As the news of Islamabad’s peace deal with the Taleban filters in, there’s a temptation to over-contextualise what this actually means. To begin with, there’s Swat’s tortured history. And then, of course, there’s the question of interpretation:
Sharia is understood and applied in such varied ways across the Muslim world that it is difficult to say exactly what it is. Will we soon see Saudi or Taliban-style hand-chopping for thieves and stonings for adulterers? Would it be open to appeal and overturn harsh verdicts, as the Federal Sharia Court in Islamabad has sometimes done?
I don’t think any of this matters.
The fact is that the Pakistani government has just ceded to its mortal enemy control of a swathe of land that, unlike the country’s other troublespots, is neither a tribal area nor borders Afghanistan. I understand the need to stop the killing, but this will not stop it. I understand the need to check the Taleban’s advance, but this will not check it. It’s not a peace agreement; it’s just another ratification of defeat on the ground.
For what it’s worth, here’s Christian Bleuer’s cautionary tale of what happened in Mazar-e-Sharif in 1997-1998 after Dostum’s deputy Abdul Malik cooperated with the Afghan Taleban:
The terms offered to Malik were never implemented. The Taliban reneged on their agreement almost immediately, and the power-sharing quickly morphed into an unconditional surrender. The Taliban refused to share power with Malik and instead attempted to assign him the minor post of Deputy Foreign Minister (see bin Laden’s quote above). The Taliban did all this despite Pakistani attempts to persuade them to at least renegotiate, if not honor, their agreement. Everything in Mazar fell apart when the Taliban attempted to disarm Hazara militiamen, who knew, based on the previous treatment of Shia Hazaras, what to expect. The short version goes like this: Hazaras fight back, Uzbeks join in, Dostum returns, Taliban heavily defeated, Taliban return the next year, Taliban orgy of rape, murder and torture. The end result for Malik was the destruction of his forces and exile in Iran.
End result for the people of Mazar: thousands perished.