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The Taliban police enforcing the Hisba Act in Afghanistan: Below NWFP CM Durrani

London Bombings and Pakistani Connection: An Indian View

By Kanchan Lakshman

NEW DELHI, July 20: General Pervez Musharraf's policy of proclaimed 'Enlightened Moderation' has come under attack, this past week, both from within and, more ominously, from without. Investigations into the 7/7 London bombings appear to be driving to the conclusion that the terrorists were all of Pakistani origin and also that they had links to the extremist and terrorist infrastructure in that country.

Under visible international pressure, the General ordered a countrywide crackdown on July 15, 2005, after he told Pakistan's top police officers gathered in Rawalpindi that they should act against the collection of donations, display of arms, and holding of gatherings by banned groups, and not allow banned militant organizations to re-surface using any other name.

He ordered the police, further, to "enforce an end to publication and distribution of hate material, including pamphlets, booklets, CDs etc., and writers, publishers and distributors of all such literature must be held accountable in accordance with the law. You must ensure that such material is not available in markets latest by December, this year." Pakistan, he claimed, stands at a cross-roads in its history and there is an urgent need to address extremism existing on the fringes of its society.

At the same time, internal evidence mounted regarding the continued activities of Islamist extremists, and the gradual consolidation of many areas, including the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), as staging posts for the Afghan, Kashmiri and global jihad.

The NWFP, which has continuously served as a base for the Taliban after Operation Enduring Freedom, has now emerged as a crucial staging post for the jihad. in Jammu and Kashmir. New evidence to this effect came to light when the Karachi-based Herald reported in its latest issue that one of Pakistan's oldest training camps at Mansehra in the Province is bustling with activity after a year-long closure, as old and new cadres converged on it to resume their training.

According to a top manager of the training camp in Mansehra, all the major organizations, including Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Al-Badr Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and others, began regrouping in April 2005, renovating training facilities that were deserted in 2004. The magazine, in its cover story, says at least 13 major camps in the Mansehra region were revived during the first week of May 2005. These are located in the areas of Pano Dheri, Jallo, Sufaida, Oghi, Khewari, Jabba, Batrasi, Naradoga, Akherilla, Hisari, Boi, Tanglaee and Achherian.

Further, intelligence sources in Delhi had disclosed (as of January 2005) that apart from the Shah Ismail Shaheed and Shewatian camps, there were nine other camps in NWFP: Haripur, Oghi, Bakrial, Garhi Habibullah, Shinkiari, Batrasi, Jangal Mangal, Bhoi and Balakot, hosting at least 1620 cadres.

Compounding the situation further is a new legislation that seeks to 'Talibanize' governance in the province. On July 14, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the ruling six-party Islamist alliance, passed the North-West Frontier Province Hisba Act, 2005 in its Assembly by a 68-43 vote. The Hisba (Accountability) Act, which will come into force only after the Governor signs it, will establish a new department to "discourage vice and encourage virtue," and will set up a new office akin to that of an ombudsman which is to be headed by a cleric called Mohtasib (one who holds others accountable) whose main function would be to "protect/watch the Islamic values and etiquettes at the provincial level."

According to the Hisba Act, the Mohtasib shall, on a written complaint of any person, or on reference from the High Court, the Supreme Court or the Provincial Assembly, or suo moto, have the power to (among others):

- Enquire into the allegations of mal-administration against any Agency or its employees; provided that no Government servant, during his service, shall be entitled, in relation to affairs of his employment; to lodge a complaint with the Mohtasib;

- Protect/watch the Islamic values and etiquettes at the provincial level;

- Watch the media established by Government or working under the administrative control of Government to ensure that its publications are useful to the propose of upholding Islamic values;

- Forbid persons, Agencies and authorities working under the administrative control of Government to act against Sharia and to guide them to good governance;

- Formulate such directives and principles which may help in making the conduct of authorities working under this section to be effective and purposeful;

- Extend help to the provincial administration in discharging its functions smoothly and effectively; provided that the Mohtasib shall not interfere in any matter which is sub-judice before a court of competent jurisdiction or which relates to external affairs of Pakistan or the relations or dealings of Pakistan with any foreign State or Government or relates to or is connected with the defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, the Military, Naval and Air Forces of Pakistan or the matters covered by laws relating to these forces;

While it is clear that the Act sets out to legitimize the MMA's agenda of radical Islam, what has astounded the critics is the extent of powers that may accrue to the Mohtasib, something that prompted the poet Kishwar Naheed to say, "This is more than the Taliban." The Mohtasib shall have the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (V of 1908), in respect of the following matters, namely:

- Summoning and enforcing the attendance of parties and examining him on oath;
- Compelling the production of documents; and
- Receiving evidence on affidavits.

