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Central & South Asia
Zardari agrees to Sharia in Swat
Pakistani president agrees to Islamic law being implemented in Taliban stronghold.
Last Modified: 14 Apr 2009 11:27 GMT

Zardari signed off the controversial regulation after it won approval in the Pakistan parliament [AFP]

Pakistan's president has signed a regulation allowing the Taliban to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, in the country's northwestern Swat valley, a presidential aide has said.

Asif Ali Zardari signed the rule on Monday, Farahnaz Ispahani said. The move will bring peace to Swat and Baijur.

Zardari's move comes after members of the National Assembly urged him to sign the regulation in a resolution, in an attempt to promote peace in the violence-hit region and between the Taliban and Islamabad.

"The president had earlier come under severe criticism from the arbitrators of the accord [between the Taliban and the authorities]," Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, said.

Sufi Mohammad, a religious leader helping mediate between the Taliban, the North West Frontier Province's provincial government and the central government, had in the past accused Islamabad of "dragging its feet" on implementing a deal, Hyder said.

Deal welcomed

The government of the NWFP had threatened to pull out of the alliance if the accord was not signed, Hyder said.

"The president sent the law to parliament and, in a surprise development, the parliament passed it immediately," he said. The law was then signed off by Zardari.

"The spokesman for the Taliban in Swat has welcomed the deal and so has Sufi Muhammad."

The agreement by the Pakistani government has been criticised by human rights groups and Western officials who say that the Swat valley could now become a safe haven for the Taliban and other armed groups.

"There is celebration in Swat and an expectation that the demands of the people might lead to a peaceful settlement, but others are questioning whether the Taliban will now relinquish their control of other Pakistani territories," Hyder said.

"The deal did mention that once the regulation on Sharia in Swat goes into effect, those people would disarm."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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