote peace in Swat. After nearly a year and a half of turmoil, the poor people of Swat have breathed easy and are even celebrating the occasion -- we must not betray them again.

Second, Jonathan Steele is a veteran British journalist who has been covering Afghanistan since the time of the Soviet invasion. There are many important arguments given in his article, based on long experience of the country.

For instance, the self-evident title becomes more lucid by the following paragraph: “Nato faces tougher challenges than the Russians (did). Twenty years ago, Taliban did not exist, suicide bombing was not in vogue, and the Afghan army and police were more effective.


..., it is up to us to save Pakistan, above all, and, after that, help the West to whatever extent we can. One has lost track of the number of senior western officials who have been saying aloud that there is no military solution to the Taliban problem and are themselves advocating peace talks with the Islamist militia.

Why should we be pressured to keep fighting an unwinable and endless war and get fatally injured? What is sauce for the gander should be sauce for the goose as well.

In his letter, Mr Ahmed has noted that the government did a U-turn after releasing Dr A.Q. Khan no sooner than the West expressed its annoyance. One only hopes that Islamabad doesn’t reverse its decision about the Swat agreement after it has had time to deal with the lawyers’ long march and sit-in the next month.

If the people’s trust is lost once more, the consequences will be disastrous.

DAWN.COM | Letters to the Editor | Swat deal and western pressure
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Swat accord is not surrender

By Kunwar Idris . Sunday, 22 Feb, 2009
Supporters of Maulana Soofi Mohammad peace march on the street of in Mingora, outskirts of Swat valley.— Reuters
Supporters of Maulana Soofi Mohammad peace march on the street of in Mingora, outskirts of Swat valley.— Reuters

A day after President Zardari conceded in an interview with an American television channel that the Taliban had established their presence across large swathes of Pakistan, the government of the NWFP, with his approval, recognised the presence of the militia in Swat - one which could not be eradicated even by military action.

Only time can tell whether this recognition will work to advance or check the aim of the Taliban which, in Zardari’s words, is ‘to take over the state of Pakistan and our way of life’. The instant merit of the agreement between the provincial government and Maulana Sufi Mohammad, however, lies in bringing to an end the sufferings to which the people of that once idyllic valley have long been subjected.

The jubilant crowds on the streets of Swat were celebrating not the advent of Sharia law but the return of normality — let there be no mistake about it. The ovation given to Sufi Mohammad was not because of recognition of him as a harbinger of a new order but as a messenger of peace.

Even if he is unable to persuade his Taliban son-in-law Fazlullah to lay down his arms and abide by the agreement, Swat’s worst nightmare, it seems, is over. If the political administration now acts sensibly and promptly, Fazlullah’s marauding men will no longer be able to raid music shops, harass women or burn down schools.

The reaction of Pakistan’s allies — the US and Nato — quite predictably has been sceptical. Both would have preferred Pakistan to press on with its military campaign. They suspect that the ceasefire would only provide a respite, giving the terrorists time to regroup and mount their assault again.

The allies, however, have conveniently overlooked the ground reality that the army operation was alienating the population without exterminating the fanatical fighters.

Thus even if the agreement fails to take hold, the ceasefire provides an opportunity to the government to muster popular support more than it does to the terrorists to refurbish their armoury. The loss of life and earnings that people of all vocations have undergone seems to suggest that they would rather put up with the present system howsoever corrupt or unjust than suffer all the more while waiting for an elusive Islamic order.

In any case the agreement between Maulana Sufi Mohammad and the NWFP government stipulates no more than a judicial system based on the Sharia laws to be introduced in the former princely states of Swat, Dir, Chitral, the protected area of Malakand and Hazara Kohistan.

The executive authority and all other regulatory and developmental functions will continue to vest in the provincial and federal governments under the same laws as are applicable to the rest of the country.

The judicial system envisaged in the agreement is hardly any different from what was in vogue in the former princely states before they were made districts. It was informal, inexpensive and expeditious even if harsh and not always just. Such was the experience of this writer as resident political agent and adviser of Chitral state as also of his colleagues in Dir and Swat.

The formal introduction of Sharia courts now that the states have become districts must not be viewed as Talibanisation of their society or institutions. For all purposes other than the trial of criminal cases and adjudication of civil disputes they will continue to administer justice as is done in other districts of the country.

It needs to be clearly understood that the three states and other parts of Malakand and Hazara divisions are not tribal societies nor wild territories in the sense that next-door Bajaur and Mohmand or further Khyber, Kurram, Orakzai and North and South Waziristan are.

