Musharraf defends Swat accord

March 9th, 2009 - 7:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Karachi, March 9 (IANS) The Pakistan government’s deal with a radical cleric on imposing Shariat laws in Swat and six other districts of the country’s restive northwest was in line with the demands of the people and would help restore peace in the area, former president Pervez Musharraf said here Monday.
“Thousands of people had come out in the area. What did they want? They wanted speedier justice. That will eventually bring peace,” he said at a press conference here on his return from New Delhi after attending an international conclave.

“The people wanted speedy justice which was not possible because of the high court and the Supreme Court (appealing against orders of the trial courts). Now, these appeals will be heard by the Federal Shariat Court,” Musharraf pointed out.

He also noted that the move to impose Shariat laws in seven districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) had been initiated during his tenure in office.

“The demand had been made during my time. We had initiated discussions on it,” Musharraf said.

Under the deal between the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws of radical cleric Maulana Sufi Mohammad, and the NWFP government, the Taliban that control the area would lay down their arms in return for imposing the Shariat laws.

The US and other Western governments have roundly criticised the accord, saying it amounted to bowing before the Taliban.

Musharraf did not agree.

“I think we can work with some elements of the Taliban. If it brings peace, why not give it a chance?” he retorted.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has warned that he would validate the accord only after peace returned to the region.

On Monday, NWFP Chief Minister Haider Khan Hoti signed the documents for promulgating Nizam-e-Adl, as the Shariat laws are known.

This will now be sent to provincial Governor Owais Amhed Ghani and then to Zardari. They will become law once the president gives his assent.

The TNSM is believed to be pressuring the NWFP government to impose the new laws by March 15.

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