Pak govt sets up Islamic court in Swat

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military on Sunday accused the Taliban of “gross violation” of a peace accord covering a large segment of its northwest after several acts of violence over the weekend.

The allegations came as the northwest province’s government said it was fulfilling its end of the deal by establishing an Islamic appellate court for the area, though a cleric mediating the pact rejected the panel.

The developments underscored the ambivalence in Pakistan’s government over how best to tackle militancy in its regions bordering Afghanistan. It is a topic

that will come up when Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari meets with President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a visit to Washington later this week.

Under the peace deal struck in February, the government agreed to impose Islamic law in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas that make up the Malakand Division. The pact appeared to embolden the Taliban in Swat, who soon entered the adjacent Buner district.

Critics including the US have cast the peace deal as a surrender. It is of particular concern to American officials, who worry Swat will turn into a haven for militants near Afghanistan, where US and NATO troops are battling an increasingly virulent insurgency.

Over the past week, the Pakistani military has gone on the offensive to push

the Taliban out of Buner, just 100 kilometres from Islamabad. An army statement Sunday said 80 militants had been killed so far along with three soldiers. An important local commander was believed to be among the dead militants, the statement said.

Pushing the Taliban out of Buner does not mean the army is willing to try to oust them from their Swat Valley stronghold, even though its statement today took a harsh stance towards the weekend incidents in Swat.

The army accused militants of looting a bank and said security forces discovered at least three explosives-laden vehicles apparently intended for suicide attacks.

It blamed an attack on the power grid in the main Swat city of Mingora on the militants. It also said militants had partially blown up a bridge in the Khwaza Khela area of Swat.