It was wrong to have grouped them as Pata, i.e. provincially administered tribal areas, for they are not tribal as are the federally administered agencies collectively called Fata. Between Pata and Fata there is little affinity or communication. Even the language and social norms differ. Swat has cultural and lingual links with settled Mardan but none with the Mohmands, for instance.

Likewise, Sufi Mohammad’s Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi predates the Taliban phenomenon and had no connection with it — until recently. It was the agony caused by the expense, delay and corruption inherent in the operation of the unfamiliar and complex laws of Pakistan that persuaded him to launch a mass campaign for the enforcement of Sharia law in Dir much before 9/11. As the campaign dragged on, Sufi Mohammad’s son-in-law Fazlullah from his base in Swat established contacts with the Taliban and the movement took a violent turn.

Despite this connection which surely brought the TNSM arms and money, it remains essentially an independent movement confined to Dir and Swat. The occupation of Pakistan and the destruction of America do not appear to be its goal.

It would not have gathered the momentum it has if our local councils instead of indulging in politics had attended to the needs of the common people and had spared them the torture of prolonged litigations. The provisions of the local government law relating to the care of the poor and settlement of disputes at the village level had all along remained a dead letter.

Pakistan stands much to gain and its allies in the ‘war on terror’ have little to lose if the Sharia courts bring tranquillity and tourists back to the Swat valley and the mountains beyond that are among the highest in the world. Sharia law is not new to the area but violence is. As political agent in the 1960s, this writer presided over both Chitral’s Sharia system and its secular judicial council only to wonder now whether the people living under Pakistan’s elaborate judicial system could ever be as law-abiding, tolerant of dissent and content in poverty as were the Chitralis then. Swatis were not much different.

Given a just and non-intrusive but firm administration they can be the same again. Advice from Ijlal Hyder Zaidi who had long served in the region and was later Benazir Bhutto’s adviser should help. Talking to the mullahs and militants undoubtedly has its risk but it is one worth taking for the survival of Pakistan and peace of the region. The liberals and militarists will surely live to fight another day.

DAWN.COM | – NWFP | Swat accord is not surrender

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Unnecessary comments

RICHARD Holbrooke may well have serious doubts about the Swat deal, and his reservations may well be shared by others in the American power structure. But does he need to be sending his message to Pakistan via a television interview? We think not. Start with the obvious. The Americans and many others have direct access to the corridors of power in Pakistan. There is hardly a week where some general or State Department official or congressional delegation does not arrive in Islamabad and is duly photographed meeting top government and army officials. Good-cop, bad-cop routines may be standard fare in international politics but do they need to be so publicly executed? Mr Holbrooke himself said, 'We are engaged in very intense discussions with the military leadership of Pakistan and the ISI about this particular issue.' So what mileage is there to be gained from going on television and talking about his reservations?
Full article, DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Unnecessary comments
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'Democratic' India denies rights of Kashmiris...

SRINAGAR, Feb 20: Police opened fire and lobbed teargas shells to disperse protesters demanding the release of a top pro-independence leader on Friday, injuring at least 26 people.

Angry protesters took to the streets in Srinagar, shouting “Down with security forces, release Shabir Shah,” while some threw stones at policemen.

“Twenty-six people were injured in the clashes,” police official Fayaz Ahmad said.

Last year police detained Shah, a senior Kashmiri leader after he led some of the biggest rallies in two decades against Indian occupation of the disputed region.

Shah, dubbed by his supporters ‘Kashmir’s Nelson Mandela’ for the more than 20 years he spent in prisons for opposing Indian occupation, is an executive member of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, main alliance of Kashmiri political parties.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the region since a freedom struggle broke out in 1989. But overall violence involving Indian troops and militants has declined significantly since India and Pakistan began a slow-moving peace process in 2004. New Delhi has put a pause on that dialogue after last November’s Mumbai attacks.--Reuters
26 injured in Kashmir police firing -DAWN - Top Stories; February 21, 2009

but who cares???
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Progressive Youth Front (PYF) Karachi Protest Demo on Saturday 21st February

Progressive Youth Front Karachi calls on civil society, activists, and particularly the youth of Pakistan to protest the ongoing injustices in Swat. We believe the recent Nifaz-e-Adl to be an unnecessary capitulation to forces that have held ordinary and civilian Swatis hostage. Much like the brutal and indiscriminate military operation could never solve the crisis of militancy, the Nifaz-e-Adl promises only a temporary reprieve. The decades-long neglect of the human rights of Swatis will not be addressed by this agreement. If it has any popular resonance, it is only because people are frightened, and tired of war and curfew. In that sense, a renewed military offensive promises to play into the hands of the militants. We call on the government to push instead for a ceasefire, backed by the promise of a free and fair referendum on the question of judicial reform. In the meantime, we express our full solidarity with our progressive brothers and sisters in Swat, whose resistance has been doubly suppressed, both by the bombardment of the military and the machinations of the Taliban.

