03/24/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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In Taliban-controlled Swat Valley no more NGOs or polio vaccination for children

by Qaiser Felix
The enforcement of Sharia has led to the closing down of NGO offices, the end of polio vaccination for children and left hundreds of lawyers out of a job. Extremist groups plan to demand the implementation of Islamic in every district of the province. Civil society groups and human rights activists are sounding the alarm.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Since Sharia came into effect on 16 February lawyers have lost their job, NGOs have not been allowed to operate, polio vaccination has been banned, Taliban in custody have been released, and demands that Islamic law be implemented in the other districts of the province have made. The agreement signed by the government of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Tahrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) movement in a bid to end years of war and violence is bearing fruit. Under Sharia civil liberties and personal freedoms are being curtailed and what was once a famous destination for national and international tourism is being progressively “talibanised”.

On Sunday 14 more Taliban terrorists were released from jail, taking the total number freed so far to 48. At the same time TNSM chief Sufi Muhammad’s ban on district courts and lawyers’ presence in Qazi courts (Islamic courts) in Swat has left around 500 lawyers unemployed since Sharia only allows people filing cases and the accused to appear before the new “Islamic courts”.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Sunday also ordered all non-governmental organisations to immediately leave Swat. For the Islamist organisation “NGO is another name for ‘vulgarity and obscenity’,” because they hire women who work with men, in the field and in offices. “That is totally unislamic and unacceptable,” TTP spokesman Muslim Khan said.

The Taliban have decreed that there shall be no polio vaccination because “it causes infertility” and because the vaccine was imported, Khan said.

In Lower Dir, one of the NWFP’s 24 districts, Islamic fundamentalists have shut down a family planning centre, warning that it would be blown up if it was reopened it.

In the province religious parties and extremist movements are now demanding the application of Sharia in the other districts as well as the tribal areas along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Civil society groups and human rights activists have condemned the Swat Valley’s talibanisation, pointing out that some areas have become no-go areas where militants are enforcing the most rigid and fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Punjab Vice-Chairman Dr Mehdi Hasan warned that the militants will stop at nothing to achieve their purpose, that they will eliminate anything and anyone trying to stop them. He urged the government to look into the matter and take control of the situation.

Women’s Action Forum (WAF) Convener Nighat Saeed Khan said that militants in the Malakand Division have used Western technical equipment—cellular phones, rockets and vehicles—even though they termed each one of them as “unislamic.”

She noted that the Taliban are creating their “own areas”, where they are likely to train terrorists, and will move to other districts if not stopped immediately. 

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