On December 4 2008, I asked — Who is Watching Pakistan? — and today, with the sad news that Sharia is now the law of the land in Pakistan, my original question remains. Unanswered.
Pakistan is to impose Islamic law in a vast region of the north-west called Malakand in an attempt to placate extremists, even as President Asif Zardari warns that they are “trying to take over the state.” Pakistani Taliban militants who are in control of the Swat valley in the region announced a ceasefire tonight, reacting to the government’s agreement to bring in sharia courts.
Malakand is part of North West Frontier province, a regular part of Pakistan, not the wild tribal area, which runs along the Afghan border.
Critics warned that the new sharia regulations represented a capitulation to the extremists’ demands, and that it would be difficult to stop hardliners elsewhere in the country from demanding that their areas also come under Islamic law.
“This is definitely a surrender,” said Khadim Hussain of the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy, a thinktank in Islamabad. “If you keep treating a community as something different from the rest of the country, it will isolate them.”
Sharia, in case you don’t know, is “the path to a watering hole” — and it is more than just a method for punishing criminals. Sharia is a moral code for living with severe punishments for not abiding its strict tenets:
An Islamic court in Nigeria yesterday upheld a sentence of death by stoning for a woman accused of adultery. The case is the latest in a series of sentences passed under sharia law – a set of religious laws adopted over the past two years in northern regions of Nigeria, which have predominantly Muslim inhabitants.
Sharia law, which derives from the teachings of the Koran and from Sunna (the practice of the prophet Mohammed), is implemented to varying degrees in different Islamic countries – from the beheadings of Saudi Arabia, to the relatively liberal social mores of Malaysia.
Is the world as we know it becoming freer for the human mind or more inclined to repressing the free expression of the bodily wants?
Are we better off as a world of cultures to stay within our limitations or must we test the edges of our prescribed boundaries by birth even if that temptation speeds our deaths?
I can’t imagine this is good news for women, David. Are the men punished as harshly when the religious laws are broken?
I fear you’re right about that, Anne. Women are powerful, and so they must be compressed and repressed in order to maintain order. Since the men make the rules and mete out the punishments, it seems they do get off a bit easier…
Powerful images, David. Quite an article!
I think Pakistan is more dangerous to the USA than Afghanistan or Iraq right now, Gordon, because we don’t really understand what’s going on there and we have no way to fight against what we don’t know.