As a youth organization, we want to, in particular, call attention to the devastated state of the schooling system in the district—for which both the military and the Taliban bear responsibility. Any sustainable solution to the problem of militancy in the region has to include a comprehensive plan to restore and improve the provision of education in Swat.

(About PYF: Progressive Youth Front Karachi is a revolutionary youth organization that believes in a secular and truly democratic Pakistan. We reject the inequalities and poverty that ravage our society, and will continue to organize for a more humane, just, and equal Pakistan.)

Protest demo against “demolishing of educational institutes, Taliban fundamentalism, drone attacks on innocent people of swat, Bajhor, military operation of US imperials and local agents†.

Please come and show your solidarity with innocent people of swat and all area of Pakhtoon kawa.

Programme schedule
Date; - 21 February 2009

Day: - Saturday
Time: - 3:00 p.m.
Venue:- Karachi Press Club (KPC)
Please contact for details

Asfandyar vows to implement accord. Well done ANP!

By Ashfaq Yusufzai

PESHAWAR, Feb 20: Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan has said he can quit the government but cannot back out of his party’s commitment to get the amended version of Nizam-i-Adl regulation enforced in Malakand region for the sake of lasting peace.

He was talking to journalists in Momin Town where he had gone on Friday to offer condolences to the family of MPA Alamzeb Khan, who was killed in a bomb blast on Feb 11.

He said the people of the Malakand region wanted peace, rehabilitation and restoration of normality in their towns and villages and his party could not compromise on the issue.

“We have the president and prime minister on board for the peace initiative. We… can even quit the government, but will abide by the declaration agreed with Maulana Sufi Mohammad,” he said.

He said the ANP would sincerely take the Swat peace initiative to its logical conclusion.

“The bill regarding the enforcement of the Nizam-i-Adl regulation has not been sent to the president and, therefore, there is no question of it getting signed,” he told a reporter.

“We have to decide our matters in line with our needs. All our decisions reflect our desire to safeguard our interests,” he said.

The ANP chief said his party accorded priority to the wellbeing of Pukhtun people and it was ready to talk to the United States and other countries and Nato and other organisations on their reservations over the agreement.

“We will take decisions in accordance with our own requirements. We are ready to convince the people opposing the move,” he said. He said the initiative would take time but a consensus would be developed.

Asfandyar Wali said Alamzeb Khan had sacrificed his life for peace.

“Pukhtuns have always been made to endure terrorism and the same has been the case with Alamzeb Khan,” he said.

He said ANP’s intentions in reaching an accord with Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) regarding the enforcement of a ‘Sharia-based judicial system’ in Swat were based on sincerity.

The ANP chief said some elements were trying to put obstacles in the way of peace in Swat and all political parties and other segments of the society needed to stand up against terrorism.

“Those who don’t know where Swat is located are speaking and writing about Swat,” he said.

He said the analysts who were making a mountain out of a molehill should do something else to pass time. “They don’t know what price the residents of Swat have been paying since the eruption of violence in the valley.”

He said the people of Swat had welcomed the government’s announcement about providing speedy and inexpensive justice.

“Nobody will be allowed to sabotage the initiative for peace,” he added.
Asfandyar vows to implement accord -DAWN - Top Stories; February 21, 2009
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Avoiding selective silence....... by Samad Khurram


In Swat, the army indulges in another never-ending battle with elusive militants who hold entire cities hostage to their whims. The silent victims of this violence are ordinary residents whose lives have been utterly devastated by the carnage. Sadly, there is no hope for peace until the residents of Swat and the people of Pakistan actively stand up and do their part in combating terrorism.

Speaking out against Islamic militants remains taboo in the minds of Pakistanis for many reasons. People are genuinely afraid of threats or falling victim to terrorism. Numerous editors have claimed to have been threatened by militants or their supporters. Furthermore, many who disagree with the militants in their actions may sympathize with what they stand for – a Shariah-based system of governance. They tend to silence their criticism either in the vain hope that militants will reform themselves, or for fear of being labeled a non-Muslim.

While we are often quick to dismiss conservatives as narrow-minded, this strategy of selective silence stems from the most progressive people of our country. PPP loyalists, who tend to be the most vocal advocates of human rights during other governments, turn a blind eye towards the appointment of honor killers in their cabinet. Those who still let principles guide their conscience and dare to speak up are scorned for sowing the seeds of a military takeover or being right-wing. Constructive intellectual discourse is stifled by an ‘us vs. them’ rhetoric that has become commonplace in our society.

