Pakistan and the Growing Threat of a Sharia Mini-State

Pakistan and the Growing Threat of a Sharia Mini-State

Jeffrey Imm

The Pakistan Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or TTP) is in the process of gaining territory and power within Pakistan, as a result of numerous "peace treaties" and agreements to empower the Taliban to enforce an anti-freedom theocracy based on Sharia law in Pakistan. This is a critical American national security issue that requires revisiting the very ideologies that provide the foundation for Jihadist action itself, and answering difficult questions regarding the role of Sharia law and the reliability of Islamic republics in a global war against Jihad.

1. Multi-Level Threat from Pakistan Requiring Strategic Planning

The American national security challenge in the nuclear-armed Islamic Republic of Pakistan includes the Taliban, but is not limited to Taliban efforts to create a Sharia mini-state. What these current efforts by the Taliban highlight is the larger, national challenges with a Sharia ideology supported by many of the Pakistani people and by members of the Pakistan government that affects their vision towards fighting Jihad and also that affects Pakistan international relations on peace and on freedom itself.

1.1. Ongoing Negotiations with Taliban towards Sharia Mini-State

Recently, there have been negotiations and agreements between the Pakistan Taliban (or tribal leaders including Taliban representatives) and Pakistan governments in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), both of which are in the northwestern area of Pakistan. Pakistan has seen 4,500 killed in terrorist attacks over the past year and a half, and the Pakistan NWFP and FATA governments view agreements with the Pakistan Taliban as the solution to end the violence and find peace in their areas.

One of the central agreements over the past month has been for Taliban-managed Sharia within the NWFP area of Swat. Most recently, on June 9, 2008, the Pakistan federal government expressed frustration with Taliban's continued Jihadist activities and has threatened to nullify the Swat agreement. The Pakistan NWFP government that made this agreement with the Taliban is denouncing such comments by the Pakistan federal government, and ensuring the Taliban that their Swat agreement is still valid. Should the Pakistan federal government disregard the NWFP-Taliban agreement, the Pakistan Taliban has promised to "turn cities of settled areas into battlefields" and would "open new fronts against the government."

The issue remains unsettled within Pakistan, but this article will show the extent of the Taliban's current progress in creating Sharia courts and punishments within NWFP and FATA which may not quickly be undone, as well as the frequent nurturing and appeasement of the Taliban found within Pakistan government history that questions whether any near-term change in policy against the Taliban will have effective long-term results.

Pakistan NWFP and FATA negotiations with the Taliban have included plans for the Taliban to enforce Sharia law throughout various parts of Pakistan northwest. Should the Taliban ultimately succeed in its efforts to create a Sharia-based mini-state within Pakistan based on the NWFP and FATA northwestern regions, it would have a population equivalent to the state of Florida. It is likely that the Taliban would use such a base for further assimilation of Pakistan and for larger Jihadist activity both within Pakistan and around the world. The Pakistan Taliban leader has sought the use of nuclear weapons to use against its enemies: "the Jews and the Christians." But such Taliban military activities are only one aspect of a multi-level threat from Pakistan.

1.2. The Strategic Issue of Sharia in Pakistan and America's National Security

Regardless of whether the Taliban is successful or not in its near-term efforts towards building a Sharia mini-state within Pakistan, the larger strategic issue that American political leadership must face is the massive support for "strict Sharia law" within Pakistan as an anti-freedom ideology. The Pakistan Taliban and their supporters are drawn from among the Pakistan people. While some may disavow the Taliban's terrorist tactics as "extreme," the Sharia ideology that the Taliban is fighting to enforce in Pakistan remains a shared value among the majority of Pakistanis. An assumption that such Sharia support is only from the "mad mullahs" of the Pakistan Taliban would be very mistaken.

