Pakistan's president signed an accord to put part of the country under Islamic law as part of efforts to end a Taliban insurgency, despite fears on Tuesday that it would encourage extremism.
President Asif Ali Zardari's move formalises a controversial deal between a pro-Taliban cleric, who led thousands of supporters to fight against US troops in Afghanistan, and the government in North West Frontier Province.
The deal applies to Malakand, a district of around three million people in the province that includes the Swat valley.
“God willing it will have a positive impact on the situation in Swat,” said interior ministry chief Rehman Malik of the agreement.
However, critics say the deal opens the floodgates to the “Talibanisation” of swathes of Pakistan.
A spokesman for pro-Taliban cleric Soofi Mohammad, who signed the accord, said Zardari's signature would allow peace in Swat, just 160 kilometres away from the capital Islamabad.
"We will make all-out efforts to establish peace in the region. The Taliban have disarmed themselves and those who have not yet disarmed will do so soon,” said spokesman Amir Izzat Khan.