For those who do wish to speak up, alternative media presents a different avenue. People can communicate without having to reveal any personal information using blogs, in chat rooms, or by commenting on popular sites and online videos. The messenger is saved from witch-hunts while the message trickles down. Given time, these drops of dissent can form a reservoir of change. Indeed, those of us who had no experience with or intention of starting a blog or mailing list realized that alternative media was the only tool left to us when the mainstream media vanished from our households in November 2007, when General Musharraf imposed emergency rule.

Eventually, the real resistance to the emergency was built on the internet. Millions signed online petitions and hundreds of thousands extended support as the world watched the blogosphere explode with anti-Musharraf rhetoric. Efforts such as The Emergency Times blog and mailing list, which I helped publish, helped people stay informed about protests as well as emergency-related news developments.

Some in Swat have tried to follow a similar model, but have enjoyed limited success. They were drowned out by the cacophony of voices on the internet or lacked the fundamentals of good blogging. Ironically, it was the mainstream media that helped put alternative media back on the map during the present crisis. An online dairy became a success once BBC Urdu picked up the blog of a brave seventh-grade school girl from Swat who pens her thoughts as well as the sights and sounds from the area, and tailored it for the general audience.

These online efforts have helped advocate for change, but the fact is the Emergency Times and Swat Diary will remain event-centric blogs, popular only among a small band of followers. Real, long-term impact is achieved by those who are willing to reveal their identities along with their message. Moreover, credibility is built by being consistently honest and advocating for the same principles each time.

Professor Adil Najam is one blogger who has spoken critically and impartially on many issues ranging from economics to foreign policy and religion at Thanks to his careful analyses, this liberal has garnered the trust and goodwill of many conservative Pakistanis across the world, and has even succeeded in changing many of their minds. Comments on Prof. Najam’s website clearly suggest that his readers do not agree with everything he says. Yet when he asked for help in reconstructing a girls’ school in Swat, his readers were quick to donate one-third of the cost in a few days. Many of the pro-judiciary, pro-Musharraf, pro-Nawaz, and pro-PPP cadres, who normally point knives at each other’s throats, banded for a common cause.

The same results could not be achieved by other cyber-intellectuals such as Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Zaman Hamid. When reports of the crisis brewing in Swat were first revealed by Hamid Mir, Zaid Hamid was quick to dismiss them as fabrications and allege instead that Mir was a covert CIA operative. Neither website today has any mention of the crisis in Swat. And, in my opinion, neither would succeed if they initiated a call for action.

The fact is, alternative media has changed the dynamics of moral responsibilities. If you are a Pakistani who is able to read this message, it is your ethical and national obligation to speak up, present your side of the story, advocate for change, and organize for a better tomorrow. It also means that you are responsible for whatever statements you make as a Pakistani on the internet. Online readership is not geographically bound and one irresponsible statement can unleash a storm of hate. The vitriol generated by Zaid Hamid’s war threats to Indian journalists and citizens is ample proof of the high potential of abuse alternative media has.

The eventual hope of positive change in Pakistan rests with those who choose to make their voice heard by whatever means necessary. Specifically, that hope lies with nonpartisan activists such as Prof. Najam and not with those who exacerbate the ‘us vs. them’ split. Criticism must begin at home and must be applied without restraint to everyone, beloved or hated. That is the only way to change the minds of those on the other side and make the most of the power of free speech.

Samad Khurram is an undergraduate at Harvard University who made headlines by refusing to accept an award from the US ambassador to Pakistan, citing continuing drone attacks in the country. He maintains a popular blog and has participated in the lawyers’ movement to restore the judiciary dismissed by former President Pervez Musharraf.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Learning from US follies

THERE has been an interesting and heartening development in Somalia. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has been elected the new president of the country by their parliament and earned UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s congratulations (Feb 2).

Here, it is important to recall a few facts. In 2006, Sheikh Ahmed, who is considered by all sides to be a moderate leader, had been at the helm of the Islamist group called Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which was fighting to oust the ineffective transitional government created by the US-led international community.

By December 2006 the ICU had taken control of much of southern Somalia and restored peace to the territory, bringing to an end the warlords’ thuggery and lawlessness of the previous 16 years. However, this had alarmed Washington which, as usual, saw an Al Qaeda connection, despite ICU’s denials, and so it pushed Ethiopia into invading its neighbour to kick out the Islamists. The Americans themselves launched air and sea-based attacks on some hardliners.

In this period, the militant wing of the ICU, named Al Shabaab, allegedly aligned itself with Al Qaeda and was, by last December, controlling 90 per cent of southern Somalia. The tragedy is, if the US had not intervened two years earlier to rout the ICU-led by Sheikh Ahmed, radicalism wouldn’t have gone through the roof, taking thousands of civilian lives.

