Pakistan signs sharia bill into law


The Pakistani government has approved the controversial bill that will allow for the implementation of sharia, or Islamic law, into a large region of northwestern Pakistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari signed the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation into law today after a majority of the Pakistani Parliament passed the bill. The regulation allows for the establishment of sharia courts in the Malakand Division, an administrative region that encompasses more than one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province and includes the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Chitral, and Kohistan.

The sharia law was referred to the Pakistani government after the government negotiated an agreement known as the Malakand Accord with the Taliban in Swat. The agreement calls for the withdrawal of the Pakistani Army from Swat, the release all Taliban prisoners, the withdrawal of any criminal cases against Taliban leaders and fighters, and the imposition of sharia. The government agreed to the terms of the Malakand Accord after the military suffered its third defeat against the Swat Taliban in two years.

The Taliban had threatened to renew the violence in Swat if the sharia law was not signed by President Zardari. Amir Izzat, a spokesman for the pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed's Law] threatened to declare any member of parliament as a non-Muslim if they voted against the law. Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the TNSM, which serves as a front for the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan, walked out on the peace agreement after bashing Zardari for not signing the sharia regulation into law.

President Zardari had said he refused to sign the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation into law until the security in Swat was restored. As recently as April 9, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, said President Zardari would not sign the regulation into law.

"The president of Pakistan has not signed the agreement and not approved the agreement yet because he's waiting for the TNSM to fulfill its end of the bargain, which was, essentially, to make sure that the Taliban - whose leader happens to be his son-in-law - they do not continue to use force," Haqqani told a forum in Washington, according to The Washington Independent. "Since that has not happened, the agreement has not been enforced."

But the Taliban have repeatedly violated the ceasefire in Swat. Taliban forces have attacked military convoys and captured soldiers and government officials. Most recently, on April 11, a Taliban force wounded three security personnel after ambushing a convoy in Swat. Meanwhile, the Swat Taliban have advanced on neighboring Buner and are now in full control of the district, which is just 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad.

The Malakand Accord and the subsequent signing of the sharia law have emboldened the Taliban and the multitude of Islamist groups in Pakistan. Islamist political parties are now calling for the imposition of sharia throughout the country.



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READER COMMENTS: "Pakistan signs sharia bill into law"

Posted by NS at April 13, 2009 9:48 PM ET:

Strike 1: The military Govt of Pakistan under Musharaff signs peace deals with the Taliban.

Strike 2: the democratically elected Govt of Pakistan under the nominal civilian leadership of Gilani, Zardari and co sign peace deals and sharia law agreements withe the Taliban.

Strike 3: ???

Posted by DS at April 13, 2009 10:04 PM ET:

Are the Pakistan military THAT weak? Is this law an acknowledgment of that weakness?

Posted by Sam at April 13, 2009 10:17 PM ET:

Falling fast.

Posted by Minnor at April 13, 2009 11:08 PM ET:

Parliament passes unanimously then world has to honor sovereignity of Pak. Maybe war fatigue?

We should call sharia as Saudi-law, with which nobody has any problem.

Posted by Micah at April 14, 2009 1:35 AM ET:

Interesting, but the media and everyone for the most part seems to miss the fact that Taliban completely took over Buner province sunday afternoon and the media was turned the other way after they assumed the incident ended 24 hours earlier upon their saturday afternoon withdraw. India Times and a couple Pakistan publications seem to be the only ones who caught the news.

Obviously President Zardari signed this bill as a reaction to the Buner take-over on Sunday, which may be the fastest consolidation of power so far in the battle for the north-west; AND THE MEDIA MISSED IT!!! Below is my blog, most of which is news straight from my contacts in Buner:


I have just got news from my friends in Buner district (that area i stayed in with the Pashtos that neighbors Swat). Friday afternoon, as stated in the media, Taliban crossed the mountains into the district through the same pass we took from Swat. Only about 100 entered to setup a meeting; a very small number. They agreed to pullout of Buner and leave Saturday afternoon after a Jirga meeting was held. The media was very updated on this, and reported the Taliban's pullout of Buner on Saturday. However, the media seems to have overlooked what happened the next day and forgot about the whole ordeal assuming it was over. Well it didn't end. Twenty four hours later, the Taliban, with large swaths of fighters, returned and may have consolidated the fastest spread of their power in this whole war...

