Authorities in Pakistan have announced the creation of an Islamic court
in a troubled northwestern region as part of a controversial peace deal
aimed at ending militancy there. But a pro-Taliban hard-line cleric,
who mediated the deal on behalf of the militants, has dismissed the
announcement by saying the government could not have set up the court
and appointed judges without consulting him.
The seven districts of Pakistan's northwestern
Malakand Division have seen some of the country's worst militant
violence in the past year, particularly in the Swat region that is
mostly controlled by the Taliban.
In an attempt to end the
violence, the government agreed to set up Islamic courts in the
militant-dominated area as part of a peace deal it signed in February
with pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Mohammad. In return, the cleric promised
to persuade Taliban militants to lay down their arms and allow the
government to establish its authority.
After holding several
rounds talks with Sufi Mohammad, information minister for Pakistan's
North West Frontier Province, Iftikhar Hussain, announced late Saturday
the provincial government has set up an Islamic appellate court and
appointed two senior judges to serve on it.
minister said the government has fulfilled its promise and a major
demand of the Taliban has been met. But he warned if the militants
take up arms again they will be stopped at all cost.
Mohammed immediately rejected the announcement. His spokesman, Ameer
Ezat, tells VOA the government alone is not competent to appoint judges
without consulting Mohammed as the top cleric.
also said the government ignored the militant's major demand of putting an
end to the ongoing military offensive in some districts before setting
up the court. Without meeting these conditions, Ezat says, the Taliban
will not lay down arms.
Provincial authorities maintain
individuals or groups cannot be involved in the process of appointing
judges. Authorities also say anti-insurgency operations will continue
in areas where Taliban militants challenge government authority and
launch attacks on civilian as well as official targets.
major military offensive is taking place in the districts of Dir and
Buner, just 100 kilomoters from the Pakistani capital. Authorities
maintain that in violation of the Swat peace deal, several hundred
Taliban militants have infiltrated the districts and security forces
are battling them to clear the area.
officials say more than 200 militants have been killed in the weeklong
fighting, which has forced tens of thousands of families to flee to
Regional military commander Brigadier Fayyaz
Mehmood told reporters at least 21 suspected suicide attackers were
also among the militants killed.
maximum threat has been eliminated and the best thing this time has
been that, it is not that the miscreants have tried to escape, we have
closed the pockets on both sides and then we took the miscreants,
rather we attracted them, to our troops and they came and [the] maximum
have been killed," Mehmood said.
both at home and abroad say the Swat peace deal followed by a major
military offensive underscores indecision in Pakistan's government
about how to tackle rising militancy in its northwestern regions,
including areas that border Afghanistan.
President Asif Ali Zardari is traveling to Washington to meet with
U.S. President Barack Obama this week and the worsening security situation
in Pakistan will top the agenda.