Pakistan: drones versus sharia?

Another US drone struck Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Feb. 16, again killing some 30. Like the drone strike that killed similar numbers in South Waziristan Feb. 14, the raid targeted militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud. But this time the missiles struck the Kurram tribal region—which had not been targeted before, signaling a broadening of the drone-strike campaign. The US has now targeted Pakistan four times since President Barack Obama took office last month.

Meanwhile, Paksitan’s government has accepted an offer from Maulana Sufi Mohammad to instate sharia law in the Swat district of North West Frontier Province in exchange for a pledge to persuade Taliban fighters in the area to lay down arms. The agreement defies US demands for Pakistan’s authorities to fight harder against the militants.

Officials said that authorities agreed to a legal system rejecting any law that does not comply with the doctrines of the Koran and Sunnah, or teachings of the prophet Muhammad. “After successful negotiations, all un-Islamic laws related to the judicial system, those against the Koran and the Sunnah, would be subject to cancellation and considered null and void,” said NWFP information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain. (NYT, Reuters, Feb. 16)

So is there any alternative for Pakistan other than US drone terror or capitulation to Taliban tyranny? Sound off readers…

See our last posts on Pakistan and the struggle within Islam.

  1. Is it appeasement?
    We asked for commentary from our readers on this rather important question. We’re waiting. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times says yes is a Feb. 19 editorial:

    The Pakistani government’s announcement this week that it has cut a deal with Taliban leaders to trade peace for the imposition of Islamic law in the bucolic Swat Valley region is a worrisome development. The government appears to be ceding control over part of the North-West Frontier Province less than 100 miles from the capital of Islamabad. This would diminish the state’s authority and legitimize militants who have been torching girls schools, beheading police and assassinating civilian members of the ruling Awami National Party, driving out hundreds of thousands of terrified residents in a little more than a year.


    In principle, the government is right to pursue negotiations with combatants and to distinguish between different insurgent groups. Unfortunately, the Pakistani government is negotiating from a position of weakness. The army lacks counterinsurgency capability and has not been able to beat back the Taliban’s Swat offensive, launched in November 2007. The provincial government is shaky and, therefore, lacks strong backing from a population trying to navigate between the warring sides. Rather than draw moderate insurgents away from their radical brethren and into the country’s established political system, this deal will allow the radicals to control Swat under a separate legal system, which threatens the integrity of the state. It does not demand that the militants disarm or formally denounce other insurgent groups, and it does not hold them accountable for the unlawful killings and other abuses

    Meanwhile, there are many risks. The calm would allow the insurgents time to rearm and regroup. What happens if they start shooting again — who will enforce the cease-fire? With U.S. air attacks putting pressure on the tribal areas and President Obama sending 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, other insurgent groups could seek sanctuary in the newly quiet Swat region. Moreover, this deal sends a message to them that there’s no cost for serious human rights violations. Rather, they might keep fighting for a similar deal and control over more Pakistani territory.

    Meanwhile, it appears a journalist was killed at the “peace” celebration in Swat. From Pakistan’s Dawn, Feb. 18:

    MINGORA — Musa Khankhel, A local journalist, was killed by unknown assailants in Matta area of Swat district on Wednesday.

    Musa Khankhel, correspondent of The News and Geo TV was kidnapped by unidentified people from Matta area, where he was covering the convoy of the Tehreek Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi’s chief Maulana Sufi Mohammad.

    Later his bullet riddled body was found near Dedpani area of Matta sub-division. He became the third journalist killed in the Swat valley during the turmoil, while eight media men have so far been killed in the violence-hit districts of the Frontier province and adjacent tribal belt.

    Khankhel was associated with journalism from 1993. He had expressed his fears against certain elements several times while covering the conflict.

    Khyber Union of Journalists (KhUJ) and Peshawar Press Club (PPC) have strongly condemned the killing of Musa Khankhel and have demanded of the government to immediately constitute an inquiry tribunal and arrest the perpetrators. KhUJ urged the government to protect the lives of journalists. They said that the government should award exemplary punishment to the killers of the journalist.

    The journalist bodies also declared that Thursday would be observed as a black day to mourn the brutal killing of the journalist. The journalists would fasten black ribbons around their arms and stage a protest demonstration at Peshawar Press Club.