In consistent national polls in August 2007 and January 2008, nearly 75% of the Pakistan population stated that they seek the government to implement "strict Sharia law." Pakistan has Sharia courts in its federal government, and it must never be forgotten that Pakistan is an Islamic republic - a nuclear-armed Islamic republic, with an estimated 60 nuclear weapons. While the current Pakistan law for "blasphemy" has resulted in the death penalty and torture of non-Muslims, this approach towards Islamic "blasphemy" is one that the Pakistan government has repeatedly sought to export to the international community, including the United Nations, calling for an international death penalty for Islamic "blasphemy."

This widespread support of "strict Sharia law" is even seen in Pakistan government ambassadors to other nations, with the Pakistan ambassador to Denmark stating, in effect, that the Danish embassy bombing is the fault of its people, and the Pakistan ambassador to Norway stating that cartoons represent "an act of terrorism." Moreover, the Pakistan government is demanding that the European Union restrict freedom of speech and press to prevent such future "blasphemy." Such an ideological position by Western-dressed, fluent, and globe trotting Pakistan government leaders and diplomats represents a deeper challenge within Pakistan than merely the Taliban. They represent an anti-freedom ideological challenge that American national leadership refuses to even acknowledge or define, let alone address from a national security perspective.

1.3. Planning, Not Patience, Needed in Fighting Growth of Pakistani Jihad and Sharia

American national leadership is calling for "patience" in the view of these developments, and ignoring the larger issue of widespread Pakistan national support for Sharia, as an ideological view of the Jihadist threat is not clearly understood. As the RAND Corporation is reporting on Pakistan intelligence providing support for Taliban operations in Afghanistan, various U.S. military and government leaders are urging "patience" with Pakistan in its dealings with the Taliban.

On June 9, 2008, AKI reported that U.S. Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff "stressed the need for strong relationships with coalition partners such as Pakistan." On June 6, 2008, the Pakistan Daily Times reported that U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley "has urged patience with Pakistan, as the new government develops a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy." On June 6, 2008, Pakistan Dawn reported U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen stating that "Pakistan's army is 'fighting bravely' against terrorism." On May 31, 2008, Pakistan News reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Gates stating that "Pakistan and the US remain steadfast allies, and Pakistan's military is fighting bravely against terrorism."

While supporting the effort of the Pakistan military, Admiral Mullen was also reported in the June 11, 2008 Pakistan Daily Times as stating: "I believe fundamentally that if the U.S. is going to get hit, it is going to come out of the planning of the leadership in FATA...That is a threat to us that must be dealt with." This will certainly require more than "patience," and will also require that American government leadership honestly assess the ideology of the enemy.

The challenge remains, however, that the reactive U.S. policy towards Pakistan and towards a global war against Jihad in general lacks a strategic plan that defines the enemy, defines the enemy's ideology, and provides a comprehensive approach towards both a physical war and a war of ideas. The calls for patience should instead be calls for strategic planning, especially towards an Islamic republic like Pakistan where American taxpayers have been providing $1 billion a year. The repeated polls showing massive Pakistani public support for "strict Sharia law" are not even considered as a factor in American national security planning in Pakistan.

In addition to such government calls for "patience" with Pakistan by these U.S. government leaders, the May 29, 2008 Washington Times published an editorial "Hear out Pakistan" that references its May 29th interview with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, where he makes a series of apparently unrebutted points that: (1.) U.S. is to blame for Pakistani "extremists," (2.) Pakistan is only engaging tribal leaders, not the Taliban in peace talks, (3.) Pakistan has "zero tolerance" for terrorism, and (4.) U.S. should respect its "shared values" with Pakistan. The unfortunate fact is that none of these points are accurate.

The American public must face the larger challenges of a pro-Sharia, nuclear Pakistan, without illusions or denial, and make sound decisions based on the facts of Pakistan's past support for the enemy Taliban, current support for the Taliban in some parts of Pakistan, and widespread Pakistan public and government support for the ideology that is the objective of the Taliban's Jihad.
The full version of this article can be found at the Counterterrorism Blog.

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