The promulgation of the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation in Malakand Division is reflective of an abject capitulation by the state before the diktat of the arms-brandishing militants. It sets a dangerous precedence of accepting the right of a group to impose its will as a consequence of forcing a stalemate with the armed forces and resorting to destroying the state infrastructure, particularly targeting the institutions engaged in imparting education to girls, together with killing and maiming hundreds of innocent citizens and generally spreading a reign of terror throughout the valleys that they had managed to overrun. After bulldozing it through the Parliament in a mere two hours when no member was allowed to express his or her opinion, the chief minister of NWFP proudly announced its promulgation saying: "No clause or article of the Regulation is in contravention of the constitution and there is nothing to worry for the rights organisations." Quite simply, it makes for strange logic. If that, indeed, were the case, what was the rationale to introduce the Regulation in the first place, thus creating yet another level of parallel legal recourse and sovereignty in the country? The dynamics of the final plunge into this embrace with darkness had been unfurling for some time now. It had been transparent for a while that the Awami National Party (ANP) had been under attack in the province by the militant organisations and it had lost a number of its stalwarts to venom emanating from the barrels of guns. Even Asfandyar Wali Khan barely escaped a suicide attack and had to take refuge in the presidency in Islamabad from where he escaped abroad to return only when some level of understanding had been reached with the militant elements. Thereafter, the push for a 'peace deal' really picked up momentum and ANP, much against its traditional policies, beliefs and character, preferred to succumb to brute and ugly pressure exercised by those who speak the language of bullets in preference to the logic of words and ideas. The result is there for all to see and live in fear of. The chief minister of the province is further reported to have said: "The people want peace. The area cannot afford any more bloodshed. It is time for reconciliation and compromise to provide peace to the people of Swat." Lofty ideals, indeed But is the chief minister proclaiming peace on the behest of those who are the perpetrators of violence and mayhem that was heaped in such indiscriminate abundance on the people of the region? Are we to accept the writ of a miniscule minority that gunned down innocent civilians at random just because they were not wearing their dress in accordance with what was considered appropriate, or were not keeping beards as was thought essential to prove their subservience before law as envisaged by the militants? Does the promulgation of Nizam-i-Adl also empower other such bands in other parts of the country to rise up with their cache of arms and ammunition to impose their own version of Shariah and what would be our reason to refuse them if they did so? Is it our destiny to capitulate before a band of militants that did not feel any compunction in inhumanly and barbarously flogging a 17 years old girl who had dared to step out of her house with some one who was not her husband? This one act of humiliating surrender before the might of arms is tantamount to rendering the entire country and its system to ridicule before its own law as enshrined in its unanimously approved constitution. Today, every one lives in palpable fear at the thought of what this band of militants would do next. The symptoms are already there for us to see. The peace deal was ostensibly signed on the assurance that the militants would surrender their arms. They have refused to do so as the same is not 'authorised' under religious strictures, as they understand: "Shariah does not permit us to lay down arms," said one of their spokespersons. Reports are also emanating that the militants have moved to the nearby Buner region loaded with their arms, barely a hundred kilometres from Islamabad. Their aims were clearly spelt out by one of their leaders: "When we achieve our goal at one place, there are other areas where we need to struggle for it. Our struggle is for a cause and that is to enforce Allah's rule on Allah's land." Does that leave any doubt in any mind about the intentions of these gun-touting bands of militants? To make the prognosis even chillier, Sufi Muhammad of the Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Shariah-i-Muhammadi (TNSM) has proclaimed: "Democracy and Shariah are two different things." He has also said that the "edict of the Qazis cannot be challenged in any other court." That is speaking from a position of strength that he clearly enjoys together with other groups. Henceforth, it would be moving from one avowed demand to the next till their brand of militancy has engulfed the entire country. The government ceded to their doctrine after driving itself to a position of despicable weakness through lack of planning and application and there seems no turning back, not in the near future at least In the process, it has rendered its people vulnerable to the whims and flights of a conglomerate of extremists whose only commitment is to violent ways and methods and who are determined to subdue all expressions of reason and logic. We are in the grip of the spreading tentacles of militancy. On the face of it, no credible mechanism is visible to confront the onslaught principally because the government does not have the legitimacy that is an essential pre-requisite for every administration to enforce its writ. The past of the ruling elite, the devious, illegal and unconstitutional manner of its ascendancy to power and the despotic style of its governance have shed it of whatever relevance it may have enjoyed after the holding of elections in February, 2008. Today, it sits shorn of all shreds of legitimacy with only its verbosity and hyperbole carrying the day for it. Obviously, these are not the strengths that can be effective over a prolonged period of time. They may be able to hold the fort for a day, may be two, but would crumble ignominiously before the fast spreading malaise that comes full to the brim with militant thought, fanatical beliefs and a fearsome gear to impose it. In the absence of a will and the wherewithal of a government to impose its writ, we are confronted with a band of militants who have been given the right to plunder and kill in the name of religion. Sitting in Islamabad or elsewhere in the country, how long do we think we can escape the marauding tentacles of this demon called militancy? The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com