500,000 to be moved from Swat ahead of military action: Minister (Lead)

May 5th, 2009 - 10:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 5 (IANS) Some 500,000 people are to be evacuated from Swat in Pakistan’s restive northwest ahead of an expected military operation against the Taliban, a provincial minister said Tuesday.
Large numbers of people were already being evacuated the Swat Valley, Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), said at a press conference in capital Peshawar. The situation vis-a-vis the Taliban was getting complicated with the passage of time, he added.

“Emergency help is being provided to take care of the displaced families. The government is also setting up camps to settle the affected people,” Geo TV quoted the minister as saying.

Earlier Tuesday, residents of Swat were asked to move to safer areas as the Pakistani military seemed to be opening a third front against the Taliban, which violated a controversial peace accord in the area.

Swat’s district coordination officer (DCO) ordered the residents of Qamber, Raheemabad, Aman Kot, Makan Bagh towns to move to safer places, Geo TV reported.

The DCO also said curfew in the district would be relaxed from 1.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The curfew was imposed April 26 when Pakistani security forces went into action against the Taliban in the Lower Dir district to the northwest of Swat. Two days later, the military opened a second front in Buner district to the south of Swat and which is just 100 km from Islamabad.

The operation came after the Taliban violated the Feb 16 peace accord with the NWFP government under which Sharia laws were imposed in Swat, Buner, Lower Dir and four other districts of the province that are collectively known as the Malakand division in return for the Taliban laying down their arms.

Instead, the militants moved out of their Swat headquarters and occupied Buner.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had brokered the peace accord, said it “stands practically dissolved”.

Also on Sunday, Sufi Mohammad rejected the NWFP government’s decision to appoint a Darul Qaza or an Islamic appelate court to hear challenges to the orders of the Qazi courts being set up under the Sharia system.

Terming the decision as “unilateral”, the cleric said he was not consulted and that he alone was competent to appoint the Darul Qaza.

That wasn’t so, Hussain said at his press conference, adding that the cleric had all along been kept in the loop.

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