Pakistan: cleric offers peace for sharia

Pakistan’s parliament held a heated debate Oct. 20 on how to fight the Islamist militants in the northwest, who are now extending their reach to suicide attacks in the capital. Calls for dialogue with the Taliban, punctuated by opposition to fighting what is perceived as America’s war, dominated the closed-door sessions, participants said. (IHT, Oct. 20) Meanwhile, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, leader of the Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi, has offered to broker peace with the militants if the government instates sharia law in his stronghold of Malakand. “In that case I will personally go to Swat and Bajaur to persuade the militants to lay down arms,” he said. He added that he would declare jihad against the Swat Taliban commanded by his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah if they refused to lay down arms after the enforcement of sharia. (The News, Pakistan, Oct. 18; The News, Oct. 13)

Lawyers from Malakand responded to the offer by stating that the overwhelming majority of the residents want their cases decided under the existing civil code of Pakistan and not under sharia law. (Daily Times, Pakistan, Oct. 14) Malakand is a division of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) that includes the conflicted Swat Valley and is adjacent to the Bajaur Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, also a militant stronghold. NWFP Gov. Owais Ahmed Ghani has signed a decree for implementation of Islamic law in Malakand division but it has yet to be approved by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions in Islamabad. Pakistan’s Federal Law Division would also need to sign off on the measure. (Daily Times, Oct. 7)

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