/ languages

Choisir langue


Thousands support Swat peace deal, France fears a threat to freedom

Article published on the 2009-02-18 Latest update 2009-03-15 09:10 TU

The march in Mingora(Photo: Reuters)

The march in Mingora
(Photo: Reuters)

About 15,000 people demonstrated in support of a deal that has brought Sharia law to the Malakand district of Pakistan's Swat Valley. The crowd marched through the main town of Mingora behind cleric Soofi Mohammad, who on Monday agreed with the government to try and persuade local Taliban to lay down their arms in exchange for the sharia agreement.

"I have come here to establish peace and I will not leave until this mission is achieved," Mohammad told the crowd.

The marchers carried blackand white flags and, following their leader's advice, chanted verses from the Koran rather than slogans.

In the deal signed Monday, Mohammad agreed to try and persuade his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah to call off a violent campaign in which Pakiestani Taliban have bombed girls' schools, beheaded ooponents, banned entertainment and fought government troops.

The Awami National Party (ANP), which controls the North-West Frontier Province where Swat is situated, argued that it was the only way to end long-running violence and the national government, led by the People's Party (PPP), backed the move.

But France has expressed concerns over a possible threat to local people's rights.

"France calls for the respect of fundamental freedoms, notably the right to education, including the education of girls," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Eric Chevallier said.

And the Nato military alliance, the US and India have expressed concern, with Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee declaring Wednesday that the taliban are still "a terrorist organisation" and " a danger to humanity and civilisation".

Pakistani left-wingers are also critical of the agreement.

Farooq Tariq of the Labour Party Pakistan accuses the ANP and the PPP of betraying the voters who brought them to power a year ago.

"The people of Swat and the people of Malakand division voted for ANP for peace and instead they are now capitulating at the hands of the religious fundamentalists," he told RFI.

Reaction: Farooq Tariq, Labour Party Pakistan

18/02/2009 by Salil Sarkar

A similar agreement last year led to the release of Soofi Mohammad, who had been arrested in Afghanistan, he says, adding that fundamentalists are calling for similar agreements in other areas.

The private television station Geo TV has announced that one of its journalists, Musa Khan Khel, has been killed while covering the events in Mingora.

"We do not know as yet whether he was shot dead or how he was killed, but Musa's brother Essa Khan Khel called us and confirmed that Musa is dead." Geo's Managing Director, Azhar Abbas, told the AFP news agency.