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Extreme Solutions

By Zia-Ur-Rehman

06 July, 2007
The News

Tehreek Nafaz-e-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM -- Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws, in English) came into being in 1992 with the appointing of the founding member Maulana Sufi Mohammad as its amir (head). Sufi Mohammad started his Islamist politics as a member of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) but left it in 1981 after creating harsh differences with JI central leadership and renounced electoral politics. He declared that the politics of elections was haram (forbidden under Islamic law). He also declared that the religious parties, which take part in elections, were also un-Islamic. "We want to see the imposition of shariah here and in the rest of the country and the rest of the world....The Jamaat-i-Islami wants to come into power in Islamabad. They are even ready to accept the American [brand of] Islam." Sufi stated in an interview in 1995 to the press.

There is no doubt that the emergence of TNSM was a direct outcome of the jihad in Afghanistan. The region of Dir/Malakand division where TNSM became popular in the beginning abuts the province of Kunar in Afghanistan. The most important demand of TNSM after formation was the imposition of sharia in the Malakand division. TNSM has been waging an unrelenting struggle for the imposition of sharia in the Malakand division. In 1990, they announced that they had imposed the Islamic law and forbade the people from going to courts of law. As TNSM grew in numbers and influence, they started using violence for the acceptance of their demand. In one instance, tens of thousands of its followers blocked the highway for nearly one week.

Under their growing pressure, the then Chief Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao (now Federal Interior Minister) entered into an accord with TNSM to establish Qazi Courts in replace of regular courts in Malakand Division and the NWFP governor imposed sharia in the Malakand division in May 1994 through an ordinance. However, the ordinance could not come into operation even after the passage of four months. This provoked the TNSM activists and they agitated all over the division, provoking widespread agitation. The group started kidnapping government officials. During one such violent agitation, they even occupied the Kanju airport and other government buildings. They even killed Member of NWFP Assembly Badiuz Zaman. The government also promised to impose sharia law in other parts of the area as well. The rebellion and insurgence was brought under control after the loss of a number of lives.

Soon after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in September 2001, most of the Islamist and jihadist parties agitated against the coming American attacks on Afghanistan. The TNSM was in the forefront of agitation in their region. Sufi led thousands of his followers to Afghanistan via Bajaur Agency with an array of weapons, including swords, axes and bazookas where most of them died. To their total surprise, the Taliban refused to welcome them and asked them to return to Pakistan after handing their weapons over to them. In the meanwhile, the American war-crafts started carrying out air strikes against the Al-Qaeda and their hosts, the Taliban. The Taliban, who had some sort of plan to escape the bombardments, disappeared and left the TNSM cadres to suffer heavy casualties. The new Afghan government arrested most of them. The Pakistani government arrested Sufi Mohammad on his return. A special court sentenced Sufi Mohammad and 30 others to seven years for leading thousands of his followers to Afghanistan in spite of government restrictions.

Local political and social circles argue that thousands of mujahideen were killed as a result of Sufi Mohammad's incompetence and lack of combat skills. As a result, Sufi Mohammad lost much of his support. Gen. Pervez Musharraf banned the TNSM as a terrorist organisation along with other militant organisations on January 15, 2002. The organisation became inactive.

As a result of Sufi Mohammad's imprisonment, his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah is leading the TNSM. Maulana Faqir Mohammed is one of the prominent leaders. Maulana Liaquat, another of the prominent TNSM leaders, was killed during the aerial strike claimed by the Pakistani security forces on a Madrasa (seminary) in the Chingai village at Bajaur Agency on October 30, 2006. The government has said that the Ziaul Uloom wa Taleemul Quran seminary, run by Maulana Liaquat, was being used for training militants. At least 83 people were killed in the aerial raid. Faqir Mohammad and Maulana Liaquat were wanted by the government for harbouring Taliban operatives and training militants. The executive body is the highest policy making organ of the TNSM. The organisation has a large number of ex-servicemen, including many retired Commissioned Officers, within its ranks, revealed by the information obtained by the website of South Asia Terrorist Portal (SATP).

When an earthquake struck Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and parts of the NWFP in October 2005, Sufi Mohammad's followers capitalised on the incident and are using it to reorganise TNSM. There is a strong and growing belief among the people of Swat and Malakand districts that the earthquake was punishment for their misdeeds. Remnants of the TNSM have been encouraging them to burn their valuable electronic equipment in order to avoid the sinful life and prevent further retribution.

The magnitude of this movement can be gauged from news item reported by the newspapers. According to the news report, on April 14, hundreds of people gathered after Friday prayers at two different villages. Maulana Abdullah was leading the procession at the Bilogram village in Malakand when he and his followers gathered in a nearby area and set fire to thousands of audio and videocassettes, televisions, computers and CDs. The same episode took place simultaneously at Barikot village in Swat. Furthermore, the aftershocks from the October 8 earthquake are still occurring and continue to frighten the region's inhabitants. On April 11, for instance, another powerful aftershock jolted the whole area. These aftershocks result in more determination by the local populations in these districts to set their music-related appliances on fire. TNSM also started to operate its FM radio. Thousands of people tune into this radio programme transmissions. This radio station was recently banned by the government and, as a result, thousands of people staged demonstrations against this decision.