But the Act goes much further. Under 'Special powers', the Mohtasib shall also have, among others, the following responsibilities:

- To monitor adherence of moral values of Islam at public places;
- To discourage Tabdhir or extravagance, particularly at the time of marriages and other family functions.
- To follow the code of Islam in giving dowry;
- To discourage beggary;
- To monitor adherence to Islamic values and their respect and regard at the times of Iftar (Breaking the Fast) and Taravih (special prayers performed during the month of Ramadan);
- To discourage entertainment shows and business transactions at the times of Eideen and Jumma (Friday) prayers around mosques where such prayers are being held;
- To remove causes of dereliction in performance and proper arrangement of Eideen and Jumma prayers;
- To observe decorum of Islam at the times of Azan and Farz prayers;
- To discourage un-Islamic and inhuman customs;
- To check the tendency of indecent behavior at public places including harassment of females;
- To advise those who are found to be disobedient to their parents; and
- To mediate amongst parties and tribes in matters pertaining to murders, attempts to murder and similar other crimes threatening to law and order situation.

A Mohtasib is to be provided with the "requisite police force" called Hisba Police for enforcement. The Hisba Act, akin to the Taliban's moral policing, is also an attempt to form a parallel judicial system. Ironically, the Hisba force, in acting as the Inquisition-like 'chief prosecutor', is itself not accountable to anyone, since "no court or authority shall be competent to question the legal status of the proceedings before a Mohtasib."

According to the Act, "No court or authority shall have the power to pass any injunction or any interim or a stay order with regard to any matter under consideration of the Mohtasib" and only the Chief Minister can hear an appeal against his recommendations. The Mohtasib's office, which would only duplicate administration, is estimated to cost Pakistan Rupees (PKR) 10 billion annually, while the total provincial development fund is PKR 40 billion.

The MMA intends, through this institution, to influence in its favor the local level elections scheduled for August-September 2005. The alliance has moreover, time and again, declared that it would stop at nothing to bring 'real Islam' to the Province.

Incidentally, after passage of the law, religious scholars throughout the Province reportedly took oath from their followers in the Friday congregations to "render every sacrifice for the enforcement of Islamic system in the province." Prayer leaders throughout the Province prayed for the success of MMA and the Hisba institution, reiterating their commitment to face the opponents of the Hisba Bill at every forum, including the courts, parliaments as well as among the people.

And at the famed Mohabat Khan Mosque in Peshawar, the NWFP Minister for Finance, Planning and Development, Sirajul Haq, declared ominously: "We will not bow in front of any one on the earth except God Almighty. We will not make any compromise on Islam and Sharia at any cost… We will make more such legislations to enforce Islamic system. The Hisba's opponents want to confine Islam only to mosques like those of Christianity but it could not be. (The) Quran directs us to enter into Islam completely. Instead of confining it in mosques, it would have to control our business, politics and every aspect of our life."

Arguing that it is a violation of the Constitution of Pakistan, Islamabad has moved the Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution. Earlier, on August 12-13, 2004, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) had declared the Hisba Bill to be in violation of the Constitution as it clashed with Article 175 [3], which concerns the independence of the judiciary. Further, the CII had observed: "Creation of the Hisba institution, instead of achieving the objectives of Sharia, will make the injunctions of the Quran and the Sunnah controversial and will open the gates of conflict."

The Act, however, may not come into force if Governor Khalil-ur-Rahman does not sign the law, which he says is a "fascist idea." While there is at a certain level an Islamabad-MMA discord, General Musharraf is aware that, 'enlightened moderation' notwithstanding, it would be difficult to undo laws that are brought into being in the name of Islam.

Extremist and terrorist actors have, for long, secured physical space to operate within Pakistan, and it is the ideology of Islamist extremism - partially reflected in parties such as the MMA and in political initiatives such as the Hisba Act, but which also generally pervades the founding ideas and political culture of Pakistan - that makes this possible.

The West is only now beginning to recognize the pivotal role of the "evil ideology" that British Prime Minister Tony Blair now blames for the 7/7 attacks in London. Blair also recognized the "battle for hearts and minds" that underlay terrorist acts and our responses to these. Regrettably, this recognition is still to produce a significant strategy of response in the global war on terror.

On the other hand, it has been the core of the Islamist extremist approach, which lays immense emphasis on a future guided essentially by ideological motivators, and has created an enormous institutional and political infrastructure for the propagation and promotion of the ideology of extremist Islam. And it is precisely this insidious ideology, "a belief, one whose fanaticism is such it can't be moderated", and its vast apparatus of support within state and non-state entities in Pakistan, that draws people like the 22-year old Shahzad Tanweer, one of the London bombers, and thousands of others, to the madrassas, the marakiz and the training camps of Pakistan.

The writer is a Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management and Assistant Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution

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