Cleric rejects Islamic appeals court in Pakistan’s northwest (Lead)

May 3rd, 2009 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 3 (DPA) A radical cleric, who brokered a shaky peace deal between Taliban militants and authorities in Pakistan’s northwest, rejected Sunday the overnight government announcement of setting up an Islamic appellate court.
The dissent from Sufi Mohammad came after an emergency meeting of his group’s shura, or consultative council, in Aman Darra village of the Malakand division in North West Frontier Province.

A statement issued by the consultative council termed the move of the provincial government “unilateral”.

According to Mohammad’s spokesman, Amir Izzat Khan, his group’s shura was not consulted when the government late Saturday notified the formation of Dar-ul-Qaza, or Islamic appellate court, for the Malakand region.

Dar-ul-Qaza will hear appeals against decisions made by jurists appointed to enforce the Islamic sharia law introduced in Malakand in pursuance of a February peace agreement between the Taliban militants and the provincial government to end months of fighting in Swat, a district in the region.

Mohammad had earlier given assurances that the fighters would end their insurgency and lay down arms following the imposition of Islamic judicial system.

The hardline cleric met the regional authorities Friday but there was no apparent consensus between both sides about the appellate court.

But provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters in Peshawar Saturday that delay in the establishment of Dar-ul-Qaza was threatening peace in Malakand.

“The foremost demand of establishing Dar-ul-Qaza has been met,” Hussain said while announcing the appointment of two judges for the court. “Now there is no justification for taking up arms.”

Hussain said the government would have the right to act against armed men, adding that such people would also be considered rebels and even holding of their funeral prayers would be un-Islamic.

Khan also told Urdu-language news channel Aaj Sunday that if the Taliban did not renounce violence, they (the mediators) would dissociate them from the peace pact.

The future of the deal already hangs in balance as militants loyal to Mohammad’s son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah, who leads the Taliban in Swat valley, have already refused to give up arms and also expanded their control to at least two adjoining districts.

The forays into Buner and Lower Dir sent shivers through Western capitals and the government in Islamabad, prompting army operations involving aerial attacks late in April.

Military officials say more than 250 militants and a dozen soldiers have been killed in clashes in Buner and Dir, which are continuing since last weekend.

Troops are battling to flush out hundreds of heavily armed rebels from Buner, which holds strategic importance as it is located just 100 km northwest of the capital, Islamabad.

“In Buner operation so far 80 militants have been killed while three soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and eight others were injured,” the army said in a statement Sunday.

A key Taliban commander, Alam Buneri alias Khalil, was among the rebels killed by the security forces, who also eliminated 21 would-be suicide bombers who were either on foot or in their vehicles.

The militants also intensified their activity in Swat where they attacked police and troops, besides blowing up civic infrastructure like a power station and road bridges.

The assaults in the Malakand region have been hailed by Washington, which strongly believes that the US-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan cannot be won without eliminating the militants in Pakistan.

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