Yesterday, around noon, thousands of Talibs poured into Buner district a day after they stated their official departure. In a period of around 5 hours, Taliban took the entire provincial province. There was no resistance at all, Pakistani police and military were ordered not to interfere or cause any tension. The Pir Baba shrine has been shut down (as that is considered a site of idolization according to the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islam). The Taliban control 100% percent of the district. According to my friend in Pir Baba, the Taliban are everywhere, they are burning televisions, shutting down DVD shops, and now are beginning youth-recruiting campaigns. My friend is very worried, as he works for a local school in Pir Baba with an IT institute. The school is locked and no one is going to it. Women's classes stopped about 6 months ago when there were fears that Taliban were beginning to look into the prospects of expanding into Buner district.

So, this is HUGE news, and its not in the news at all, unfortunately. The media turned its eye away when they assumed it was all over on Saturday afternoon when the few Talibs left Buner. Well, Taliban are in complete control of it now and its another world than when I was there last June. They are everywhere, at guard posts replacing what was before police check points, are driving around on pickup trucks with loudspeakers announcing the implementation of Shariah courts as well as asking the youth to join.

Another strange change is that Buneris have been absolutely against the Taliban for years, for the trouble they caused in Swat. However, since there is no war in Buner and the Taliban took it over without any fighting or harm to the local population, strangely enough, the Taliban are getting public support and actually gaining more popularity than would have been expected (not making this up. My friend is telling me this first-hand, and he is against the Taliban who pose a potentially direct threat to his employment in the IT center at his school in Pir Baba, if it is to be discovered). One of the reasons for this change of mind amongst the public in Buner is because of the Pakistan government's lack of development in Buner (it is a very poor district that never obtained the same development as Swat did, thanks to its tourist industry Swat has benefited from through most of its existence until two years ago. Buner, being part of the lower Swat valley (not the provincial district itself though) has always sort of been looked at as the "poor man's Swat valley.")

I still can't believe this is happening. I wonder how many days it will take the media to discover this, and I wonder why something as big as this has not been reported in the media. Maybe because this is a HUGE embarrassment for the Pakistani government and they are trying to figure out what to do with the situation before throwing the spotlight on it? I have no idea. Supposedly the Taliban are talking of Islamabad being the next stop (they certainly are about 100km closer than they were 2 days ago), but this could just be exaggerated euphoria considering their pride has probably swelled from this latest take-over of Buner district (afterall, they still have not yet taken Peshawar).

However, if it is true that Taliban is changing its public-image and is obtaining acceptance in Buner, it will become a major recruiting grounds for Taliban, as Buner district never obtained the same amount of educational and economic development as Swat or even Mardan district, and the Taliban's seeding of madrasa's will have a huge effect in their recruiting mission, as these madrasas teach the much desirable applicable sciences and literacy teachings, in addition to Islamic studies (Deobandi) and small-arms weapon training. I suggest USAID's project in Peshawar immediately start throwing a development plan together in the much ignored Buner district, or Taliban will be filling in this missing gap VERY fast. In fact, it may already be too late.

If you want my theory, i think the 100 or so Taliban that were sent into the countryside of Buner on Friday were just an experiment to see how Buneris would react to their presence. There was a slight skirmish, but nothing major. When the Jirga meeting was held, it was another test to see how they would be reacted to politically among the elders of the Jirga, so when they agreed to pull out Saturday, they really just went back to Swat district to report their impressions and general consensus. When the Taliban determined they faced very minuscule resistance from police and Buneri civilians, they saw this as the green light to send in thousands of fighters 24 hours later on Sunday afternoon, knowing all too well they could take the province without any risk of retaliation against them.

