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Pakistan media debates Swat deal with Taliban

world Updated: Apr 14, 2009 12:20 IST
IANS
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By agreeing to impose Sharia laws in part of its restive northeast, Pakistan had ceded control of the area to a "band of militants", an editorial in a leading English daily said on Tuesday.

However, another newspaper lauded parliament's "collective wisdom" in agreeing to a controversial peace deal with the Taliban by imposing Sharia laws in the Swat Valley and six other districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in return for the militants laying down their arms. "It effectively cedes judicial control of a part of Pakistan to a band of militants who have been waging a savage war against the state," Dawn said in an editorial.

"The collective wisdom of the country's prime public representative body - the National Assembly of Pakistan - has put its weight behind the Swat peace deal to save the people of the valley from ruthless killing and complete lawlessness, which has been the hallmark of this once the enchanting tourist resort of Pakistan," The News said in a commentary.

President Asif Ali Zardari ratified the peace deal late on Monday after parliament had passed it after a day-long debate that saw the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) walking out in protest. In doing so, Zardari took the easy way out by tossing the issue into parliament's court in the face of growing international pressure against the deal.

Zardari had given his nod to the Feb 16 deal between the NWFP government and Taliban-linked radical cleric Sufi Mohammad but balked at ratifying it after many Western nations, including the US, termed it a "retrograde" step. He then, very conveniently, put the onus on parliament so that he could turn around and show to the world that Pakistan's elected representatives supported the pact. "This was not the kind of politics the country needed," Dawn said.

Conceding that the constitution gives the president the authority to make "regulations for the peace and good government of a Provincially Administered Tribal Area", it added that what had been agreed to in Swat "is no ordinary change". Dawn also noted that the debate in parliament "was yet another missed opportunity". "The bigger point is that the politicians still need to reach a consensus on how to counter militancy. When force is used some segments in the political spectrum erupt in anger and indignation.

"When peace deals are pursued, other segments denounce them as appeasement. Yet, no one seems serious about devising a credible strategy to fight militancy," the editorial maintained.

According to The News, Pakistan's parliamentarians "have definitely played their role of being public representatives and thus should be encouraged and praised". "Going well beyond their personal philosophies, ideologies and political thinking, these members of the Parliament supported the peace deal, which in normal circumstances would not have been acceptable to most of them. "Their priority was to secure the people of Swat from being pushed back to the pre-Feb 16 situation when innocent people were beheaded, butchered, looted, harassed and even flogged at the whims of a group of armed individuals," The News maintained.

It also noted that it was "no secret" that parliament has been involved in the exercise "only to tell the foreign powers particularly Washington, which has its reservations about the Swat peace deal, that the imposition of Islamic justice system is the will of the people of Pakistan. "No doubt, a smart move from President Zardari, who, for a change has started taking decisions that surprise many," The News said.

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