By signing a deal with a Taliban group of Malakand division and Swat to allow the setting up of Shariah based judicial system, the NWFP government has virtually agreed to provide a sanctuary to Taliban on Pakistan soil ostensibly to restore peace in the war torn region. Democratic governments are supposed to suppress religious militancy by force or by negotiation within the constitutional framework and not be surrendering their judicial system laid down in the constitution, which may have any number of deficiencies and drawbacks, but it is not un-Islamic by any means. After signing the deal the provincial government declared that all laws which were against Shariah would be considered redundant in the region. "Following successful negotiations between Maulana Sufi Mohammad and a team of the provincial government, it has been decided that from now onwards all laws related to the judicial system in Malakand division, including Kohistan, in conflict with Shariah shall be considered redundant and defunct." One may ask who has given the provincial government the right to declare certain existing laws redundant, because a religious leader Sufi Mohammad considers them to be so. Is he a "court of law" or a "parliament" to take such a drastic decision? Isn't there an Islamic Ideology Council and a Shariat Court to decide such matters? Are we living in a "jungle" where a band of rabid religious militants can shove any unconstitutional garbage down our throats How can the government of Pakistan and its democratic parliament accept such a travesty of justice and violation of the laws of the land declaring that "it is not a sign of weakness? What else is it? Sufi Mohammad, who is the father in law of Maulana Fazlullah, cannot force the Pakistan government and the nation's armed forces to surrender to his demands to enforce what he calls "Shariah Law". There is no doubt that the people of the deprived region of FATA and Kohistan need quick dispensation of justice, which no doubt is a failure of various Pakistan governments but that does not mean that a part of the country can devise its own judicial system in the name of Islam. In fact the agreement between NWFP government and Sufi Mohammad can and should be challenged in the Federal Shariat Court. Pakistani Taliban who have killed thousands of innocent people and destroyed hundreds of schools and private properties in the name of Islam, do not deserve to have their own judicial system on the lines of Afghanistan where people were deprived of their human rights, women were persecuted and men were beaten on the streets for not offering their prayers, music was banned, cinema houses and girls schools were burnt down. This was their Islamic way of life. Pakistani Taliban, if given the opportunity, will also play havoc with the country and destroy its culture and educational systems. Once when Taliban were in power, in Afghanistan Mualana Fuzlur Rehman was asked by a reporter whether he considered the Taliban government "Islamic". Maulana said "yes of course". He also never condemned the atrocious actions of the Taliban in Swat and FATA areas although as Chairman of the Kashmir Committee he holds the status of a federal minister in Pakistan government. Ironically his brother too has been appointed minister of tourism, what a joke? If the government continues to patronize such people for its political gains the menace of Taliban in the region can never be controlled. These people are the product of an antiquated religious education system in Pakistan and Afghanistan which teaches them a few hundreds of years old books which do not give them an insight into the spirit of Islam and the modern Islamic world. They want to revive the Shariah laws which were codified by Imams according to the needs of their times, but can not be applied in the modern world. That is the reason that no Islamic country except maybe Saudi Arabia, where people are followers of the Wahabi Sect, practices Shariah laws. Even Saudi Arabia is now opening up and the King has for the first time appointed a woman minister in his cabinet. The agreement signed by the NWFP government with Taliban, has sent a strong signal to the US and NATO countries that Pakistan is not really serious about eliminating Taliban and is in fact compromising with them. An article published in The New York Times says; Richard Hollbrooke, did not address the truce directly but said the turmoil in Swat served as a reminder that the US, Pakistan and India faced an "enemy which poses direct threats to our leadership, our capitals, and our people." The article further says, about 3,000 Taliban have kept 12,000 government troops at bay and terrorized the local population with floggings and the burning of schools. This capitulation to Taliban, will, no doubt, affect the much needed US aid to Pakistan for strengthening its hands against Taliban inroads and it's much needed economic recovery. NATO fears the deal would create a new "safe haven" for extremists, while a statement from Britain's High Commission in Islamabad said: "Previous peace deals have not provided a comprehensive and long-term solution to Swat's problem. We need to be confident that they will end violence. Pakistan should indeed have no doubt that any reproachment with Taliban will dry up all sources of assistance from the west, including IMF and the World Bank. More than anything else, the people of Pakistan will have to decide whether they want their country to survive on the basis of the ideology given to it by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah based on the code of life given to the Muslims by the Holy Quran, or the theocracy of Maulana Sufi Mohammad. The time has come to decide now E-mail: burhanhasan@hotmail.com