Op-Ed: Why the Restoration of Sharia Law is No Taliban Victory
Today was a historic moment for people in Pakistan's Swat region, and a remarkable achievement by the provincial government of the northwest frontier province (NWFP). After negotiations between the provincial government, its stakeholders and representatives of Tehrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM), an agreement was finalized to implement Sharia (Islamic Jurisprudence) Law in Swat, provided TNSM and its followers are able to maintain peace.
Under 'Nizam-e-Adl' or the Islamic system of justice, Qazis (Islamic Judges) will replace state judiciary and Islamic Law of Justice will replace the official legal system.
While celebrations are going on in Malakand and Swat, Western media has expressed its worry about the implementation of “Islamic Law” in the region, taking this as a victory of the Taliban-- and defeat of Pakistani Government.
To correct this misconception, we have to first look into the origins of the demand for Sharia Law. In 1969, the states of Swat, Dir and Chitral officially joined Pakistan and annexed into a division called Malakand, with Saidu Sharif (in Swat) as its capital. Historically, people of these states followed their tribal system of justice, earlier known as Rewaj (Customary Law) and later as Sharia.
After becoming a part of Pakistan, the people of Malakand had to face the legal system of Pakistan, based on a British legal system fraught with complex procedures, which were slow, expensive and corrupt. Soon, they started to demand reverting back to their former, independent system of justice. The Pakistani government refused.
This dissatisfaction gave rise to the movement of TSNM by Maulana Sufi Mohammad in 1994. Later on, his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah broke away from the movement and started militant activities.
Things turned nasty in Malakand when the renegades from Afghanistan and FATA joined forces with corrupt local elements. In order to gain public support, they took on the name of ‘Taliban’ and ‘Nifaz-e-Shariat’ (restoration of Sharia Law) as their slogan. Locals of Malakand division were clearly not happy with this as they ended up sandwiched between these rogue elements and the government, which was trying to maintain its writ in the region.
The allegedly secular NWFP government of ANP has so far done a terrific job of restoring peace to Swat and adjacent areas, in spite of the fact that their leaders are also on the hit list of militants and have braved several life threatening assassination attempts.
From their early days in provincial government, leaders of ANP acted with diplomatic and political acumen, first releasing Sufi Mohammad and then supporting the moderate elements of the region. Now, by meeting public demand, they are positioned to isolate ‘Taliban’ elements of Malakand, who have lost their popular leverage.
Hopefully, peace will return to Swat, once again.
Tags: Malakand , Swat , Dir , Chitral , TNSM , ANP , Maulana Sufi Mohammad
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