In a mere few hours hours, Buner district was consolidated by Taliban. It took a massive two+ years for this same Taliban movement, lead by Mulauna Fazlullah, to consolidate it's power over Swat province. Amazing. What I find even more astonishing is the sheer level of lowness in the Pakistan military's morale. Technically, the Swat-truce is not official yet, because President Zardari has refrained from signing it (mostly because of the controversy and America's reaction if he does). It goes to show both sides desire the truce and are recognizing it despite the fact that it officially not active at all, and the moderate broker of the truce, Sufi Mohammad, pulled out of the deal one week ago after frustration of the government's delay to make it official. It is astonishing that both sides are still abiding by the truce and not using its "unnofficial" status as a legitimate reason to resume the fighting against one another.

Since both sides are recognizing the truce, despite the fact that its non-existent without Zardari's signature, Taliban is most likely in direct violation it's agreements (officially or unofficially) in that they are running an actively armed militia in the streets of Buner's public life; while shots were not fired in obtaining their hold on the district, they still took power with the show of force as an active militant group. Therefore, the military has the full right to intervene with armed force and still recognize the agreements stated in abiding by this truce. The fact that they have not, and Taliban have just taken over Buner district as if its a freebie, goes to show the military is finished, has no desire to fight, and the Taliban still have the drive to continue the armed struggle with high-morale, if the military were to react in such a way. A further embarrassment and a clear admission of the Pakistani military that they have failed and surrendered to the Taliban's will. The truce, which both sides recognize, provided the Taliban with their main desire to implement Shariah, but failed to disarm the Taliban as an armed movement in the public sphere, which was the main terms the Pakistani military demanded as the trade off for the truce to go into effect.

In reality, since the military did not intervene in reaction to their demands failing to be met by the the deal brokered by Sufi Mohammad, the only benefit the military gained was the relaxation of not having to go to the front lines any longer to fight another battle; if they cared about the current violation in Buner and the Taliban's greater grasp on power, the military would have done exactly that: reacted with force. Instead, in a mere few hours, the Taliban did in Buner what took them over two years to do in Swat. Which district is next, and will the military refrain from trying to repel it in any way?

Pathetic. If the military reacted to the small contingent of Talibs who were sent into Buner on Friday, the Taliban may not have been so quick to just send huge fleets into Buner 48 hours later. As far as the deal of the truce is concerned, Taliban got everything they wanted without compromising anything. The military obtained nothing for the Pakistani government; they just don't have the drive to fight anymore.

Posted by Micah at April 14, 2009 1:38 AM ET:

Oh, and when I say "yesterday", I am actually referring to Sunday since I wrote this original blog on a monday.

The media seems to have turned its back away from the incident after Saturday afternoon (April 11) when the small contingent of Talibs departed Swat, and totally missed what happened Sunday (APril 12).

Posted by Micah at April 14, 2009 2:03 AM ET:

Oh and about Zardari, once again i wrote it before he signed the bill, and I don't have time to edit right now.

Anyways, it seems the Taliban sent more fighters in Saturday, agreed to depart, but sent in swaths more on Sunday and took power Sunday. According to my contacts. On Saturday, the Pir Baba shrine actually was not occupied by the Taliban (it was closed as a security measure by police), but was occupied by Taliban only as recently as Sunday, as well as their presence in the center of Hazrat Pir Baba.

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 14, 2009 2:03 AM ET:

I disagree, Micah, the Paksitani media did not miss this. Dawn and other outlets were on top of this. On April 10, I noted the Taliban were still advancing in Buner despite the promise to withdraw.

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/04/taliban_move_on_bune.php

The Taliban merely finished the job over the weekend.

By the way, I'm told Syed Mohammad, the Malakand Division Commissioner, is a Taliban sympathizer at best. He was the one saying that the Taliban were going to withdraw. But that never really happened. He only said it happened. The Taliban may have pulled back in some areas in Buner, but they never left the district.

When Syed Mohammad says something, my ears immediately perk up and am looking for his angle.

Posted by Neo at April 14, 2009 2:18 AM ET:

Here is a bit in Dawn about the Taliban takeover and a wild ride of a column of Taliban straight through the Swabi district, down the highway, and right through the middle of the city of Mardan. According to this they made a nice show of arms as they went through the city streets. I'll leave it to Bill to quote from the first three paragraphs. It's a dandy!

