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 Shariah to most of the NWFP.
He said the new laws 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 powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee."I have personally serious reservations about whether or not it will hold".
The ratification of the Swat pact by President Asif Ali Zardari also evoked strong criticism by the US and Pakistan's neighbour Afghanistan, with Kabul saying it will have "dire consequences" for the region.
In one of its most pointed criticism of the Swat deal, the White House described it as infringement of human rights.