Ironically, the US representative has now welcomed the election of the same Sheikh as the president of the Horn of Africa nation! This illustrates the senselessness of American policies. As in case of the Iraqi invasion, apart from the Muslims, many Europeans (think tanks and analysts) had been stressing the need to include the Somali Islamists in the power sharing, but Washington’s extreme paranoia about Al Qaeda et al makes it act irrationally in all such situations.

Consider Pakistan. For the past several years, the US has constantly sabotaged all attempts by Islamabad to sign peace agreements with the Taliban and other militants. On several occasions it even resorted to air strikes a day or so before the treaty was due to be inked, in order to provoke the volatile tribesmen and scuttle the event.

The result is a manifold increase in radicalism and the situation now is of intense mistrust and hostility between the Taliban and the establishment, which is unlikely to end for years, if ever.Another significant fact is that according to reports in a section of the electronic media of Feb 1 (partly reported in Dawn, Feb 2), Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the British defence staff, has made several observations that are in line with what other British commanders and diplomats have been saying.

He said Taliban can only be defeated politically rather than militarily; that the American drone attacks on Pakistan are counterproductive and that the Karzai government’s weakness is causing difficulties for the British troops in Afghanistan, which implies problems for others as well, including Pakistan.

In view of these ground realities, it is extremely important for Islamabad to review its strategy for a war, which the Musharraf regime converted into its own, and the present government has been following suit. Premier Gilani felt constrained to observe in Davos and foreign Minister Qureshi, in different words in Multan, the other day that the American strategy has failed in Afghanistan. Apparently, in their hearts our leaders know the US game plan is bound to fail in the entire region, but are unable to oppose Washington’s dictates.

The front-page picture in Dawn (Feb 2) from the troubled valley of Swat showed a man carrying his elderly mother on his back to escape from the fighting in the area, which brought tears into my eyes. But, those who matter seem unmoved. Sitting at a distance in their fortified residences, they just can’t feel the pulse of these devastated souls.

Wherever the Americans have intervened directly or indirectly, thousands of Muslims’ lives have been lost at the very least, be it Algeria, Somalia, Afghanistan or Pakistan, while in Iraq nearly a million got killed. Why should the Muslims have to be guinea pigs for Washington’s psychological hang-ups and stumbling experimentation?

DAWN - Letters; February 10, 2009
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US, India and the 'K-word'

AFTER great expectations had been raised in Kashmir and Pakistan that the new American president would finally do something about resolving the Kashmir issue, it appears that India and its supporters on the Capitol Hill have been able to dissuade him from doing so.

According to a report, on New Delhi’s request the US administration has kept the dispute out of the portfolio of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (Jan 31). It cites the Washington Post as saying: “Eliminating… Kashmir from his job description…” is seen as a significant diplomatic concession to India that reflects increasingly warm ties between the country and the United States.

The Post also reported that Indian diplomats, worried about Mr Holbrooke’s tough-as-nails reputation, didn’t want him meddling in Kashmir. Ambassador Holbrooke is nicknamed “the Bulldozer” for arm-twisting warring leaders to the negotiating table as he hammered out the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia.

Also, in interviews to various US news outlets, Indian officials warned Ambassador Holbrooke against ‘any high-profile intervention’ in Kashmir, pointing out that it was so politically sensitive in India that it’s referred to as the ‘K-word’. Further, that India’s former national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, has said that his country was never going to relinquish control of Jammu and Kashmir because “that is written in stone and cannot be changed.”

The Indians are free to make any claims but they are reminded that there is another ‘K-word’ that is even more indelibly written in the life of nations and individuals, about which they ought to know better than anyone else. The word is ‘karma’ and is now known to ordinary people globally more than Kashmir is.

For 60 years India has been trying hard to digest what it had forcibly tried to swallow but the situation is that today it can neither swallow nor expel something that is non-kosher for it. The deadly side-effects of this unlawful morsel include a violent resistance on the part of the Kashmiri freedom-fighters — the erstwhile Indian premier Vajpayee had himself acknowledged it to be an indigenous struggle — that has caused much pain to India.

A fair estimate puts the number of those killed (another ‘K-word’) since 1989 at 80,000 and the Mumbai attacks appear to be one more manifestation of the karma. Another, even more frightful effect has been the nuclearisation of the region.

