Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Test of Strategy in Pakistan

This is the gamble in Swat, as Pakistani columnist Zubair Torwali has noted:
"With this truce, the government believes it has isolated the militants from the locals, and the militants believe they won because their demands are being met."

In reading some of the accounts, I am not sure to what extent locals want Islamic law per se or simply want autonomy. Part of the deal in allowing Sharia is that cases can no longer be transferred to or heard in Islamabad.

But certainly not any victory for secularism in Pakistan. One soon to be quite visible reminder: all future judges are to be bearded.

Will it work? If you end the "interference" of outsiders in these regions of Pakistan, will locals end support for groups who are in turn "interfering" elsewhere? Sharia for you, secularism for me?

Negotiations are only successful if both parties leave thinking they've won. I think moderate Shariah (still allowing girls to go to school, etc.) may be a good compromise. The challenge will be getting the extremists to see it as a settlement for peace rather than appeasement.
To read more about Pakistan and the region surrounding it, please visit

Thin edge of the wedge, it seems. For judges, I take it a "Groucho mask" would not suffice
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