Wariness in Pakistan
By Shuja Nawaz, Boston Globe, February 22, 2009
PROVINCIAL authorities in the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan struck a peace deal with local Taliban franchisees this week, and in it the government agreed to extend Islamic law in the area. Since then, commentators around the world have pretended to know what the agreement means. Some suspect a "hidden hand," whether it be the intelligence agencies or the United States. In a conspiracy-prone Pakistan, some even talk of an inside deal between the army and the militants - even as they ignore the hundreds of casualties that the army suffered in Swat. Never mind that facts may interfere with these pet theories.
In reality, only the locals know what the deal really means. I recently received the following account from a young woman from the area:
"For months and months the military has been trying to quell the militants. Two days ago their failure was accepted when the provincial government of the North-West Frontier Province went into talks with Mullah Sufi Mohammad and accepted some things. We don't yet know what those things are but the first promise is peace. Peace on what grounds? We don't know.
"Today the party of the Mullah announced that 'democracy' is un-Islamic. It is too late. We have lost the battle against the militants. We have seen day by day how government and army have [been] weakened, how they have finally been reduced to talk and to deal. Nobody is accountable for the thousands killed, for the closure of schools, for the beheadings of men and women. Nobody. Someone said to me the other day - 'Don't complain, because the one you complain to will be your enemy.'
"We no longer can turn [to anyone] here to complain. We now have to think about how to survive this. We now have to give up much of what many of us believe in - tolerance, peace, educated women, and freedom."
She believes the North-West Frontier Province is lost. And she questioned whether President Obama understands the extremists. "He seems to think that these people can be contained within their land, or [any] land. He thinks there is a meeting point, a dialogue possibility. Those who think that giving the militants their haven will contain them - well, the rest of the country and the world will see what this will lead to. This is not the end, it is only the beginning."
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Pakistan Made No Concessions to Taliban in Swat, Envoy Says - Bloomberg
Swat Valley Blues - The Opinionater, New York Times