Taliban celebrate imposition of Shariat in Pakistan’s northwest (Roundup)

February 17th, 2009 - 8:32 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanIslamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) Hundreds of armed Taliban fighters Tuesday poured into the Swat valley to celebrate the imposition of Shariat laws in parts of Pakistan’s troubled northwest, even as the federal government said signing the deal that led to the imposition of hardline Islamic law was not a sign of the state’s weakness.
The Taliban fighters congregated in what was once a picturesque tourist destination as radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, whose Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) Monday inked a deal with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government to impose the Nizam-e-Adl Shariat law in seven districts of the province, arrived in the region.

He is scheduled to hold talks with local Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, who is also his son-in-law, on restoring peace and disarming the insurgents in the region.

Several western nations have slammed the deal, terming it a “retrograde” measure, but the Pakistani government Tuesday resolutely stood by it, for which President Asif Ali Zardari gave the go ahead Sunday.

“It is in no way a sign of the state’s weakness. The public will of the population of the Swat region is at the centre of all efforts and it should be taken into account while debating the merits of this agreement,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Sherry Rehman was quoted as saying.

She also pointed out that the deal would come into force only after peace has been restored in the area.

“The president will approve the Nizam-i-Adal Regulation after the restoration of peace in the region,” Rehman said.

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.

This apart, “the horrendous situation in a region where people have suffered tremendous brutality, where girls have been driven out of schools and where people have been beheaded in public for defying the militants is one that no elected government can stand by and calmly endure”, an editorial in the English daily The News said Tuesday.

Another report in the same newspaper said all stakeholders, including the military, were taken on board before signing the deal with Sufi Mohammad.

“It is a corporate decision,” one source told The News, adding: “All pros and cons were thoroughly reviewed at the federal level before the NWFP government was given a green signal to ink the accord.”

An official privy to the protracted high-level discussions continuing for a month said the final decision was taken last week during intense consultations in which President Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, NWFP Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani and Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan participated.

He quoted the president as saying that if peace could be achieved by introducing the Nizam-e-Adl, it should be implemented forthwith. The TNSM chief would now have a big responsibility to restore peace and normalcy and assist the security forces in the task.

“Finally, everybody realised that the use of force has been tested and it has not produced tranquility. Rather, terrorism has increased with security forces sustaining losses every day and the common man having been greatly affected,” the official maintained.

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