Swat, Dir, and Chitral upon Pakistan’s independence from India were placed initially on par with Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA), and later the three states were placed under Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA).
But after the Wali of Swat, Mian Gul Jehanzeb, was dethroned, the state of Swat was unable to evolve or legislate its own socio-economic and judicial system due to strong political mobilization both in East and West Pakistan. General Yahya Khan announced general elections and, interestingly, the Wali of Swat’s second son, Prince Amir Zeb, was awarded the ticket of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, father of Benazir Bhutto.
Amir Zeb returned to the National Assembly with a sizeable majority despite the fact that rulers of Swat hated Zulfikar Ali Bhutto because he had helped toppled Field Marshal Ayub Khan through street power. Although the Bhutto government eventually abolished the remaining powers of the rulers in 1972, Amir Zeb’s status and regard continued for the remainder of his days. Swat was hence considered a strong constituency of the Pakistan People’s Party.
Bhutto was overthrown by his favorite General Zia-ul Haq in July 1977. General Haq separated Buner district from Swat and announced a Shariah system without knowing what exactly he was offering to the people of Swat. The half-baked and mala fide Shariah system could not make any headway since by then Swat had become a choice place for postings for Pakistan’s most powerful class of civil bureaucrats. The people of Swat who received swift justice from the Wali of Swat were now subjected to bureaucratic red-tape and corruption.
Prince Mian Gul Aurangzeb, widower of Begum Nasim, lives happily in No. 6 on Street No. 90, Sector G/6-4, Islamabad. His old structured house depicts symbols of royalty. Despite his years, he is still mentally alert and a very jolly fellow. When I first spoke with him, he invited me to come the next day at 6 pm. “I have invited a few regular friends for my Bridge session,” he said.
When I arrived and was backing up my car, I noticed that Prince Aurangzeb is an immediate neighbor of the Afghan Ambassador.
Old traditions were dominating my arrival at his residence. A servant was waiting on me, and guided me to Prince Aurangzeb’s main sitting room. I was amazed to see pictures of the Queen of England, the Duke of Edinburgh, Field Marshal Ayub Khan with his daughter Begum Nasim, and President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy Onassis at Mount Vernon, Virginia.
I settled down in a comfortable couch, and Prince Aurangzeb appeared. “You want to ask me what legal system my forefathers had,” he anticipated. “At an application written on one anna [one anna was one-sixteenth of a rupee and no longer minted] stamp paper. My grandfather and my father would at maximum dispose of cases in one or two hearings, not like that bloody Swiss court which could not decide corruption of Mr. Zardari or his late wife Benazir Bhutto in 12 long years.” I could detect his family’s lingering hatred of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his legacy.
I had to remind Aurangzeb that it was not Zardari or his wife that had brought me to his house. The Pakistan military is currently engaged in an operation in Swat combating militants after a peace deal brokered by Sufi Muhammad finally collapsed early this month. Sufi Muhammad founded the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi (TNSM), a militant group that has sought to establish Shariah in Swat.
After Sufi Muhammad was arrested in 2002, his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah assumed the group’s leadership, and he formed an alliance with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), led by Baitullah Mehsud.
In 2007, TNSM took over much of Swat. Sufi Muhammad was released in 2008 after renouncing violence, and brokered the deal between the Pakistani government and TNSM that has collapsed after the militants tried to push also into the district of Buner, resulting in Pakistan’s military offensive.
I wanted to know more of the story behind the peace deal and its collapse.
“Please tell me exactly what Shariah Muhammadi is, which remains a demand of Sufi Muhammad since the mid ’90’s, and with the present insurgency he has mobilized a lot of militants favoring this legal system. And do you approve or disapprove of the Talibanization of Swat?” I asked him.
He answered quickly, “I neither approve it nor disapprove it.” This was perhaps a reflection of his uncertainty about the success of the current military operation and a nurtured fear of the Taliban.
“When I was the governor of Baluchistan,” he recalled, “I had asked Sufi Muhammad, Sufi Sahib [a title of respect], ‘What exactly do you want? What kind of Shariah is your main demand?'”
After a pause, the Prince continued. “You will not believe Sufi Muhammad too was making a bleak demand. He answered me, ‘My Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi want what your grandfather Mian Gul Shahzada Abdul Wadud practiced.'”
Asked what this meant, he replied, “A legal system based on Islam coupled with Pashtun customs.”
He continued, “Though my family is no more a ruling family of Swat. But just imagine. We’re popular. During 1970 polls my brother Amirzeb was elected from Swat.
“I was a captain in the army while my father was the ruler. I was commissioned in 1951 and was inducted in the same Regiment Guides’ Cavalry where General Zia-ul Haq was commissioned.
“I entered into politics way back in 1985 when General Zia-ul Haq held party-less elections. I was elected from Swat. I bagged 64 percent of the votes.
“In 1988, my son-in-law Amane Rome got elected on the Pakistan People’s Party ticket. My son was elcted from the same constituency in the 1997 general elections. Before that Lala Afzal, former Federal Minister, was elected during the 1993 general elections. In 1997 polls, my son Adnan Aurangzeb was elected on the Pakistan Muslim League ticket.”
He went on to speak on voting trends. “The Mullahs of Muttehida Majlise Amal swept polls in the 2002 vote as a reaction to the Afghan war. There was a lot of corruption and they were rejected by people during the February 2008 vote, and there came a liberal party, Awami National Party, which could not face Taliban. Most of its deputes are either in Peshawar or in Islamabad. Why do they not come here to protect their electorate?”
I was anxious to know how the militant Taliban spread their influence, forced the retreat of police forces, and established a rule of their own in the entire Malakand Division. Prince Aurangzeb anticipated the question.
“I do not know what the exact demands of Sufi Muhammad are. He participated in the Afghan war in 2001. He took 10,000 people from Swat. The poor men returned to Pakistan with only 2000 people, the rest were killed.