ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Pakistan, Swat, Taliban and the Sharia

The rise of extremism in Pakistan's Swat valley calls for a democratic respo

On 16 February the government of Pakistan entered into an agreement with representatives of the Taliban for a ceasefire in the Swat valley of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and further agreed to enforce Sharia-based laws in this region. This agreement comes in the wake of a two-year conflict in the Swat valley where the government forces have fought a losing battle with the local Taliban to control the region. As of the end of last year, the forces loyal to the local Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah controlled the entire Swat valley and had been imposing their version of the Sharia. This included destroying about 200 schools and banning the education of girls. They have also destroyed government offices, police posts and tourist infrastructure. While cable television was banned, Fazlullah himself became well known as “maulana radio” for his FM broadcasts through an illegal transmitter which became the chief means of enforcing his dictate in an area where regular communications had been badly disturbed. The barbarity of these fundamentalists has been matched by the ferocity of the Pakistani state’s armed interventions which included carpet bombings, a rtillery shellings, cutting off electricity and blocking roads. The people of Swat, crushed under this pincer attack, have been left defenceless. There are some estimates that almost 5,00,000 out of its 12.5 lakh population have left Swat and become refugees in other parts of Pakistan.

Given this context, it is no wonder that this peace deal has caused public jubilation in Swat and its neighbouring areas. Outside of Swat and the NWFP, the reaction to this deal has been uniformly adverse with most commentators stating that it would strengthen the fundamentalists and provide the terrorists with a safe haven.

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