Swat pact worries India; linked to peace, says Pakistan (Roundup)February 20th, 2009 - 9:52 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi/Islamabad, Feb 20 (IANS) India Friday expressed worry at an accord that aims at the Taliban laying down arms in Pakistan’s restive northwest in return for the imposition of Shariat laws in the region, even as Pakistan defended the pact, saying it was linked to restoring peace in an area which the militants control.
“From 26/11 (the terrorist attacks in Mumbai) onwards, we are very much concerned about the security scenario. This new development, in a way, adds to our worries,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters in New Delhi.
Pakistan, however, stood by the accord.
“Establishing peace, security and stability are matters of highest priority for Pakistan government and it will use all necessary means to achieve these objectives,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said at his weekly media briefing in Islamabad.
According to the spokesman, the Nizam-i-Adl, as the Shariat law is known, was a “system of justice” that was linked to the restoration of peace and tranquillity.
Basit’s comments came as US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke said Washington was “troubled and confused” about the Swat accord as “it is not an encouraging trend”.
Terming the situation as serious, Holbrooke cautioned against the area being ceded to the “bad guys”.
Meanwhile, reports in Islamabad Friday said the Swat deal would figure high on the agenda during Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s visit to Washington next week.
The federal government approved the signing of pact between the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) of radical cleric Sufi Mohammad to impose Shariat laws in seven districts of the province, including the picturesque Swat valley, a once popular tourist destination that the Taliban have taken over.
The cleric is currently in Swat for peace talks with his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah who heads the Taliban in the area.
Media reports from the region Friday spoke of a breakthrough but gave no details.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who Sunday approved the signing of the NWFP-TNSM pact, has said he would endorse it only if peace returns to the area.