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Swat Taliban urged to lay down arms.

Islamabad: Taliban in Swat valley in northwest Pakistan were asked yesterday to lay down arms after President Asif Ali Zardari signed a law to set up a justice system for the region based on Sharia.

The chief of Tehreek Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM), Maulana Sufi Mohammad, asked the Swat Taliban, who are led by his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, to lay down arms.

TNSM or movement for enforcement of Sharia had signed a peace deal with the government of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on February 16.

The deal subsequently ran into difficulties amid criticism it amounted to a surrender to Taliban, while the president delayed his assent to a legal blueprint prepared by the NWFP government to implement the peace accord.

But the president, facing pressure from the Awami National Party (ANP) that rules NWFP and others, decided to send the draft to the National Assembly, which approved it overnight and Zardari immediately signed it.

Sufi Mohammad, who was speaking to media at Mingora, the main town in Swat, said he had asked Fazlullah "to give up arms and stop resistance to the government writ".

"Our struggle for enforcement of Sharia law in the region has met with success and there is no reason now to rest or to force," the cleric said, adding he would hold a string of peace rallies in the valley.

The NWFP Governor Owais Ghan put into force the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation after the presidential assent. Under the law Islamic Qazi courts would start functioning in Malakand division comprising seven districts including Swat, which are known as provincially administered tribal areas.

People in Swat generally welcomed the progress on Sharia implementation, reportedly firing into the air, distributing sweets and congratulating each other.

In remarks shown by private television channels, many hoped the Taliban would throw away their arms and return to their homes to let the peace process gain momentum. But doubts persisted over whether the Taliban in Swat would heed the call of TNSM chief and others to law down their arms.

"Laying down arms by Taliban is a very sensitive issue and to achieve this politicians and elected representative from the region will have to use all their persuasive skills," said former interior minister Aftab Sherpao.

Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, talking to journalists in Islamabad, said if Taliban did not lay down arms the government would take strict action. His predecessor Sherry Rehman said what was happening in Swat could encourage Talbanisation which "is already making advances".

There was no surety that the provincial government would be strong enough to protect human rights in the region, Rehman told reporters, while referring to reported incident of flogging of a girl in Swat.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Apr 15, 2009
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