The state has given up

Courtesy: Daily Times Editorial
April 6th, 2009
President Asif Ali Zardari has “ordered an inquiry” into the public flogging of a 17-year-old girl in Swat, and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has taken his famous suo moto notice by asking the IGP NWFP to produce the girl in court. But we all know nothing can be done against the Taliban who did the evil deed, and that the girl will not come to the court unless the Taliban allow it. More likely, she may be killed instead of being allowed to attend the CJ’s court. As for the ANP government, it had better look after Peshawar because it is once again under siege from the Khyber warlord.

What if the girl can actually be brought to the court? What will follow may embarrass us further. There is nothing anyone can do against the deeds of those who rule Swat. Sufi Muhammad is more offended with Islamabad for not signing the sharia deal and less worried about the flogging of the girl. His son-in-law Fazlullah, whose men do the beheadings and the floggings, has actually returned to Imam Dheri and was in the madrassa right after the Friday sermon of the Sufi. He has made his comeback to the place after two years. Things are going well for the Taliban.

The nation has literally shrieked in protest, but the TV channels were not as united as they were when the Long March was taking place. As a majority showed the national outrage, some actually took the line that the video that showed the girl being flogged was “cooked up” somewhere outside Pakistan and released through a lackey NGO to sabotage the peace in Swat. The “liberals” were roundly abused and – and this is new – action was recommended against them because they were “disloyal to Pakistan” and its ideology. One said: “How could she have walked away after the flogging?” The suppressed desire was that the flogging should have been tougher.

The Barelvis spoke out from among the clergy. It was the usually “tight” conservative Mufti Munibur Rehman who said that the flogging was un-Islamic because the punisher did not have recourse to a properly state-backed court. The Sunni Tehreek, which was massacred by Deobandi terrorists in 2006 in Karachi, spoke out too, saying Islam did not tolerate such debasement of women. But the spokesman of the Taliban said it was an old video and the punishment was deserved. Our top Islamic intellectual Javed Ghamidi condemned the flogging but he carries no gun and therefore his opinion carries no weight.

The ANP government spokesman can’t be blamed for being defensive. The Peshawar government knows that over 5000 Swat Taliban have just defeated a 20,000-strong army force there and Islamabad is still interested more in worrying about and fighting India than the terrorists. And Peshawar concentrates blamelessly on getting the Swatis back in Swat plying their trades as of old. It is no longer important who rules and who does what to the people after that. Whether the girl was flogged a fortnight ago or nine months ago, the fact is that the people who commit these crimes are the ones who will possibly rule from now on.

There is impotence peeping out from the fury of the editorials. One paper opined: “You members of the softly-spoken majority have a choice to make. Either you continue to speak but have your words drowned by those who would publicly whip your sisters, mothers, daughters and wives for whatever petty gossip is purveyed by jealous or malicious neighbours; or you raise your voices loud in protest”. Sadly, the time to raise voices is past. The state has to fight back to save itself from dying. But it seems that it plans to surrender quietly simply because its army is more interested in fighting the highly exaggerated “external” enemies on the borders.

More dangerously, the nation is divided between those who are scared and those who want the Taliban order to prevail simply because it is “Islamic”. The Taliban were “mis-described” when they ruled in Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda has never been accepted as a real and present danger to Pakistan. And to keep the world out while we succumb, our rulers lean on the guaranteed UN myth of “state sovereignty”.

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