Saturday, February 21, 2009

Taliban Brings Peace, Islamic Law, to Pakistan's Swat Valley

That's one way to look at it.

In the short run, it's good news for people still living the Swat Valley, in Malakand, a lovely area in northwest Pakistan that used to be a tourist destination.

There's a permanent cease-fire there, Pakistan's national government says.

There's a 10-day unilateral cease-fire there, Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah says. According to him, the Taliban is thinking over their options. We'll probably know what they decide Wednesday, when the 'permanent' cease-fire ends.

Maybe before. One effective way to announce the end of a cease-fire is to start shooting.

Islamic Justice, Taliban Style, and the Swat Valley

In the long run, people who have already fled the Swat Valley are probably the 'lucky ones.' The Associated Press did a pretty good job of describing what's been happening in Swat:

"...In Swat, the Taliban have beheaded opponents, burned scores of girls schools and terrorized the police force to gain control of much of the valley despite a lengthy military offensive.

"In a deal with a hardline cleric linked to the Taliban, the government agreed to legal changes establishing an Islamic justice system in exchange for peace. The cleric has been in talks with Taliban fighters, who declared last Sunday that they would observe a 10-day cease-fire in a goodwill gesture...." (AP)

Given what happened in Afghanistan, I doubt that 'Islamic Justice,' Taliban style, is going to get much nicer, once they've got uncontested control the Swat Valley.

Pakistan Achieving Peace with the Taliban: Sounds Familiar

Malakand's commissioner, Syed Mohammad Javed, reported on talks with the Taliban: " 'They have made a commitment that they will observe a permanent ceasefire and we'll do the same,' " and he'd like all the people who fled the Swat region to come back. That last part I believe. Of the roughly 1,500,000 people who lived there, about 500,000 got out while the getting was good.

He also said that the government would open all boys and girls schools, up to grade four. Not to worry: the government will provide security.

Javed may be sincere, but if my family was there, I'd be very, very, concerned for their safety.

Since reading an article in Parameters last year, I've been rather cautious about invoking the 'Munich parallel.' Pakistan's arrangement with the Taliban reminds me so much of Chamberlain's success in negotiating the Munich Pact, however, that I'll risk making a comparison.

Pakistan's national government may not be able to prevent the Taliban from seizing control of the Swat Valley and surrounding area. This 'peace for our time' may be the best way of saving lives, in the short run: as well as a way of saving face.

But, I suspect and fear that the Pakistani government has at best delayed conflict. I doubt very much that the Taliban will be content with control of only part of Pakistan.

By the way: if this cease-fire sounds a bit familiar, it should. Pakistan and the Taliban had a cease-fire last year. It may have given the Taliban time to re-group.

But Wait, There's More!

Xinhua, an official Chinese news service, has what I think is supposed to be cheerful, positive, news about the situation in Pakistan: "Javed, Commissioner Malakand Division, of which Swat is the major city, said that the government would take more steps to restore peace in the region.

" 'You will listen more good news in the days to come,' Javed said."

I'm sure that I will "listen more good news in the days to come" - but I'm not sure that I'll see it as being quite so "good."

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.