2009 has barely started and already I have an nomination for the "Brain Dead Act of the Year" - Pakistan's decision on February 16 to allow the Swat region in the North-West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan to implement and enforce Sharia law. A recent AsiaNews report indicates that since then, around 500 lawyers have lost their job because they cannot appear before the new "Islamic courts", NGOs who provide vital services to the people have ordered out of the region, polio vaccination has been banned because the Taliban believes that “it causes infertility” and because the vaccine was imported, 48 Taliban terrorists in custody have been released, and demands that Islamic law be implemented in the other districts of the province have made." What a pleasant place the Swat region is becoming, a place once known for being a national and international tourist haven for its beautiful scenery, the Switzerland of Pakistan.
It is not, I believe, an exaggeration to say that Pakistan is sliding into becoming a Taliban state. The present government seems lost and without a clue as to how to deal with the pressures put upon it by militant Islamist elements within the country (including its own security and military forces). Their decision to legitimize the Taliban in the Swat region was dreadfully ill-conceived; a concession to gain peace after years of conflict that comes at far too high of a price. The effects on women and religious minorities in the region, in particular, will be catastrophic.
World Magazine has an interesting article on that subject as a web extra entitled "Legitimized violence". Here is an excerpt:
Today, extremist groups, with sympathy and support from religious schools in Pakistan, go around the country taking the law into their own hands under the banner of equalizing justice. To them, justice often means revenge killings done in the name of law and order. Targeted are Christians and other religious groups, forcing many religious minorities underground. Christians are fighting for their lives and being put on trial for their beliefs. Reports from Pakistan reveal that many Christians are beginning to dress and grow beards like Muslims just to blend in.
At the heart of these persecutions are the nation’s blasphemy laws, which codifies the ability to punish someone for directly or indirectly going against the teachings of Islam. These laws continue to be used as a convenient, government-sanctioned form of coercion. Widely interpreted, Muslims even invoke the blasphemy law against other Muslims, as well as Christians, as a pretext for seizing another’s property or settling power disputes.
Having the blasphemy laws approved by the state give legitimacy to the vigilante violence.
Late last year, The Voice of the Martyrs released a video documentary on the plight of Christians in Pakistan entitled "Pakistani Voices." You can view a trailer and a couple of stories from this video on VOMC's video website www.persecution.tv or you can order a copy to show to your church or Bible study at at our online bookstore. Pakistan's Christians desperately need your prayers and support. Please be a voice before God and in your community on their behalf.