February issue 2009
Editor’s Note: February 2009
Why has it taken the government this long to respond to the desperate calls of the beleaguered people of Swat?
Schools were being blown up every day, as were video parlours and barber shops. Taliban opponents were being disfigured, beheaded, and their bodies displayed at public squares. Women were being ordered to stay behind the chadar and chardivarior face the consequences and children were deprived of polio vaccines. All tourist spots and hotels, including the beautiful Malam Jabba ski resort, were destroyed, depriving the people of their major source of income and livelihood. And several thousand people were forced to flee their homes. Mullah Radio continued to spout venom and instill the fear of the Taliban in every heart.
The security forces, for the most part, reportedly remained confined to their bunkers, while the Taliban ran riot across the length and breadth of what was paradise and turned it into a living hell.
And is if that were not enough, now they are demanding the heads of NWFP parliamentarians, ministers and councillors who have been ordered to appear before a Shariah Court for opposing the Taliban’s brand of Islam. Further, they have banned NGOs and threatened to disallow any development work in the valley.
The situation is so hopeless that police officers have deserted or resigned their posts, or gone on long leave. Even the elite commando police that was specifically trained for this purpose is apparently reluctant to take up position.
Why have the government and army stood by as silent spectators for this long? What stood in the way of PEMRA jamming Mullah Radio’s FM station that was spreading hatred and intolerance? Why did the authorities wait till 180 girls’ schools were razed to the ground and 80,000 girls deprived of education and 8,000 school teachers rendered jobless? Why didn’t the army move to protect those people who stood up to the Taliban and were ruthlessly butchered, one by one? The gang leaders of these brutalities have been holding press conferences every now and then — and yet the security agencies have failed to nab them. There are allegations of the Taliban having support within certain pockets of the security establishment. So, when the interior minister boasts that Swat will be wrested from the militants in a fortnight or so, one tends to view it with a certain degree of scepticism.
However, now that the army professes to have a new strategy in place, one hopes it will deliver. Meanwhile, there are still those who insist that an army operation is not the solution and that there should be a process of dialogue.
A dialogue at this stage! With whom, and to what effect? You negotiate from a position of strength, not weakness, which is the case now. Previous peace agreements failed to yield results because the Taliban were allowed to get away with murder, which further emboldened them to extract more and more concessions.
No one should be allowed to challenge the writ of the state on the pretext of introducing the Shariah. People who are so vengeful as to dig out dead bodies from graves and put them on public display cannot be serious about implementing the Shariah.
If only leaders of religious parties like the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema -i-Islam would take some time out from their busy schedule of TV appearances to denounce such heinous practices and expose those who are destroying this beautiful land in the name of Islam. They would be doing a service to Islam — and this country.
Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.