It is time India stopped fighting reality and accepted what the world leaders and even some of its own intellectuals and peace activists are saying. The famous writer and activist Arundhati Roy had been very candid and correct when she wrote last year (Dawn, Sept 3, 2008):

“For all these years the Indian state has done everything it can to subvert, suppress, represent, misrepresent, discredit, interpret, intimidate, purchase — simply snuff out the voice of the Kashmiri people. It has used money…, violence…, disinformation, propaganda, torture, elaborate networks of collaborators and informers, terror, imprisonment, blackmail and rigged elections to subdue what democratic people would call the will of the people.”

This should leave no doubt in anybody’s mind about the third degree New Delhi has given to the Kashmiris.

Instead of expediently trying to please India, Mr Obama should join hands with other countries such as Britain that think alike on the subject and do something concrete to resolve the issue fairly, in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiris.

The international community should not allow India to let its desire to hang on to Kashmir it grabbed from its real owners and continue to compromise the regional and global peace by blackmailing even the superpower. This would actually be in the nation’s own interest as well as that of South Asia and the rest of the world.


TopDAWN - Letters; February 10, 2009
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Tribal heads urge the govt. to change policy on FAtA

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Bazid Khel Villagers up in arms against Taliban

Sometime ago, it was in the news that a Union Council Nazim is leading an uprising against the Taliban along with the villagers of 'BazidKhel' near Bara.

I wonder that this courageous act is getting any attention at all? Its a one-of-a-kind valiant effort of one village to stand-up to intolerable reign of terror unleashed by the Taliban.

A story by Daud Khattak, on one of the mailing lists goes as follows:

* Committees organise patrols by volunteers to guard against possible attack to avenge killing of nine Taliban

By Daud Khattak

PESHAWAR: The hujra (community guest house) of a union council (UC) nazim is abuzz with activity in Bazidkhel village, on the outskirts of Peshawar, where villagers had killed nine Taliban last week.

On February 4, the villagers had killed nine Taliban, who had come in two cars from the neighbouring Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency to abduct UC Nazim Fahimur Rehman, who is behind the villagers uprising against a Taliban group from Khyber Agency.

Following the Talibans killing, their groups chief had warned the people of Bazidkhel, through his illegal FM radio, of a bloody revenge.To guard themselves against a Taliban attack, the villagers have taken up arms and have started patrolling the streets of the village, 20 kilometres from Peshawar. Speaking on his FM channel, the groups chief had warned the villagers to hoist black flags on their houses, to show they were not involved in the killing of the nine men, or face a bloody revenge.

Volunteer groups: However, the villagers defied the threat and formed volunteer groups to patrol the streets to guard against a possible attack. A six-foot-high wall has been constructed just behind the main entrance of the UC nazims hujra. This wall has been completed to avoid an abrupt assault from the front entrance, said Rehman. On the roof, labourers were busy erecting a boundary wall, usually used by villagers to take cover during a clash.

Praising the courage and cooperation of the villagers, Rehman said, Let them attack and we shall come out with a tougher response.With an AK-47 assault rifle slung over his shoulder and his cell phone constantly ringing, Rehman claimed he had the support of the people from 28 union councils. Nearly two dozen armed men sat in the compound of his hujra. Others guarded the front gate while another group sat alert on the rooftop. Rehman was happy with the cooperation and support provided by the government and the police. Were going to meet the NWFP governor on Monday, said the bearded nazim, in his late 30s.He said Bazidkhel and the surrounding areas were known for their long-standing blood feuds but the groups attack threat has brought us together. He said all tribesmen had set aside their personal enmities and had joined hands to face the common enemy.

The local Taliban chief had said the nine men had gone to the village to attend a condolence meeting. However, the UC nazim claimed he had received threats from the group in Khyber a week before the February 4 killings. Rehman said the group had a support base in Bazidkhel before the February 4 incident. However, all the people were now united against the group, he added.

Locals said night patrols had been increased in the area and committees had been formed to oversee patrols by volunteers. Cell phones had been distributed among the village elders and heads of the committees for coordination and quick reaction to any eventuality, they said.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pakistan's Valid Questions, India's Stubborn Response

ISLAMABAD, Feb 9: Pakistan has described the information provided by India on the Mumbai attacks as ‘insufficient’ to reach a logical conclusion and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice.

Reviewing a report prepared by the Federal Investigation Agency, the defence committee of the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani decided on Monday that Pakistan would also send a dossier to India with several questions required for investigation into the case.

Official sources told Dawn that the dossier had been drafted and would be sent to New Delhi in a couple of days.

India, it may be mentioned, has categorically rejected Pakistan’s claim that the information contained in its dossier was ‘insufficient’ and announced that it would not provide any further information to Pakistan.

In its dossier Pakistan seeks reports of DNA tests of Ajmal Kasab — the lone surviving perpetrator of the Mumbai attacks and nine others reportedly killed by Indian security personnel so that they could be matched with their family members, if any, in Pakistan.