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/kamran-shafi-march-of-the-taliban

The circus is in town! Apparently the central government is providing the clowns.

Posted by Ian at April 14, 2009 2:21 AM ET:

another circus political goverment

Posted by BENGAL UNDER ATTACK at April 14, 2009 3:11 AM ET:

Why Pak Army & ISI cannot and will not sever its ties with Taliban - read it at: http://bengalunderattack.blogspot.com/2009/04/pakistan-army-taliban-are-intertwined.html

Pak Army wants that Sharia be promulgated all over Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif tried to bring in Sharia all over Pakistan via 15th Amendment during his rule, unsuccessfully.

When will the US realize that there is no difference between Pakistan Army & Taliban?

Posted by Raj Kumar at April 14, 2009 6:28 AM ET:

When will the US realize that there is no difference between Pakistan Army & Taliban?

When a nuke goes off over a western city!!!

Posted by Spooky at April 14, 2009 8:24 AM ET:

I wait anxiously for the other shoe to drop, namely when the Taliban reinforce their writ (which they now officially have, pretty much) in Kohistan District and cut Pakistan off from the Karakoram Highway. It'll be the same as whats going on in Khyber, except this time the Pakistani Army will be cut off from their strategic allies, the Chinese (who are more this than the Americans could ever hope to be just out of mutual emnity against India), as wellas the remote Northern Areas in general. All the Taliban has to do is starve out Gilgit and Skardu and move on in.

Then and only then I think we'll see Pakistan put up a real fight, because they know that if they lose control there (de facto or de jure), the Indians would move in citing that Pakistan forfeited the area. Of course, that might be just the excuse Pakistan is looking for....

Posted by Spooky at April 14, 2009 8:26 AM ET:

Speaking of nukes, the Taliban are poised to take over Dera Ghazi Khan (which has a uranium enrichment plant) according to a recent article. I know it was covered some months back, but to see such in depth coverage of it NOW kind of worries me. Doesn't help that its the major road artery for the whole nation.

Posted by KnightHawk at April 14, 2009 8:42 AM ET:

Nothing like passing legislation at the point of a gun, tick tock, tick tock.


Posted by Render at April 14, 2009 9:09 AM ET:

umm...

There are several glaring and rather obvious differences between the Talib and the Pakistani military.

All those tanks, jet fighters, ships, and submarines for starters.

And of course, the nukes.

Maybe not so obvious is that the Pak Army provides a good bit of the UN's manpower in other parts of the troubled world. It was Pak armor (M48A5's) that drove into Mogadishu to rescue the trapped Ranger force in 1993.

So where is that Pak armor today? Still sitting on the Indian border, waiting for a war that India is never going to start.

ALL
TOO
EASY,
R

Posted by Micah at April 14, 2009 10:07 AM ET:


The impression I got was that the Talibs pulled back saturday. My contacts had told me by Saturday evening, Taliban were gone as far as they could see, then did a full sweet Sunday afternoon. THe impression I get is that the real campaign for taking over Buner didn't happen until Sunday afternoon.

From much of the media reports I read, there was reporting of the Taliban presence winding down by Saturday evening, then when the Taliban did the full take-over on Sunday, I saw very little updates on this in the media. I am sure some reports took notice (especially Pakistani media), but a majority of the media that was updated on Saturday's events, did not really seem to showcase the Sunday full blown take-over.

I am sure your correct in that Saturday and Sunday was, overall, part of a single campaign, and that reports on the ground probably vary from different areas of Buner.

Posted by Mr T at April 14, 2009 12:27 PM ET:

What is the Talibans goal and strategy? Aha! Take over a district, consolidate, then move on the neighboring district/country until all districts are under Taliban control. Use spies, underhanded deals, deception, outright lies, Muslim sympathies, and threat of horrific violence against all dissent.

It seems pretty obvious to me. Are our leaders aware and are they doing anything or will they just allow it to happen thinking nothing else will happen later? Do we have a well thought out strategy to counter them or do we figure they will be contained there in the NWFP?

Does the Taliban have plans to take over the Nukes? My logical assumption is heck yes. Will we let them? My logical assumption is also yes. See N Korea and Iran as examples. I am guessing that AQ Khan is already somehow working with the Taliban.

