William Wheeler in Foreign Affairs:
One day this month, Faridun Karimdad, a 36-year-old farm worker, was lying on a cot in a gloomy hospital ward in Mardan, a town in Pakistan’s northwest. He inched onto his right side to show me the splatter of dried blood above his left hip. The day before, as Karimdad and his family prepared to flee the village of Khot in the Swat Valley, a mortar exploded outside his home, shattering his hip and killing his son and two daughters. He could live with his loss, he told me, if he believed the Pakistani military’s offensive would bring peace — if only the brief peace his village enjoyed after the Pakistani government negotiated a cease-fire with Taliban fighters last February.
Karimdad, like many of the refugees fleeing the fighting in Swat, blames both sides for violating the terms of the deal. The government had agreed to recognize sharia, Islamic law, in the region if the militants agreed to lay down their arms. But peace did not hold for long. The Taliban continued pushing into mountains toward the capital, Islamabad, and claimed territory in the neighboring district of Buner.
Then, in early May, facing harsh criticism from the United States for ceding territory to the militants, the government launched a heavy-handed military offensive against the Taliban in Swat — a mission that Karimdad, like many in his situation, believes is destined to fail. The Pakistani military claims to have killed more than 1,200 Taliban fighters and is now waging street battles and searching houses for militants in Swat’s main town of Mingora. More:
From MSNBC [via 3quarksdaily]:
Taliban Commander Fateh in Buner, Pakistan.
“The Taliban finally made a grave error,” said Javed Siddiq, editor of the influential Urdu language daily Nawa-e-Waqt. “Once they challenged Pakistan’s constitution as un-Islamic, Islamic scholars and the Pakistani people no longer saw them as the self-styled defenders of Islam against western infidels – but infidels themselves who want to dismantle the Pakistani state.”
Siddiq said that challenging the constitution was a wrong step and believes it has backfired. Pakistan’s constitution was carefully forged by a board of Islamic scholars in 1973 – every tenet was crafted to make sure it conformed to the principals of Islam.
“Now, all the different sects of the Sunni and Shiite, the religious scholars, the army, the politicians and every Pakistani is against the Taliban,” Siddiq said. “They have lost.” More: [Photo: NBC News]
WARNING: This video contains images some people may find disturbing.
The chilling video shows Taleban members flogging a teenage girl in the Swat valley in Pakistan. The girl had been accused of adultery and received 37 lashes. As two men hold her down, she pleads for mercy: “Please stop it,” she is heard crying in Pashto. “Either kill me or stop it now.”
The video was shot using a cell phone. Contacted on phone by The Guardian, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the flogging. “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross,” he said. He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law. Click here to read the story.
Pakistan region in grip of fear as leader begins to implement Sharia law
The Guardian report from Mingora:
With his flowing white beard and thick spectacles, Sufi Muhammad has an avuncular air about him that can initially appear reassuring.
But all that changes when the 70-year-old kingpin of the Swat valley opens his mouth to promise more of the kind of punishment meted out to the 17-year-old local woman captured in the mobile video footage.
Muhammad is leader of an Islamist movement that has long since agitated for sharia justice. And he took a big step towards his objective in February when he struck a “peace for sharia” deal with the authorities under which the Taliban would stop a two-year armed campaign in the region in return for the establishment of new religious courts. In a rare interview with any media outlet, domestic or foreign, he told the Guardian that the new courts would formalise penalties including flogging, chopping off hands and stoning to death. More:
Jerome Starkey from Kabul in The Independent:
The great grandson of Afghanistan’s legendary Iron Amir – who once forced an adulterous man to eat his mistress – has joined the race to be the country’s next president. Prince Abdul Ali Seraj, who opened Afghanistan’s first nightclub in the 1970s, says it is time to launch “psychological warfare” against the Taliban and reclaim Islamic law from the extremists. He insists Afghanistan needs a “change candidate” because President Hamid Karzai has failed.
His great grandfather Abdur Rahman Khan ruled from 1880 to 1901, massacring tens of thousands on the battlefield, while executing and torturing hundreds more who he suspected of dissent. He made slaves of an entire province, yet he is fondly remembered inside Afghanistan as one of the few rulers in the last 250 years to unite the country’s tribes.