Monday, February 16, 2009

Meanwhile, in Swat

Islamic law will be introduced for this area of Pakistan (do check out the picture of the men who decide this):

Peshawar, Pakistan - In its latest effort to stem the spread of Taliban militancy, Pakistan is expanding the rule of Islamic law.

In a deal announced Monday, the government agreed to a suite of legal reforms, including the establishment of a religious court of appeals serving only the tribal region of Malakand. The area includes the Swat Valley, a strategic corridor first infiltrated in 2007 by Taliban militants and the scene of an Army counteroffensive. On the eve of the agreement, the Taliban operating in Swat announced a cease-fire with government troops.

Previous Pakistani truces have faced US criticism for merely giving militants space and time to rearm. This latest deal raises the added concern that the government is trading away secular traditions and taking a step toward Islamic law, or sharia.

However, political leaders and analysts here agree that this religious court system would not invoke some of the most draconian punishments often associated with sharia. And it is widely seen as a popular move to restore the efficient rule of law in a country where the secular court system often takes years to resolve cases.

Not good news for anyone who believes in gender equality, of course. But I doubt that women have much power over the current system, either. It's hard to know what could be done about all that, except to point out that women are still mostly very unequal in this world and that their position might indeed be getting worse in many countries.