In return for peace the Taleban can stop girls going to school

Not to worry – sharia is lovely once you get used to it.

“Swat is the start and it is a test of the religion and the system and the law. It is a step forward. Give it time and you will see this is what people want,” Muslim Khan, a charismatic English-speaking Taleban leader tells me.

Will you? How much time? And which people? Does he really mean people? Or just men.

In return for peace the Taleban can administer the region, run Sharia courts, ban women from marketplaces, outlaw music shops and stop girls older than 13 going to school.

And ‘people’ will like that as long as you give it enough time. Let’s say about five centuries; by then all memory of freedom and rights will be stone dead, and ‘like’ will mean the same thing as ‘know no alternative to’ and then the prediction will be true.

It is hard to gauge support for the movement in Swat. Dissent has been suppressed but a population disillusioned by years of fighting and ineffectual government can at least get on with their lives.

No, they can’t. Not if they’re girls over the age of 13 they can’t. Not if they’re women they can’t – unless you think it’s possible to get on with one’s life when one is not allowed to go to the market or much of anywhere else. They can (perhaps) get on with small impoverished parts of their lives, but they certainly can’t ‘get on with their lives’ in any sense we would recognize.

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