Pakistani cleric sets deadline for Islamic courts in Swat


Islamabad : Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the chief of a banned Islamic group who is acting as a peacemaker in Pakistan’s restive Swat Valley, Sunday set a March 15 deadline for the government to set up Islamic courts in the region, a media report said.

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Muhammad, who heads Tahrik-e-Nifaz Shriat Muhammadi (TNSM), warned authorities in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of protests if the government failed to set up the courts in Malakand division that was agreed upon during the ceasefire talks two weeks ago, Geo TV reported.

If shariats (Islamic courts) are not enforced by March 15, protest camps will be set up in Malakand, he told reporters in Mingora, Swat’s main town located about 60 km northeast of provincial capital Peshawar.

The TNSM leader and NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti had signed an agreement two weeks ago to enforce Islamic law in Malakand division, of which Swat is a district, in exchange for an end to militancy in the region.

Mohammad asked both the government forces and militants to refrain from attacks on each other and the public. He also sought release of prisoners held by them till March 10.

On Tuesday, the cleric declared an indefinite ceasefire after an initial 10-day truce, as the military said it was ceasing its operation in the valley, which until 2007 was one of the most-visited tourist resorts in Pakistan.

But he expressed his dismay over what he called inaction by the government, and for dragging its feet over the enforcement of sharia in the region.

Mohammad stressed that durable peace could not be guaranteed unless sharia laws were put in practice.