In a concession to Islamic leaders, some closely linked to extremist groups, the Pakistani government promised on Monday to impose Islamic law and suspend a military offensive against extremists in areas known to be havens for terrorist organizations such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Following talks with local Muslim leaders from terrorist hotspot North West Frontier Province, the chief minister of the province, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, said authorities will enact Shariah law in Malakand region, according to The Associated Press. But he says the laws will only take effect when the valley is in peace.
The Malakand region includes Swat Valley, an area that has recently seen a surge in extremist activities including beheading residents, burning girls schools and assaulting security forces. The destruction of girls schools is part of a campaign by Swat Taliban against female education.
"The imposition of Shariah law is a serious violation of the rights of all peoples in the region, regardless of their religious identity," said Joseph K. Grieboski, president Washington-based Institute on Religion & Public Policy. "Since the 'democratic' imposition of Shariah law in the Northwest Frontier Province, there has been a marked increase in extremist activity and acts of terror."
Among the local Islamic leaders at the discussion table is Sufi Muhammad, who once led hundreds of men to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan against the U.S.-led coalition, IRPP noted. He is also the father-in-law to Maulana Fazlullah, leader of the Taliban in Swat Valley, according to AP.
The Swat Taliban said Sunday it will adhere to a 10-day ceasefire agreement to support the peace talk.
During the announcement Monday, there was no mention that the militants would need to give up arms.
From the details that Hoti did provide, the main change is allowing Muslim clerics to advise judges in court hearings. It does not forbid female education.
The United States is expected to raise concern about the deal. It has already told Pakistan that such compromises will only provide Al Qaeda and the Taliban time to rearm and regroup.
"This imposition will not strengthen the hand of the Pakistani government; it will undermine and destroy it while also destroying any hope for a liberal democracy and protection of human rights in the entire country," Grieboski denounced.