Pakistan, according to the sources, also seeks information about weapons used by terrorists and details of mobile phone calls made by them and reportedly taped by Indian security forces.

Pakistan also demands information regarding I P addresses from which emails were sent to attackers by alleged perpetrators.

In the dossier, Pakistan also seeks access of Pakistani investigators to the Indians who also were believed to be involved in the attacks in order to interrogate them. There is a strong realisation in Pakistani security agencies that without the help of elements in India, the Mumbai crime could have not been committed.

Pakistan also urges India to provide details about Indian Navy officials who were reportedly killed by terrorists when they violated Indian territorial waters.

Pakistan has also decided to register a case against perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to bring them to justice in accordance with the law of the land.
Full story on Ball back in Delhi’s court: Answer sought to queries raised in FIA report -DAWN - Top Stories; February 10, 2009

I'd say the indian response is premature and irresponsible as well.
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Monday, February 9, 2009

Dialogue with Taliban not an option............

While it seems to be a good idea that Government should re-start negotiations with Pakistan Tehrek-e-Taliban (PTT), I have found an increasing opposition to this idea especially among my Pukhtoon friends.

Came across this article by Mateen Saeed ( a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy & a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo), written in response to Masooda Bano's article urging a settlement of the violence in NWFP thorugh dialogue.

This article is reflective of the same thinking. It is a parallel view to currently prevailing view, I guess coming from a Pukhtoon analyst, should be given an ear.

I start by quoting him from his email posted in a mailing list,

Masooda Bano's suggestion/formula seems practical if Indian model of Bandit gangs surrenddering arms to CM or high ups is kept in mind. Masooda Bano might have in mind great Bandit queen Phoolan Devi, who was latter elected member of indian assembly, all her crimes pardoned etc. Problem with Taliban is neither they are Bandits nor any affectee of Talibans has ever levelled any such charge. They are puritans but their purification is confined to female activities, music, barber shops etc. Although they are very sensitive about nizam adle but if we compare their adminstration of justice with the justice great Sultani Daku, Muhammad Khan Daku and many alike personalities delivered during their reign of terror, one wonders either it will transform into an effective judicial system or will wipe out with the elimination of Taliban monstors. Another problems with talibans is they are sensitive only about speedy justice, on the other hand, problems of majority in this so-called land of pure are health , pure water , communication , inflation, employment and host of other problems. What solution our great puritans ( Talibans) have for these issues.

Complete story at:


Dialogue and peace deals with Taliban have been a recipe for disaster for the Pakhtuns. Take for example, the peace deals that were signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan. Despite their existence, killings are happening there, women are barred from applying for CNIC cards, female education and music are banned, and the entire tribal leadership has been killed or made to flee from the area. Furthermore, safe passage is provided often to sectarian terrorists to Kurram and Orakzai agencies and we all know what has been happening there. Journalists who have observed the negotiations and deals claim that usually there are two agreements – one written, the other verbal. The written agreement, if implemented, would in fact restore the writ of the government. The verbal version however is that both sides agree not to disturb the other which means that the Taliban can in fact do as they please as long as they don’t target the security forces. Unfortunately, it is the verbal one that is usually implemented.


How can one possibly have a dialogue with a person who believes that Shias must be killed and who has actually killed many Shias? How can one negotiate with someone who enjoys beheading people, and has beheaded people — like the Swat Taliban who every day announce on their FM radio the names of all those that they behead?


In my view it is the less-informed analysts who are pushing for dialogue with the Taliban – the ordinary Pakhtun are most certainly not in favour of this. I may be criticized for this but I will also say that it is the less-informed analysts who seem to be making the same mistakes that contributed to the disasters of our past. Before the fall of East Pakistan, many non-Bengali analysts in the media were saying that soon the situation would be controlled and we know what happened then. I should also point out that I have come across many nationalist Pakhtuns who are so frustrated and angered that they would rather deal with the Taliban on their own or wouldn’t mind allying with other entities which display less of a reluctance to deal with this scourge head on.

Complete story at:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Insurgency in Swat - An analysis

Here's an analysis of the Swat situation by Abdullah Saad (, a must read:

Part 1, Part 2

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Extremists!!

By: Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The oxymoron "Muslim extremists" was obviously coined by those who have no idea of who a Muslim is. By definition, a Muslim is someone who follows the middle path, the one who has proclaimed that there is no one worthy of worshipping except Allah, the Most High, and that Muhammad--upon him be peace--is His Messenger. This proclamation establishes a covenant between a Muslim and his or her Creator. By definition, a covenant is a formal agreement and a promise of legal validity. It is a volitional act; that is, there is no compulsion on any human being to declare the Shahadah. But anyone who declares the proclamation of faith simultaneously agrees to follow the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the most Noble Messenger, upon him be peace, both of which prescribe the golden middle path as the path of Islam.

