Peshawar, Feb.17 (ANI): Pakistani critics of the NWFP Government-Pakistan Taliban deal to introduce a new sharia law in the Swat Valley, have claimed that this a dangerous concession to extremist insurgents who have terrified inhabitants of the valley for months.
According to a report in the Washington Post, the bombing of girls' schools, beheading of policemen, whipping criminals in public squares and assassinating Awami National Party activists is not acceptable to many of these critics.
They fear that this deal might spur the insurgents to push harder for the imposition of Islamic law in other areas, taking advantage of a promise by the Pakistani army to pull back from the surrounding area if peace is restored.
The Pakistan Government, on the other hand, is desperate to restore peace to a Taliban-infested valley once known as the "Switzerland of Pakistan,".
In announcing the agreement, Pakistani officials asserted that the adoption of Sharia law would bring swift and fair justice to the Swat Valley, where people have long complained of legal corruption and delays. They said the new system would have "nothing in common" with the draconian rule of the Taliban militia that ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, during which thieves' hands were amputated and adulterers were stoned to death.
Militant leaders in the scenic Swat Valley, in a gesture of good faith, said they would observe a 10-day cease-fire while the new system is implemented. The Pakistani army said it would suspend operations in the area, and there were anecdotal reports of celebratory gunfire and crowds returning to once-deserted streets.
President Asif Ali Zardari has approved the new Sharia law plan for Malakand Agency, the large district in the North-West Frontier Province that includes Swat, after some initial hesitation and wording changes.
Leaders of the Awami National Party here said they also supported the agreement even though their own views are more secular and they have been targeted by insurgent attacks.
They said the government does not have sufficient force to defeat the Taliban and foreign fighters based in the autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border.
So, they said, it needs to negotiate with local militant groups in nearby areas like Swat to isolate the renegade hardliners in the tribal sanctuaries. (ANI)