Did parliament call right on Swat deal, asks Pakistani newspaper

Islamabad, April 15 (Inditop) Pakistan’s parliament might have approved by a majority the imposition of Sharia laws in parts of the country’s restive northwest but is the majority always right, an editorial in a leading English daily wondered Wednesday.

“Is the majority always right? Has it in this case acted wisely? Or has the herd instinct and fear overtaken the capacity to think rationally and sensibly” asked the editorial in The News, headlined “Collective wisdom?”

Lamenting that no one seemed ready to “call a spade a spade” and remove the “veneer of religion” from the accord which has been “cleverly used by the Taliban to render it apparently sacrosanct”, the editorial said: “This is a familiar tactic used on many occasions particularly since the time of the late General Ziaul Haq.”

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Monday night approved the imposition of Sharia laws in Swat and six other districts in the Malakand division of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in return for the Taliban militants who control much of the region laying down their arms.

Pakistan’s National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, Monday evening approved the controversial measure after a day-long debate at the end of which the Muttahida Quami Movement was the only one to show dissent by walking out.

What, then, would the Shariah law achieve, the editorial asked.

“Will it in any way help to tackle militancy or will it encourage the elements who promote it? In Swat recruitment by the militants has been stepped up. Boys who no longer have schools to go to, and are not permitted to play cricket or hear music, are being brought in to madrassahs run by the men of (local Taliban commander) Maulana Fazalullah to wage ‘jihad’.

“The reign of the extremists continues. Whose ends will this process serve? Where will it take us?” the editorial asked.

Noting that the “overwhelming success” of the Swat militants “will encourage others to follow their lead”, the editorial added: “In the past the militants have extracted the maximum possible advantage from any concession granted to them.”

This would lead to a situation where parliament, “as it attempts to legislate for a state spinning out of central control, may have to face up to the consequences of what its action has led to”, the editorial warned.

“Who knows what impact this precedent will have in the future and how it will shape our destiny.”