These two primary sources of Islam contain a very detailed and elaborate set of instructions, guiding Muslims to the path that leads to ultimate success in the Hereafter. These two sources are stable, accessible, and totally transparent. They outline a clear code of conduct, provide examples of moral behavior in all situations one can think of, describe legal boundaries and consequences of following or not following the path of Islam. The foremost obligation of a Muslim is to remain within the boundaries established by Allah, for these boundaries of Allah (Hudud Allah) cannot be transgressed without severe retribution.

To protect life at all costs and to keep others safe from one's hands and one's tongue is one of the most important obligations of a Muslim. A Muslim, by definition, is one from whom no harm proceeds. This means that no Muslim can think of taking another life, for such an act will clearly push him or her beyond the sanctified boundary. Furthermore, the Qur'an describes the collective body of Muslims as the "Ummah of the Middle Path" (Ummatun Wusta), a collective body of human beings committed to the middle path.

These are not merely abstract ideals; they have been exemplified in the full light of history during the twenty-three year period of the Prophetic life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Makkah and Madinah. A detailed record of this period exists for all to examine. Obviously this historical record contains incidents where a Muslim failed to remain on the Middle Path of the Qur'anic teachings and the Sunnah of the Prophet. But these exceptions do not change the rule; they merely underscore human frailty and since the Creator in all His Mercy knows human nature, He has provided recourse to the repentant soul, and warned the transgressors who do not repent of dire consequences.

Given the clearly outlined Middle Path of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, one cannot be a Muslim and an extremist at the same time. Since the Qur'an and the Sunnah are unalterable sources, there is no possibility of anyone inserting personal opinions into these two primary sources of Islam. Thus, extremism can only be the result of misunderstanding the message, or of a conscious and willful distortion, or rejection of the teachings of Islam. This is how Muslims have traditionally understood all acts of violence and extremism. Since there are known and well-documented examples of individuals as well as groups who have behaved in extremist fashion, Muslim scholars have developed a complete schema of such behaviour and prescribed solutions.

Those who proclaim to be Muslim but fail to remain within the boundaries established by the two primary sources of Islam--the Qur'an and the Sunnah--are not called extremists, but Khwarij. That is, those who have left, gone beyond the limits. This is not merely a semantic distinction, it is a distinction of fundamental nature including all aspects of life. Furthermore, it is a legal distinction. The Law differentiates between a behaviour that is accidental and one that is the result of a distortion of beliefs. The distortion in beliefs (and hence in deeds) entails consequences for both this and the next world. The distortion in beliefs can take place even "in the name of Islam," as in the case of the Kharajites who rebelled against the Muslim Ummah and state during 690-730. Such movements are not common in Muslim history, but there have been examples of individuals and groups who have been afflicted with this terrible disease.

What Muslims face now, however, is a disease of another order. There has never been a time in their history when Khwarij have dominated the scene as they now do. And there has never been a time in the past 1,430 years of Muslim history when such an internal revolt was so widespread. What Muslims have today is a global movement of Khwarij of two types: there are those whose beliefs have been corrupted "in the name of Islam," and there are those who have become Kharajites because they have become "secular Muslims"--another oxymoron.

Both cases have produced the same result: extremists. Thus, there are two kinds of extremists: those who have left the Middle Path of the Qur'an and Sunnah, through a self-delusion they call "in the name of Islam," and those who have chosen to abandon it as a reaction to what they see in their societies, or because their belief has eroded through what they received as education. These two kinds of extremists now fill the foreground of Pakistan's national life, just as they are the prime focus of a global crusade launched by the United States of America to reshape the Muslim world according to its own needs and priorities and to secure its global hegemony.

Whether national or global, individuals in both camps of extremists now face each other in a clash that invariably results in violence. It is a random and undifferentiating violence that engulfs everyone who happens to be within its range. Innocent lives are thus lost in a conflict that has now become like a simmering war between two sets of modern-day kharajites. There are global shifts in the intensity of this conflict: at times it emerges in Algeria, at others, it dominates FATA or the Swat valley in Pakistan, or raises its ugly head in Iraq. But wherever it emerges, it has the same underlying source: a distortion of beliefs. It is, therefore, important to understand the roots and varieties of both kinds of extremism and explore ways to deal with them.

(This is the first of a three-part series of articles.)

Source: The News on Tuesday, February 03, 2009

[The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:]