Swat deal to be presented in parliament Monday (Lead)

April 11th, 2009 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 11 (IANS) A peace deal inked with the Taliban in the Swat Valley in Pakistan’s restive northwest is to be presented in parliament Monday even as a question mark hangs over whether President Asif Ali Zardari will ratify the pact.
Speaking to reporters in Multan Saturday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the Feb 16 deal to impose Sharia laws in Swat and six other districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in return for the Taliban laying down their arms would be presented Monday in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

“The aim is to evolve a consensual national strategy,” Gilani said.

The peace deal between the NWFP government and Taliban-aligned Maulana Sufi Mohammad of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz e Shariah-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) seemed to be coming apart Thursday with the cleric shutting down his peace camp to protest against Zardari’s delay in acceding to the pact.

The president’s consent is necessary because the provincial government cannot amend its laws without his consent. Zardari says he will ratify the deal only if peace returns to Swat.

The Taliban says it’s the other way around: that peace can return only if Sharia laws are first in place.

On Friday, however, the TNSM said the peace deal was intact but this was predicated on Zardari’s nod, even as Sufi Muhammad refused to hold talks with a NWFP delegation that had rushed to meet him.

“We met him (Sufi) during the Friday prayers but he did not participate in the talks,” NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain told The News.

“The swift move by the NWFP government was aimed at salvaging the shaky peace accord,” the newspaper noted.

In an editorial, however, The News wondered about the rationale behind the peace accord.

“These are men who have no scruples about breaking deals, just as they have no qualms about killing people or torturing helpless women. The only way to vanquish them is through force. This is the reality of our times. Our government and armed forces must work together for this end,” it maintained.

On his part, Zardari has been under immense pressure to turn down the deal, particularly after the emergence last week of a video depicting a 17-year-old girl publicly receiving 38 lashes over an alleged illicit relationship. Though the incident was denied, it sparked universal outrage.

The deal with the Taliban had attracted international condemnation as it was seen to be bowing to the militants.

Protracted fighting between the Pakistani security forces and the Taliban has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee Swat. Estimates vary, but human rights monitors believe that up to 800,000 of the valley’s 1.8 million people may have left.

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