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Zardari signs bill to establish Sharia law in Swat valley

Video by Anne-Isabelle TOLLET , Matthieu MABIN , Nicolas GERMAIN

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-04-14

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has approved a controversial bill that establishes Islamic law in Pakistan's Swat valley. Watch FRANCE 24's exclusive interview with a Taliban spokesman in Pakistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari has signed a controversial bill into law establishing Islamic law in Swat valley that has sparked alarm about emboldening Taliban hardliners.

 

The move came after Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution Monday urging the president to approve Sharia Nizam Adl Regulation 2009.
   
Monday's legislative vote followed days after pro-Taliban cleric Soofi Mohammad, who signed the February agreement with the local government, lashed out at Zardari for not ratifying the deal and withdrew from Swat in protest.
   
Sharia courts have already started working in Swat, a former ski resort ripped apart by a nearly two-year brutal insurgency, but where the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government says the deal can bring peace.
   
"We want consensus of the whole nation. We want to take the house into confidence. We don't want to bypass the parliament," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told lawmakers.
   
"We appreciate the sacrifices made by the people of North West Frontier Province in the war on terror.
   
"We are committed to implement the system and the whole nation should support it," he added before the regulation was unanimously approved by a voice vote among those lawmakers in the chamber.
   
Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a member of the coalition, abstained.
   
"We have our apprehensions, we will not take part in the vote," said MQM leader and cabinet minister for overseas Pakistanis, Farooq Sattar.
   
Thousands of Taliban followers spent nearly two years waging a terrifying campaign to enforce sharia law in Swat -- beheading opponents, bombing girls' schools, outlawing entertainment and fighting government forces.
   
The vote piles further pressure on Zardari to ratify the blueprint, which is only likely to antagonise Western allies who have voiced fears that the deal emboldens Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists in northwest Pakistan.
   
"I am ending my peace camp in Swat and if any bloodshed occurs, President Zardari and the federal government will be responsible," Mohammad threatened last Thursday.
   
The cleric was jailed for six years in Pakistan after leading thousands of supporters into Afghanistan to fight US-led troops and is the father-in-law of firebrand insurgency leader Maulana Fazullah.
   
The sharia deal incited further controversy when a video broadcast on Pakistan television this month showed the public flogging of a veiled woman in Swat that incensed the Muslim nation of more than 160 million.
   
Top judge Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who was reinstated by Zardari's ruling party nearly two years after he was sacked, has opened a hearing into the case, apparently involving a 17-year-old girl.
 

Date created : 2009-04-14

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