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'Can't prosecute Taliban under Sharia'

'Can't prosecute Taliban under Sharia'

Author: Rezaul H Laskar, Islamabad
Publication: Indian Express
Dated: April 16, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/cant-prosecute-taliban-under-sharia/447469/

Introduction: Sufi Muhammad says Sharia in Swat will protect militants accused of brutal killings, Qazi verdict can't be challenged; won't lay down arms, says Muslim Khan

A pro-Taliban hardline cleric in the restive Swat valley has stirred a controversy by saying that the newly imposed Islamic law in the region will protect militants from prosecution, confirming the worst fears of the West about the spread of extremism in Pakistan.

Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad, who brokered a peace deal with the Taliban, also said that verdicts by Islamic courts cannot be challenged in the superior judiciary and that he intended to strive to extend the Sharia to most of the NWFP.

He said Sharia will protect militants accused of brutal killings from prosecution. His comments have already evoked sharp reaction from visiting US Senator John Kerry, who said Washington always had reservations about such pacts.

"I have expressed concerns and others have expressed concerns about this agreement," said Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sufi Muhammad, who negotiated the deal, was asked in an interview if the new Islamic courts would hear complaints from Swat residents against his son-in-law and local Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah or his fighters. Muhammad said they could not.

"We intend to bury the past... Past things will be left behind and we will go for a new life in peace," Muhammad told ARY news channel.

Later, at a news conference in Mingora, in Swat, Muhammad said decisions by the Qazi courts could not be challenged in any other court, including the high courts or the Supreme Court.

The current Qazis would be replaced with new ones as the first step towards implementing Sharia and gradually, the system will be enforced in other districts of Malakand division, Muhammad said. He said the Malakand division will remain under the control of the Pakistan Government, though the Qazi courts will decide cases in according to Sharia.

"Women will have full protection and rights under Sharia. They will lead better lives, but behind the veil," he said.

Muhammad said his group will hold a public gathering on April 19 to ask the Taliban and other people to lay down arms and work for restoring peace in Swat. He asked the Taliban not to move around with arms in markets and other public places and to fully cooperate with the Government.

However, Pakistani Taliban spokesperson Muslim Khan will not lay down their arms in the restive Swat valley as part of the peace deal that led to the imposition of Sharia here, a militant spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The Taliban, instead, would take their "struggle" to new areas, he added.

Muslim Khan said: "If a government, either on Pakistan or Afghanistan, continues anti-Muslim policies, it is not possible for the Taliban to lay down arms." "Our struggle is for a cause and that's to enforce Allah's rule on Allah's land. We will send mujahideen to Afghanistan if they demand them," he said.

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