Fazalullah established this FM radio station at Imam-dairi, a small town in Swat district. The station is used to deliver teachings of the Quran and persuade people to destroy their musical appliances by arguing that listening to music and performing other sinful acts caused the recent earthquake. According to the broadcast, if believers do not give up their musical and electronics equipment, it may invite the anger of God. As a result of these teachings, thousands of inhabitants voluntarily destroyed their electronic goods in just a few days and this chain of events has continued with short intervals. Additionally, as a result of TNSM's religious urgings, 50 families announced the end of their years-old rivalries, hundreds gave up the use of drugs and unaccountable numbers disconnected their cable television connections.

Religious parties termed the government's decision to ban the radio station as a conspiracy to prevent religious teachings, and accuse the Musharraf regime of acting on the orders of the America .On April 20, the press reported that so far 10,000 people have set their electronic goods on fire as a result of motivation given by the FM radio station of Fazalullah, who declared that watching television is un-Islamic. There are a number of worrisome events -- one being the attendance of more than 30,000 people at the Friday congregation at Imam Dheri (headquarter of TNSM).

Maulana Fazalullah, popularly known as Maulana Radio, has a large admirers club. The female listeners of this FM channel are making their husbands to grow beards and abandon what the Maulana describes as 'un-Islamic'. Women in increasing number attentively listen to the sermons of Maulana Fazlullah on 'illegal' FM radio stations in and around Swat. Fazalullah speaks to his listeners regularly via his FM radio and advocates against sending kids to schools for attaining secular education, rather emphasises to train these little souls for jihad against the infidels. He has made an impression of himself and issues fatwa as and when he wishes to. According to the latest news reports, the Lady Health Workers in Swat, Buner and Dir districts have refused to administer polio vaccination to the children, solely because of their fear of victimisation by the fanatic followers of Maulana Fazalullah.

In Swat, most of the people from Imams Dherai, Damghar, Kanju, Kabal, Matta, Kuza bandi, Bara bandi, Mingora, Saidu Sharif , Charbagh, Shalpin, Fatehpoor and from all over Swat valley have set the electronics goods on fire . Also Nazim of Charbagh Union Council Behroom Khan announced to grow bread in a public gathering under the pressure of this militant organisation.

The defunct TNSM and the MMA-led provincial government had struck many 'compromise' agreements to ease tension over the use of an illegal FM radio station, and a campaign against TVs and VCDs in Swat. "A potential clash between the TNSM and the provincial government has been prevented because of the deal," provincial Minister Hussain Kanju and Jamaat-e-Islami leader told the press, after a meeting with TNSM leader Maulana Fazlullah. According to the agreement, the TNSM will end its drive against TVs and VCDs and, in return, the government will release its activists. The government has also allowed the TNSM to use an 'illegal' FM radio station and so far released its 79 activists, in the month of August 2006.

Dr. Fazal Rahim Marwat, a teacher at Pakistan Study Centre, Peshawar University, states with regard to objectives of TNSM in said areas that "Swat and Dir were formerly princely states of Indian Union and joined Pakistan after decades of partition in 1947. In these princely states, the people were more used to personal rule. It appears that it has been the mind of Sufi Muhammad -- later Fazalullah -- that once having control over the hearts and minds of innocent people of these areas, the next step would be to have a virtual clerical state where he would rule as a dictator. The public support could be used for bargaining chip to negotiate with the central government to recognise his 'right' of governance over the said areas otherwise he has other options." (Political Philosophy, TNS, June 3, 2007)

If we analyse the political scenario of TNSM-controlled areas, we see that Swat, Malakand and Dir in the NWFP are politically motivated areas and as such are greatly influenced by the country's mainstream political parties. Dir and particularly upper Dir is a stronghold of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). Malakand and Swat are jointly politically influenced by the Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and Jammat-e-Islami (JI). If we analyse the results of recent local bodies' elections, ANP, a progressive nationalist party, has become the party who has won the highest number of Nazims and councillors in Swat and Buner. In Dir, ANP has got surprising seats and interestingly won the Union Council and Tehsil from which JI's provincial head and then Provincial Senior Minister, Siraj-ul-Haq also hails. Also ANP has won its first National Assembly seat from Bajaur Agency (a stronghold of TNSM and bordering area to Afghanistan) in by-election. Ideologically, the masses in these towns are not committed to the cause of the Taliban or religious extremist forces.

Locals said militants from Waziristan are present in Swat in great numbers. There are reports that the region is fast becoming a source of manpower for terrorist activities and getting people motivated and involved in incidents like that of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad (The News, June 18,2007). Nazish Brohi, author of 'The MMA offensive, Three years in powers', published by Action Aid Pakistan, opined that MMA has lost its reputation during its five years of provincial government and will use TNSM in upcoming general election in Malakand Division in order to defeat progressive political forces.

(The writer is a researcher, hails from Swat and works with SDPI, Islamabad. Email: zia_red@hotmail.com)

 

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