Post-flogging, Zardari under pressure to reject Swat peace accord

April 4th, 2009 - 4:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 4 (IANS) Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is being pressured to reject a peace deal with the Taliban following the public flogging of a 17-year-old girl, even as the militant group attempted to give a fresh twist to the incident, saying the victim was living with her father-in-law and not her husband.
Be it Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani or Supreme court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the “overall effort” is “to use the incident and get back control of events in Swat where the writ of the state has vanished”, The News said Saturday.

While Gilani has ordered a probe into the incident, Chaudhry has ordered that the victim be brought before an eight-judge bench that he has constituted to examine the matter.

TV channels Friday aired a two-minute video showing a 17-year-old screaming, burqa-clad girl being whipped by Taliban members.

The grainy video, shot on a mobile phone, showed the girl face down on the ground. Two men held her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned man with a flowing beard, repeatedly whipped her.

Quoting knowledgeable sources, The News said that when the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and the Taliban inked their Feb 16 agreement, Zardari “knew well that the world would not accept the contentious deal.

“But he chose to give peace a chance in the valley due to pressure from political parties, powerful religious groups and, most importantly, the media,” it added.

The military establishment, which was reluctant to fight the insurgents, also favoured the deal, leaving Zardari no option but to fall in line.

However, the public flogging of the 17-year-old girl “will certainly make it more difficult for Zardari to sign the deal awaiting his nod”, The News said.

On his part, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan attempted to give a new spin to the incident, saying the girl was punished because she was living with her father-in-law after being divorced from her husband.

On Friday, Khan had been quoted as saying the girl was punished because “she came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross”.

Khan also claimed that the incident had occurred nine months ago, long before the peace deal with the NWFP government was signed.

Whatever be the truth of the matter, the flogging of the girl “proved right the saner elements who had repeatedly warned that the handing over of Swat at gunpoint to the Taliban would unleash a new wave of violence”, The News said.

Meanwhile, the NWFP government has termed the release of the video a conspiracy to sabotage the Feb 16 peace deal.

Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain said the incident occurred before the provincial government’s peace agreement with the Taliban and that the video had been released by an NGO that was opposed to the pact.

“People hatching conspiracies to derail the Swat peace process must understand that any failure this time will have serious repercussions and those people will be responsible for any bloodshed in future,” Hussain contended.

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