02/27/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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"Islamic peace" in the Swat is a defeat for the rule of law

by Qaiser Felix
The end of conflict could mark new persecutions of religious minorities and women. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expresses "serious concern" and emphasizes that the agreement will have repercussions in the whole country.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) -The controversial peace agreement between the government of the North-West Frontier Province and the Taliban militia group Tahrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi could mark the end of the armed conflict, at the cost of new suffering and persecution. Those who will pay the consequences would especially be the women and religious minorities. This is what is feared by human rights activists, according to whom the introduction of sharia - Islamic law - in exchange for the ceasefire in the district of Malakan is a "defeat for democracy and the rule of law."

The government has fought the Taliban in the area for two years, without success. Much of the valley has long been under the control of Islamic militias; it was once a popular tourist area, but in recent months has become the theater of hundreds of attacks on schools - above all on those for girls - and on video and DVD stores, because they are contrary to Islamic morality. In order to escape persecution, thousands of people have abandoned their homes. Now there is a superficial calm in Swat, but it is accompanied by renewed fears for the future of the valley.

Mehboob Sada, director of the Christian Studies Center in Rawalpindi, recalls the "persecution and threats" against Christians in various areas of the NWFP, and is afraid that the application of sharia "will make the situation even more difficult," because the Taliban will govern "according to the principles of Islamic law."

I. A. Rehman, a human rights activist, stresses in an article published in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn that now the militias "have complete freedom of action in the area," and accuses the signers of the agreement of being shortsighted, because they did not keep in mind "the long-term consequences." "The fact that the signers," he writes, "have condemned democracy and elections as un-Islamic implies that democratic institutions are at the mercy of the militias," and predicts "a dark future for the population of the area."

"Serious concern" is also being expressed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which complains of "the lack of any kind of guarantee against possible violations of the constitution and citizens' human rights." "The introduction of sharia," the activists explain, "without precise reassurances of impartiality on the part of the judges established to enforce respect of the law, could mark the condemnation of certain categories at risk, including women, non-Muslims, and Muslim minority sects."

The HRCP recalls that it is in favor of dialogue, but that it is essential that "the other side also observe the principle of good faith, credibility, and the capacity to respect its commitments." "It is the duty of the provincial government to protect democratic principles, the constitution, and human rights. Success or failure will determine the future not only of the Swat, but of all Pakistan."

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