Fallout of the deal

Published April 21, 2009

There are no indications that the Taliban are doing anything to uphold their end of the deal. — AP/File Photo

Sufi Mohammad has declared that the high courts and the Supreme Court of Pakistan should no longer have appellate power over judgments handed down by the so-called Sharia courts established under the Nizam-i-Adl agreement. Arguing that the judicial system laid out in the country's constitution is 'un-Islamic', he has demanded that the regular court system be replaced with the Darul Qazas as the only forum for filing appeals that will then be decided in line with what Sufi Mohammad vaguely calls 'Islamic principles'.

The demand constitutes cause for the gravest concern since, if accepted, it will remove the existing courts from the jurisdiction of the country's judicial system. Appellate power will go to Darul Qazas headed by qazis with no legal training and appointed by Sufi Mohammad himself.

In attempting to decide cases in line with 'Islamic injunctions' that have never been defined in full, the qazis will effectively be not only making their own laws but making them according to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and Sufi Mohammad's own skewed version of the Sharia. Not only does this put paid to any chance of transparency or justice in Swat and Malakand, it bodes ill for the rest of the country as well, given the Taliban's expansionist tendencies.

Sufi Mohammad's latest demand is a potent example of the fallout that can be expected since the government cut a shadowy deal with the Taliban, the full details of which remain unclear. On available evidence, the militants make ever-increasing demands under the banner of the Nizam-i-Adl, and the government, after some dragging of the heels, capitulates.

But there are no indications that the Taliban are doing anything to uphold their end of the deal — which was to bring an end to terrorist activities and allow the government to regain administrative control of the area. Far from laying down arms, at the very time the deal was being brokered the Taliban were expanding their operations to Buner and Mansehra.

Meanwhile, Sufi Mohammad has claimed that criminals accused of murder, extortion and terrorism cannot be brought to book. Furthermore, the demand illustrates how Sufi Mohammad has used his position as peace-broker to manoeuvre greater power and relevance towards the extreme right-wing agenda. It underscores the danger inherent in depending for peace on the man who heads the TNSM, an organisation banned for its militant and subversive activities, and whose credentials in terms of respecting the jurisdiction of the lawful government are extremely suspect.

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