Pakistan on Thursday warned of action against the Taliban if it violates a controversial peace agreement in the country's restive northwest even as Washington accused Islamabad of "abdicating" to the militants.
"We reserve the right to go for other options if Talibanisation continues," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters in Islamabad when asked about reports of parallel Islamic courts of appeal being set up in Swat in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) under the Nizam-e Adl Regulation imposing Sharia laws in the area.
According to Gilani, "we have to ensure the writ of the government runs. We do not wish that a parallel government functions (in Swat) or such (appeal) courts are set up.
Taliban-linked radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who had inked the Feb 16 deal with the NWFP government on imposing Sharia laws in return for the militants laying down their arms, had set an April 23 deadline for setting up the Islamic courts of appeal.
The government says appeals against verdicts of the qazi courts that will be set up under the Sharia laws will have to be heard by the NWFP High Court or the Supreme Court. Sufi Mohammad has termed these courts un-Islamic.
On Wednesday, the Taliban, after consolidating their position in Swat, had taken complete control over the Buner district to the south that is just 100 km from Islamabad.
Noting that the Pakistani Army was functioning under the civilian government, Gilani said its assistance could be sought by the federal or the NWFP government if its presence was necessary to restore order in Swat and six other districts of the province where Sharia laws have been imposed.
Gilani said the Feb 16 agreement was aimed at bringing peace to Swat valley and to provide speedy justice, but the government could review this if Sufi Mohammad fails to live up to his end of the bargain.
Speaking in Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday accused the Pakistani government of "abdicating to the Taliban" and warned that the deterioration of security in Pakistan poses a "mortal threat" to the US and the world.
Clinton, in an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, her first since being confirmed, spoke of the "daunting challenges topped by the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan".
"I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists," she said, calling disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan "probably the world's greatest proliferator", though she appeared reluctant to link aid to Islamabad with getting information from him about his activities.
Warning that Pakistan was in danger of falling into terrorist hands because of failed government policies, Clinton said that the deterioration of security in nuclear-armed Pakistan "poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world".
"I think that we cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, a nuclear-armed state," she said.
Several members of Congress voiced concern about Islamic extremists gaining ground in Pakistan, including the Committee's Democratic Chairman Howard Berman, who warned the United States cannot allow extremists to control Pakistan or operate with impunity along the border with Afghanistan.
Talking about the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, she said: "As daunting as these challenges are, they also offer us new arenas for global cooperation, and we're taking steps to seize these opportunities."