Saturday, April 11, 2009

Taliban closing in on control of Pakistan nuclear weapons?

Pakistan: Mounting pressure on president over Swat deal

from adnkronos
April 11, 2009
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

Islamabad (AKI) - Pressure is mounting on Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari to sign the peace deal implementing Islamic law in North West Frontier Province's Malakand region, which encompasses the troubled Swat valley.

The hardline Muslim cleric Sufi Mohammad, who has mediated peace talks between Pakistan and the Taliban in Swat has refused to hold direct talks with the government until Zardari signs the accord.

Mohammad earlier this week abandoned his peace camp, installed to oversee the peace, following the historical accord signed in mid-February between militants and the NWFP government and went back to his village.

He is chief of the Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi group in Swat.

Mohammad last month signalled he was unhappy at what he calls the slow pace of implementation of the peace accord and complained that un-Islamic' laws were still in force in Malakand.

But interior minstry chief Rehman Malik played down the situation. “Maulana Sufi Mohammad did not back out from the Swat deal. He simply has changed his location," Malik told journalists in Islamabad on Thursday.

"The president will sign the Nizam-e-Adal (Islamic law) regulation but he is waiting for militants to lay down their weapons completely,” Malik said.

But peace in the Swat valley and other parts of the country looks to observers to be visibly in serious danger.

The February peace deal ended two years of fierce conflict between militants and the army in which at least 1,700 soldiers and hundreds of civilians were killed and 600,000 people were displaced.

On Wednesday, Taliban militants from Pakistan's troubled Swat valley stormed the neighbouring district of Buner, killing at least five people, police sources said.

Police reported that a group of Taliban fighters travelled late on Monday from Swat to Buner, a previously peaceful district about 100km (60 miles) north-west of the capital, Islamabad.

After the militants ignored appeals from community leaders to go back, armed tribesmen and police confronted them, sparking a battle that left three policemen and two tribesmen dead, local police officer Zakir Khan, maintained.

On Wednesday, the US embassy Islamabad issued a warning to its nationals to avoid going to restaurants and other public places in Islamabad and other Pakistani cities. The US embassy was also due to close down its visa service on Friday.

Analysts believe that the increasing drone attacks on suspected militant hideouts in the lawless South Waziristan tribal region, one of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud's homes, is linked to the situation in Swat and elsewhere.
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