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Feb 18, 2009 at 12:23am IST

Taliban triumphed, holds victory rally in Pak

New Delhi: Two-hundred-and-fifty kilometers from the tree-lined avenues of Islamabad, a triumphant Taliban victory rally in Swat celebrated Islamabad's surrender.

Islamic Sharia law will now be the only law in Swat and surrounding regions of the North West Frontier Province.

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“This is a good move by the Government. But we would like to know what will be the consequences of this move,” a resident of the Swat valley said.

This view is endorsed by many politicians in Pakistan, including chief of Tehreek-e-Insaaf party Imran Khan.

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“Two provinces in Malaysia are run by the Sharia law. There are no hard and fast rules in such things. Basically, people just want justice which is what they don't get,” Khan said.

But Islamabad warned that Sharia law would be implemented only if the Taliban laid down arms. “This will be signed after a peace process,” Pakistani Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rahman said.

The agreement as publicised by the Pakistani government made it clear that:

  • All anti-Quran laws were declared null and void.
  • The army will not react unless threatened.
  • Shariat Muhammadi chief Sufi Mohammad will persuade the extremists to stop violence.
  • All girls’ schools in the area will have to be reopened.

Whether Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari gives his assent to the agreement or not, Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has given his okay to the imposition of Sharia law in Swat.

Critics in Washington said it proves the CIA contention that Kayani, a former ISI chief with a long innings in dealing with the Taliban, sees them as allies.

The CIA has satellite intercepts of the Pakistan army tipping off Taliban fighters when a US missile strike was imminent.

Critics of the government’s move also doubt if Tehreek leader Maulana Sufi Mohammad has the ability to deliver peace. His son-in-law Fazlullah is known to call the shots in Swat and is an ally of Beitullah Mehsud, the man accused of killing late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. And it already seems that they have their eyes beyond Swat.

“The government is under pressure and that is why such steps are being taken. If it agrees with the Sharia then it should be implemented all over the country,” a worried citizen said.

Pakistani civil society is worried and scared that the country has made the first move towards a more radical religious and political order. And that Maulana Sufi, his firebrand son-in-law and allies will call the shots from Islamabad one day.