They have very lofty goals and aspirations and apparently a lot of support. They know exactly what they are doing. I guess you have a lot of time to strategize sitting around in caves with no entertainment. I am very concerned that we do not know what we are doing and are allowing this sore to fester until we have to amputate the limb or succumb to the disease.

Posted by BENGAL UNDER ATTACK at April 14, 2009 2:41 PM ET:

Spooky,

What if you are wrong. What if Taliban has the unwritten sanction of Pakistan Army to use this excuse to actually go after the Shias in Gilgit and northern regions and massacre them.

You should know that most of the Generals of Pakistan Army are Sunnis of Deoband school - the same school where Taliban has been trained by ISI. Gen. Musharraf - then an Officer, himself a Deobandi, together with Osama bin Laden, carried out mass killings of Shias in Gilgit.

This is the real worry - cutting off the Chinese link is just a hoodwink. Once the massacre is carried out, we'll see what the real reason was for Taliban's easy progress in that region.

Deoband does not think of Shias as Muslims hence Lashkar e Jhangvi feels elated at killing Shias in their mosques. Of course other radical Deobandi groups would carry out much the same

Posted by David M at April 14, 2009 3:27 PM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/14/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by Spooky at April 14, 2009 5:58 PM ET:

Bengal,

You bring up a good point, but if they do try for anti-shia pogroms, they will send them running right into India's hands. Balawaris are already pissed that they have no representation in Pakistan's government nor a government of their own (like Azad Kashmir). If the Pakistani Army starts causing problems and they lose public support, it undermines their position in the Kashmir conflict more than it already is.

Also, the Karakoram Road is too strategically important for trade to let violence scare off the Chinese investors.

So if I'm wrong and you are right, Pakistan will screw itself even more than if I'm right in my original assesment that the Taliban will wring control of the Northern Areas independant of (most) of the Army.

Posted by bard207 at April 14, 2009 6:28 PM ET:

Spooky

If Pakistan continues to melt down and suffers more economic contraction, how much of a need will there be for the Karakoram Highway? China produces some things that the The Taliban are opposed to and along with the poor economy, China will likely be exporting less to Pakistan.

China has been lessening the level of aid sent to Pakistan even with President Zardari going on several trips to China.

There is concern by China over the lack of law and order in some areas of Pakistan:


China Leans on Pakistan to Deal With Militants

Overall, the relationship between Pakistan and China isn't as rosy as it used to be.

Posted by Spooky at April 14, 2009 7:02 PM ET:

Bard,

That is true and I concede that point, but then there is the more obvious need for the Karakoram Highway in that it is the only land route into the Northern Areas (their air routes are closed half the time due to weather and the Gilgit airfield is at an incline, which makes it difficult for anything other than bush aircraft and the occasional medium transport to land). In their obsession to not let India have Kashmir, losing control of a vital supply line would be (in the eyes of GHQ Rawalpindi) unforgivable. If the Taliban reinforce Kohistan or make a play on the rest of Hazara (the latter is less likely than the former), Northern Areas effectively becomes an exclave, if it isn't already.

This makes me curious about the stats and capabilities of the Northern Light Infantry based there assuming logistics was compromised....

Posted by bard207 at April 15, 2009 8:35 AM ET:

Spooky


The Pakistani Army didn't seem concerned with Peshawar and surrounding areas become at risk. There were several battles around the Kohat Tunnel, yet Peace Deals were still negotiated.

If the Pakistani Army remains passive and shows minimal resistance to the Taliban - TTP, then there might be some type of road access granted to the Army since it needs to be able to protect the country of Pakistan from India. If it is presented in that type of framework - light, then the Taliban -- TTP might show some flexibility.

Posted by Richard at April 15, 2009 12:44 PM ET:

Frontline had a good program on last night about the New Taliban in Pakistan. They took over the Swat region and blew up the schools. Females are not allow to go to school. The boys go to madrassas for indoctrination, then most likely become Taliban themselves and perhaps suicide bombers. The making of a lost generation and a failed state.