Pak to form Islamic appellate court

PESHAWAR: Pakistan has announced the creation of an Islamic appellate court in an area of the northwest as part of a peace deal reached earlier this year to put an end to a bloody Taliban insurgency.

The news came as Pakistani troops pursued a major ground and air offensive against extremists who have infiltrated several districts in the Malakand region, the fringes of which are only 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Islamabad.

"The North West Frontier Province government announces the setting up of Darul Qaza, or an Islamic appellate court, in Malakand division," provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters late Saturday.

Hussain said two judges had been appointed to serve on the court, adding: "The government has now fulfilled its promise." Pakistan in February agreed to allow religious hardliners to enforce Islamic law in the Swat valley, a part of Malakand that was once a tourist hotspot, and other districts in order to end a two-year rebellion led by a radical cleric.

But instead of disarming as required under the deal, the Taliban instead pushed further south toward Islamabad, taking over large swathes of the districts of Lower Dir and Buner -- and prompting the latest army offensive.