Apr 20, 2009
On April 13, Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, signed a measure that will allow Islamic militants to set up Islamic courts administering religious law in the Swat Valley. The measure appears to put the central government’s stamp of approval on a deal the local government agreed to in February after months of fighting. The Pakistani Army had been unable to subdue insurgents who seemed to have gained support in the area from Pakistani peasants.
This deal shows that insurgents, apparently linked with Taliban forces in Afghanistan, have spread their control outside of the tribal areas of Pakistan into more developed areas, most importantly the large Punjab region of Pakistan. The Swat Valley is just 100 miles from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.
This is the background to Obama’s decision to fire more missiles into Pakistan and send more troops into Afghanistan – not because he opposed the extension of reactionary Sharia law, but because he was reinforcing the Pakistani regime which has supported the landlords against the peasants.
A very small number of wealthy landlords have long dominated Pakistan’s rural areas and its politics. Living in luxury off the labor of millions of landless peasants, the landlords and their regime offer little education and no health care to the population. When peasants are cheated or victimized by their landlords, they have little legal recourse. Courts are either non-existent or corrupt and controlled by the landlords. And the situation of the peasants in Pakistan has gotten worse as the world economy deteriorates.
Some of the biggest landlords, who were also often government officials, appear to have fled the region in recent months, including 43 who were reportedly put on a “most wanted” list distributed by insurgents.
This is what Obama props up by sending in more U.S. troops, enlarging the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan, creating a still bigger disaster.
As in Iraq, what the U.S. does to try to bring the situation under its control only inflames the local population.