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Pakistan: Sharia law endorsed in deal with tribal leaders
Karachi, 16 Feb. (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - Sharia law will be enforced in the northwestern Swat valley under an historic agreement endorsed by the Pakistani government and Islamic leaders on Monday. Announcement of the peace deal came after talks between the government of North West Frontier Province and a local leader, Sufi Mohammad.
All un-Islamic laws in the Malakand division of Swat, which is geographically one third of the whole province, have been abolished.
The Islamic judicial system will be enforced by Islamic judges (or qazi), the chief minister of the North West Frontier Province Amir Haider Khan Hoti told media on Monday after reaching agreement with Mohammad's group, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi.
The Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi signed the historic agreement after a tribal meeting or grand jirga which marked the victory of the Taliban and peace in the Swat valley after two years.
The government of North West Frontier Province had been holding talks with Mohammad on amendments to the enforcement of Sharia in Swat.
The peace agreement will also be complemented by a compensation package for those who were killed and injured in military operations in Swat.
"Those who were killed shall get Rs 300,000 (3,760 dollars) and those who were wounded shall be get Rs 100,000 (1,254 dollars)," Amir Haider Khan Hoti told journalists.
"The entire deal, Islamic laws and other packages related to the deal were completely approved by the president of Pakistan (Asif Ali Zardari) ,â€ he said.
Mohammad, considered the key Islamic leader in Swat, will now go to the region with a 42-member delegation and ask the Taliban led by his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah to lay down its weapons. The Taliban has been fighting for the strict enforcement of Sharia in the region.
"We have established a task force which will monitor the implementation of Islamic law, but enforcement shall be bound by peace and the writ of the state," said Amir Haider Khan Hoti.
"The security forces now (after the signature on agreement) shall be in reactive rather than proactive mode. They shall only retaliate if somebody tries to challenge the writ of the state," he said.
The uprising in the scenic Swat valley, which began after the August 2007 siege at Islamabad's Red Mosque in which over 150 people died, is expected to end after the militants accepted key demands.
The Pakistani military has in recent months been battling fighters loyal to Fazlullah in an intense military offensive.
More than 20,000 people across the Swat valley are believed to have fled their homes to escape the fighting and hundreds of girls' schools have been destroyed since the Taliban insurgency began in 2007.
The grand jirga brought together political parties, elected representatives from the Malakand region and the TNSM leadership. All agreed to the militants' demands regarding Sharia law which resulted in the announcement of the Nizam-i-Adal regulation 2009 (or justice regulation 2009).
â€œWe realised that there was a vacuum in the Swat valley. People faced hardships concerning swift justice," he said.
When Swat merged with the state of Pakistan and its Islamic courts were abolished in 1969, the area came under Pakistan's secular legal system.
"People were getting delayed justice. In 1994 regulalations were introduced, in 1999 regulations were introduced but those were not implemented. People felt deceived.
"This coalition government and the provincial government after prolonged consultation with all the political leaders and the presidentâ€™s approval amended 1999 regulations," he said.
"I appeal to the people who adopted the path of violence to play their role for the restoration of peace," he said.
The deal drew a mixed response from Pakistan's political leaders.
â€œI am appalled by this development," pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League senator Marvi Memon told Adnkronos International (AKI).
"Yesterday, President Zardari said in a statement that the Taliban wanted to take over the entire state and today he approved an agreement which legitimises its position.
"The Taliban does not want Islamic laws in Malakand division only but the enforcement of their brand of Islam (elsewhere) in the country and in the whole world. I wonder what this government has done," he said.
But Maulana Sami ul-Haq, leader of his own faction of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam religious party, and popularly known as the father of Taliban, told AKI he welcomed the move.
â€œThis is a major step that's been coming for a long time, and will ensure peace in the North West Frontier Province," he told AKI.
"Hundreds of people were killed during the military operation and over 600,000 were displaced. Now we hope that everything shall be normalised.â€
Sami ul-Haq played a pivotal role in the agreement between the TNSM and the government.
The anarchy in Pakistan could radicalize more and more people in the country.
Will God help us?