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Malakand Agreement: A Silver Lining.

Summary: While PakistanAEs politics is in a tailspin after the February 24 disqualification of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, leaders of PakistanAEs second largest political party and the subsequent imposition of GovernorAEs Rule in Punjab, the Malakand Deal has been a silver lining.

Multiple outcome of the implementation of the Malakand Peace Agreement between Sufi Muhammad and the government is unfolding before us.

It ranges from beginnings of peace in violence-wrecked Swat to ongoing negotiations between the principle interlocutors, the ANP government and the army, and the TNSM Chief Sufi Muhammad; from the emergence of common position between the governmentAEs principal interlocutor Sufi Muhammad and the governmentAEs principle antagonist Maulvi Fazlullah of Swat Tehreek-i-Taleban Pakistan (TTP) to points of debate or even disagreements between them. The immediate gains and the immediate problems that are obvious at this early stage of the Malakand Peace Accord are indeed indicative of the opportunities and the many risks this accord presents.

Reported kidnappings in the post-accord period have included the newly-posted District Coordination Officer (DCO), Khushhal Khan his six guards and three National Bank of Pakistan employees, including a cashier. The DCO was released after six hours. A TTP Swat spokesman had reportedly told Reuters: oHe is our guest. We have to discuss some issues with him. We will serve him with tea and then C free him.o The National Bank employees, who were kidnapped from Odigram area near Mingora, have not C yet been released.

The list of initial aepositivesAE visible in Swat is also undeniable. Return of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from the Swat region has begun; all boys schools have opened while girls schools till grade 4 have opened; instead of armed militias ordinary people roam the public spaces in Mingora and its immediate vicinity. C Life is though only limping back to some normalcy, Mingora and its neighbouring areas present a contrast to even a fortnight back. Then people lived under virtual terror and State institutions and lawuenforcement agencies and C the army were virtually non-existent, C if not paralysed.

The governmentAEs plan, worked out jointly by the army and the ANP is an attempt to initiate a process whereby the public space ceded to the TTP-Swat, other militant and criminal groups are retrieved by the government. This would involve removing the TTPAEs checkposts, ensuring that the law-enforcement agencies become functional, end to kidnappings and killings of local citizens, enabling the men and women of Swat to lead a normal life, and end of the militantsAE control of public spaces. Given the extent to which the government and the State lost its control of Swat and conversely the extent to which TTP acquired the control of Swat, the task of retrieving control will be a complex one.

Clearly the elements in the government-army strategy to reassert governmentAEs write includes dialogue backed by incentives, quick dispensation of compensation, show of force and development. Within the immediate context dialogue, quick compensation and show of force are being used. Development initiatives, including reconstruction of schools, hospitals, police stations, peoplesAE homes etc. are being planned for implementation as soon as the security situation improves.

The two-step dialogue includes dialogue with the direct interlocutor and indirect dialogue with Maulvi Fazllulah of TTP-Swat. The beginnings of partial peace in Swat signals the early success of the dialogue approach. The ceasefire announcements by TTP-Swat, its decisions to remove TTP check posts, its decision to not hinder movement of army personnel and other government officials are also a positive yield of the direct and indirect dialogue approach. However, conversely indirect dialogue is also surfacing the expected: TTP- Swat is putting forward their demands, which are contrary to the Constitution and the law of Pakistan. They have C declared girls only up to grade four C can attend schools.

Release of TTP-Swat members in government custody is also being demanded. Question of the armyAEs future presence in Swat are also being discussed. These issues notwithstanding, the dialogue continues and has not hit a deadlock, yet.

Then there is the Adal Regulation 2009. It is a vehicle through which the NWFP government-army believes C that their principle antagonists the TTP-Swat can be delegitimised in the eyes of the public. The people of Malakand will now get justice without traveling to Peshawar or Islamabad. C Additionally by inducting additional judges and court officers for the existing Shariah courts in Malakand, the government will also ensure aespeedy and accessible justice.AE

These appointments will go through the usual judiciary route. The revival of the District Magistracy system to expedite the legal process is also being contemplated. This is then the crux of what the government has agreed to in the Adal regulation. There are no new laws that, at this stage are being proposed. TNSMAEs representative in the February 15 jirga meeting in Peshawar assured the government that of the six responsibilities of the government, which include Culture, education, finance, foreign policy, security and law TNSMAEs agenda was only focused on law.

The centrepiece of this strategy to retrieve the control of Swat is the TNSM leader Sufi Muhammad. The initial impact of this accord is repeatedly being broadcast through all television channels. The image is of Sufi Mohammad being followed by hundreds of people conveys that he commands respect amongst the people of Swat. His decision to camp in Swat till peace returns has won him the status of a saviour.

The strategy is largely on track. It is being followed according the script on which the army and ANP had been working on for at least five months. In the coming days barring the disruption of the peace effort by a third party, the two direct and the one indirect party (TTP-Swat), peace efforts will probably proceed smoothly. There will be a greater presence of the provincial cabinet members, including the Chief Minister in Swat, the compensation package to the Swat inhabitants who suffered during the militant-army operations will be distributed, some movement expected on the release C of TTP prisoners.

These gains notwithstanding, especially against the backdrop of an earlier dreadful Swat situation, there are three objectives the government will seek to achieve to actually demonstrate that the Malakand Peace agreement has aedelivered.AE One to not allow the TTP-Swat to implement within public space in Swat and beyond its own interpretation of Shariah; Two, the government should debilitate organisationally and resource-wise the functioning through establishment of check-posts, and three; to prevent the TTP from functioning as a deadly and armed militia which pursues the objective of forcing its own version of Shariah through terror. The only viable effort to re-establish the writ of the State the government cannot compromise on these three objectives. The Malakand Agreement is proving to be a first positive step, but clearly an insufficient one.

Nasim Zehra is an Islamabad-based C national security strategist

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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