The speech by Mr. Sufi Muhammad, leader of the TNSM before a huge crowed in Mingora (Swat) last Saturday, represents a critical moment in the crisis of the Pakistani State. It clearly laid out the ideological framework within which the Taliban seek to achieve power and establish governance in Pakistan.
The events in Swat fit a pattern of strategy that is slowly being unveiled. Only time will tell whether the Swat deal will give “peace in our time” as Chamberlain put it or will constitute what Churchill called the “end of the beginning”. For many Pakistanis who are now leaving the country, this is the beginning of the end. It is time for the government, the military and the people of Pakistan to grasp the significance of the historic speech by Mr. Sufi Muhammad.
Mr. Sufi Muhammad specified the following six important postulates which made clear the strategic objective of overthrowing the existing constitutional order of Pakistan: (1) He asserted that Shariah (as interpreted by the Taliban) is seen as a divine law. (2) He defined a Muslim not just in terms of someone who believes in the Oneness of God and the fact that Muhammad was the last prophet of God, but as one who supports and helps to implement the Shariah. (3) He stipulated that the existing democratic order was an “Un-Islamic system of the infidels” and that supporting such a system was a great sin. (4) The persistence of the “Un-Islamic system of the infidels” in his view, would destroy Pakistan and that he and his supporters would defend the country in the sense of attempting to establish their version of the Shariah. (5) The Superior courts of Pakistan were seen as part of the Un-Islamic system of infidels and therefore rejected as institutions where legal appeals against Qazi courts were to be made. Instead he claimed that such appeals would be made before the soon to be formed institution of Dar-ul-Qaza. (6) The Nizam-e-Adl (the system of justice established in Swat) as an application of the Taliban version of Shariah under the “peace deal”, was seen by Mr. Sufi Muhammad as only the first stage of the implementation process of Shariah. According to him Shariah would be completed when it encompassed the institutional structures of Pakistan’s polity, economy and education.
These six postulates taken together constitute an ideological clarion call to all Muslims to join in the struggle of the Taliban to overthrow the existing democratic constitutional order in Pakistan for the establishment of their version of an Islamic State. In this sense Swat like the other areas in the NWFP occupied and governed by various groups of the Taliban, is a base area from which the ideological, political and military struggle to establish a Taliban State in Pakistan is to be conducted. Of course the Government regards the compromise in Swat as a “peace deal” even though the TNSM has clearly stated that they will only provide peace if their version of Shariah is implemented. The question is, will they stop at Swat or pursue their broad strategic goals in the rest of Pakistan once Swat is secured.
Clearly there is a high quality military mind behind the Taliban strategy. In the first phase large swathes of FATA were captured and a system of governance established by the Taliban at the level of a system of justice, the provision of livelihoods for the poor, a system of recruitment and military training. In the second stage they enlarged their territorial control over some of the settled areas of the NWFP. At the same time guerilla raids were conducted on key targets in the major cities of the country. The purpose was to undermine the confidence of the citizens in the ability of the State to fulfill the most basic function in terms of which it seeks legitimacy: protection of life of its citizens. In the third stage there is a shift from the valleys to the urban centers where strongholds have now been established. These strongholds of urban guerillas are located in the major cities such as Peshawar in the North, Lahore in the East, Multan and Karachi in the South and Quetta in the West. Pakistan is encircled by urban guerilla forces poised to unleash mayhem of an intensity and scale unprecedented in Pakistan. If and when this happens, it could be a prelude to takeover.