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Thursday, 19 February 2009

"Royally screwed": Pakistan (Army) has essentially abandoned Pakistani citizens in Swat and thrown them to the mercy of the TNSM and the Taliban

Raptus regaliter
Hit and run

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Shakir Husain

Latin and Punjabi have a lot in common. For starters there are some choice words in both languages, which simply cannot be found in other languages, nor do they translate well. Yet for someone who can't speak a word of Latin, it sounds really brilliant and makes you sound quite academic. Raptus regaliter means "royally screwed" in Latin, and is most appropriate to describe Pakistan's predicament after the so-called "peace" Deal signed with the militants in Swat. We have essentially abandoned Pakistani citizens in Swat and thrown them to the mercy of the TNSM and the Tehreek-e-Taliban. I doubt if this was the democracy dividend which the people of Swat had voted for in the last elections. What does this "deal" mean? It means that Malakand Division will be governed under Shariah law while the rest of the country will have another set of rules to govern it.

While some hawks will no doubt applaud this joint decision by the ANP in the NWFP and the PPP in the Center to ratify the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009, my question to our elected legislators is where will we draw the line if we do indeed plan to? The lesson from Swat for just about anyone is this. Declare yourself a learned man, put together a couple of thousand armed men, burn schools, decapitate some law enforcement and government officials (along with some "spies"), tear down any government building, terrorize the local population with a few beheadings and summary executions, and then proceed to fight pitched battles with the Pakistan Army. If you manage to hold out for long enough then the Government will capitulate to your demands and you can have your way. I don't know about anyone but I'm sure this is not what the Security Establishment had in mind when they came up with the whole idea of "strategic" depth.

Swat is roughly 100 kilometers from Islamabad, which means after the Nizam-e-Adl has been established in Malakand Division, there is nothing stopping it from being imposed anywhere else in the country. In the legal world it is called precedent. If the Government has followed this path in Swat and Malakand then why not impose Shariah Law in FATA or for that matter Islamabad, Lahore, or Karachi? What's stopping a group of say 5,000 armed men anywhere in Pakistan rising up against the State, setting up a radio station, and going about looting, pillaging, and terrorizing as they deem fit in the name of "religion"? We have a lot of guns, and we have a lot of nut jobs who fancy themselves as scholars, but does that make them scholars? Their "scholarship" is hard to question when it's backed by a few thousand AK-47s and I doubt if someone from the HEC is going to ask them to show their equivalency certificates. An Indian friend recently asked me after the Mumbai attacks as to how Pakistanis would feel if ten Indian citizens came into Karachi and started shooting the place down. My reply was that the ten Indians wouldn't get very far given the high concentration of automatic weapons in the city and the trigger-happy folks that own them. After Swat, tax-paying citizens are asking themselves where is the security that their taxes are supposed to buy.

The people of Swat are relieved that the fighting is over after a long period of death and destruction. They are happy to be alive. It's too early to ask them if this is really what they want. I remember Swat being an idyllic valley where tourists used to go from all over Pakistan. No more. I'm sure our rotund and furry Minister for Tourism, Maulana Ata-ur-Rehman, would like nothing better than for Swat to be turned into a barren desert like Saudi Arabia. But is that what the people of Swat want? A large proportion of the people of Swat used to depend on domestic tourism to pay their bills; what exactly does the Government expect them to do now? Breed camels? I'm sure that once the residents of Malakand division recover from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) they will no doubt weep over what's been done to them and the manner in which its been done. I'm sure that my brethren in Swat have a feeling of Raptus Regaliter deep in their hearts and I share it with them.

While other countries have sophisticated metrics to determine the state of their nations through statistics, opinion polls, and the Internet; I have a very simple metric. The frequency of advertisements for immigration firms in various mediums. These days advertisements for firms offering "business immigration" to Canada are all over the place. While the well-heeled are keeping their second passports warm while lamenting the "Talibanization" of the country, nobody wants to do anything tangible to reverse the tide. If history has taught us anything it should be that doing "deals" with the barbarian hordes just doesn't work. Rome tried it and it didn't work for them. And if the PPP Government under Asif Zardari thinks it is half as competent as the Romans were then we're really Raptus Regaliter-ed. (The News)

The writer lives in Karachi. Email: shakir.thenews@gmail.com

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