Guest blog by Dr. Arif Alvi Secretary General Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
There has been a lot of sadness and condemnation of the Swat flogging incident. The day on which Mr Imran Khan’s statement was issued by me there were many press reports in Frontier newspapers in which some elements of the Taliban had condemned the incident and others said that the incident happened during the time of total lawlessness and before the peace deal. A sign that most of them were on the back foot and embarrassed, though some are not.
We feel such reactions from within the Taliban kind of people need to be recognized because change for the better and saner would happen from within them and not because of outside pressure. Had force been effective huge US and NATO presence and billions of dollars of resources would have brought about a major change in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We must condemn the flogging incident in un-equivocal terms before we even talk of why such incidents happen and how to prevent them. Some people want a simplistic assessment and easy answers.
Some justify such punishments exist in Islam. I would like to draw your attention to the actual implementation of Hudood punishments by Khulafa-e-Rashideen. Hudood punishments are maximum punishments and like in any crime lesser punishments than Hudood can be given by Muslim Jurists depending on circumstance. During the time of Hazrat Umar, he refused to implement Hudood in the case of theft because of rampant poverty. The Swat flogging did not fulfill even the requirements of any kind of Islamic Court. So it has nothing to do with Islam.
Similarly, as PTI is not a party of Islamic scholars, we do not want to go into discussion on Islamic Fiqh, but we are cognizant of the fact that a lot of anti-woman cultural traditions have found their way into Islamic interpretation in different regions.
Unfortunately we in Pakistan are on the defensive as far as Islam is concerned. Why does such a brutal miscarriage of justice become a platform for discussion on Islam? It has been very rightly argued in our press statement that US brutalities in Afghanistan and Iraq for the cause of freedom and democracy did not focus world attention into condemning democracy because the world believes it was a miscarriage of democracy by Bush and his first world cronies.
There is a genuine fear particularly among secular elements that the Swat deal would hand over Swat to the Taliban who would carry out similar brutal punishments in the garb of Islam. In my opinion this is can only be curbed after peace is restored, some stake in society is offered to the people and the reasons for their revolt against the Khawaneen is also understood. Swat issue has been different. It precedes Osama and 9/11 as their first deal with the government was done in 1994. Saying this does not mean that the PTI is defending Taliban in any manner but we still want to separate wheat from the chaff, otherwise confusion as it is prevalent now or momentary anger may lead us to to knee jerk reaction which will put the country’s very existence in danger.
Please keep in mind that there is no easy solution to our predicament. We feel the best way is to recognize local sentiments and maybe have a referendum in Swat and the NWFP on this deal. In Malaysia some provinces have Shariat as the primary law for Muslims.
None of these situations are ideal but PTI has to think in proactive ways to get out of the mess in which we are. Force, even to establish the writ of state has been argued by some people since before Lal Masjid and PTI disagreed. In all talk shows Mr Imran Khan and I, warned the government on the serious repercussions of such an act, but they went ahead and the result is for the world to see..and learn.
The flogging incident is gory and brutal. Condemn it but like a sane and mature nation, let it not cloud our thinking in how to bring Pakistan to peace. Some have questioned the timing of the release of this video. Makes us suspicious (like Osama statements before US elections). The Pakistan parliament condemned drone attacks and told US to stop. The government went ahead with the peace deal in Swat which was openly condemned by Holbrooke and other US officials. The new Obama package continues drone attacks and does a major shift from Bush doctrine. Now Pakistan is the cause of instability in Afghanistan therefore even Quetta has become an Al-Qaeda center. This is a very dangerous shift.
In this background a two month old video comes out, which shifts the feelings of Pakistanis exactly along American logic. We condemn the flogging, but are suspicious about the timing of release.
We are not pro-Taliban but we insist that US, NATO and ISAF forces should leave Afghanistan and if the majority in Afghanistan want Taliban rule of some sort it is up to them. If we have peace in Pakistan the process of marginalization into Taliban will get less. It is evident that as soon as the peace deal came about Swat came into peace which Pak forces and bombardment could not manage. None of you should have any doubt about the major change. Peshawar had been abandoned by Frontier MNA’s and MPA’s who came back after the peace deal was signed. So for those of us who are not living in Frontier it is easy to insist on armchair ideals, which may not be possible unless a ‘katcha‘ road is also walked upon for some time.
We believe very strongly that if the government abandons this deal it would serve US interests and the new Obama policy. It would also be good bye to Swat and Frontier with no end in sight for the rest of Pakistan. Even those of you who disagree with this thesis please do understand that such judgments are not easy nor very clear. Only time, patience and a people’s resolve to carve their own destiny can salvage the situation in a few years. Restoration of the judiciary certainly scared our enemies who were predicting a Balkanised Pakistan. It has convinced the world that we as a people are here to stay, and we shall never surrender.