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Pakistan - Taliban

Zardari signs sharia deal for Swat valley

Article published on the 2009-04-14 Latest update 2009-04-17 14:25 TU

Asif Ali Zardari(Photo: Reuters)

Asif Ali Zardari
(Photo: Reuters)

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has signed a deal which puts Malakand district under Islamic sharia law in an effort to end a Taliban insurrection in the Swat valley.

The deal covers the Malakand district of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which is home to about three million people. The exact legal meaning of the move is still being debated.

Islamic courts have been operating in Swat valley since last month but residents can still go to appeal courts under the federal judicial system which is a mixture of colonial British law and sharia.

"God willing it will have a positive impact on the situation in Swat," said interior ministry chief Rehman Malik of the agreement. "It is hoped that those who wanted this law in Swat will now surrender their arms and also bring the peace."

Opponents say that it will allow the Taliban to act with impunity and use the area as a base for operations elsewhere in Pakistan and in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"It will on the one hand bring peace to that area, on the other hand it will undermine the constitutional order of the country," analyst Abdul Hamid Nayyar told RFI.

“Although this is being done for the Malakand agency only," hje told RFI, "the demand will increase to implement the same laws in other areas, too."

Comment: Abdul Hamid Nayyar of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad

14/04/2009 by Salil Sarkar

Pro-Taliban cleric Soofi Mohammad said that Zardari's signature would allow peace in the valley, Mohammad brokered the deal with his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah but pulled out of talks last week.

The English-language Dawn newspaper quotes him as saying that once Sharia is implemented in Swat and Malakand it will be extended to other parts of the country.

A Taliban spokesman in Swat, Muslim Khan, stopped short of an unconditional renunciation of violence, saying "there will be no need to fire a bullet with the enforcement of Islamic laws".

"Women will not be allowed either to go to jobs or markets because we do not want to make them showpieces," Khan told the AFP news agency. He added that the Taliban want to introduce an "Islamic syllabus" in schools.

Zardari signed the deal after the left-wing Awami National Party, which controls the NWFP,  threatened to pull out of the ruling coalition at national level if he did not do so. The secular party argues that it is the only way to end the deaths of Pashtuns, the ethnic group it claims to represent and which is a majority in the area.

But the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement walked out of parliament during the debate on the law, claiming that it is an attempt to enforce a religious viewpoint by force of arms.