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Pak bows to Taliban: allows Shariat laws
Islamabad, Feb 16 (IANS):
Published on 17 Feb. 2009 12:12 AM IST
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Pakistan has signed a major peace deal with a Taliban-linked outfit that will lead to the enforcement of Shariat laws in parts of the country's northwest including the Swat Valley. President Asif Ali Zadari made the dramatic concession after meeting Sunday officials of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), vast parts of which have been virtually taken over by the Pakistani Taliban. The implementation of the Shariat laws had been the main demand of the region's radical cleric Sufi Muhammad Khan of Tehrik-e-Nifaz e Shariah-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) group, which is allied to the Taliban. This would lead to Islamic law in the entire Malakand division including Swat, a former tourist haven from where thousands have fled to escape fighting between Islamic militants and security forces that have led to numerous killings. Swat can be reached from Islamabad in just three hours. The Dawn newspaper reported Monday that the president's approval was sought because the provincial government cannot amend the existing laws in Malakand without his nod. Under the proposed Nizam-i-Adl (Shariat) Regulation, the appellate jurisdiction of superior courts will be replaced with that of the Federal Shariat Court. At the same time, the executive magistracy will be revived in the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA). NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Hussain Hoti told reporters that a bill had been signed that would lead to the implementation of a new "order of justice" in Malakand division. According to Pakistani media reports, Shariat law has been in force in Malakand since 1994 but appeal cases are heard in the Peshawar high court, which operates under the civil code. Provincial Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain said the Awami National Party (ANP) provincial government would hold a grand jirga, or assembly of tribal leaders, that would also be attended by the TNSM leader. In anticipation of the government announcement, the Pakistani Taliban, which supports the Taliban's fight against the West and the government of Hamid Karzai in neighbouring Afghanistan, Sunday declared a 10-day truce in the sprawling area. Pakistani analysts warned that the agreement amounted to a surrender to the Islamic hardliners, who are known to provide sanctuary to both Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders. "Analysts said the government had bowed its head before the militants in Swat by agreeing to amend the law of the land and enforcement of 'self-styled' Sharia of a militant organisation like TNSM," Dawn said.

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