Sharia in Swat dependent on peace: Gilani (Lead)

April 21st, 2009 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, April 21 (IANS) The enforcement of Sharia laws in Swat and other parts of Pakistan’s restive northwest is dependent on peace returning to the area, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, says.
“If peace prevails, we would protect this (Sharia) Regulation,” he said in an interview to Geo TV’s “Capital Talk” programme.

According to Gilani, Pakistan’s leadership was following a “home-grown strategy” on peace as parliament had approved.

Looming internal and external threats, the prime minister said, had prompted parliament to support a controversial peace deal the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and a Taliban-linked radical cleric had inked on imposing Sharia laws in Swat and six other districts of the province, collectively known as the Malakand division, in return for the militants laying down their arms.

“In the present circumstances, there was no alternative to this,” Gilani said, adding he was hopeful about peace returning to the once picturesque Swat Valley and the rest of Malakand, where the writ of the Taliban largely runs.

Commenting on cleric Sufi Mohammad’s statement that appeals against the verdicts of the qazi courts that would be set up under the Sharia law were out of the purview of the existing judicial system and could only be heard by special Islamic appellate courts, Gilani termed this a personal opinion.

“There are many people who do not believe in democracy… But we believe in the will of masses, and the support of the people is with us,” the prime minister maintained.

Gilani’s remarks come even as the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), an ally of Pakistan’s ruling coalition, has threatened to move the Supreme Court against Sufi Mohammad statements if no one else does so.

“The MQM has serious reservations about the statement of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, which have already been expressed,” The News Tuesday quoted Ports and Shipping Minister Babar Ghauri as saying.

“Non-acceptance of the superior courts of the country is tantamount to contempt of court,” he added.

Gilani also pointed out that there was political consensus that there could be no law in the country that was repugnant to Islam, the Quran and the Sunnah or the “trodden path” of Prophet Muhammad.

Sufi Mohammad’s Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) and the NWFP government had Feb 16 signed a controversial peace deal under which Sharia laws would be imposed in Malakand in return for the Taliban, whose writ runs in much of the area, laying down their arms.

At that time, President Asif Ali Zardari had said he would ratify the deal only if peace returned to the area. He, however, developed cold feet in the face of strident international opposition to the accord and tossed it to parliament.

After the National Assembly cleared the accord April 13, Zardari signed it the same night and it came into force two days later.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif too expressed concern over the Swat peace deal, saying the Taliban were trying to export their particularly harsh version of Sharia to other regions.

In an interview with USA Today, Sharif said the militants were now threatening to spread their reach beyond Swat to other regions of the country, adding that this needed to be avoided at all costs.

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