Insurgents say Pakistan agrees to Islamic law in northwest

15 people reported dead in suspected US missile strike in region.

muslim woman 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
muslim woman 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Muslim insurgents in northwest Pakistan said Monday the government had agreed to impose Islamic law as part of a proposed peace deal in the lawless region where al-Qaida and Taliban gunmen increasingly hold sway. The deal - expected to be announced later Monday - would cover the Swat valley, a one-time tourist destination where Taliban militants have been brutally enforcing a hardline version of Islamic law, burning schools and attacking government targets and security forces since the middle of last year when an earlier deal broke down. Several past deals with militants in northwest Pakistan have failed and been criticized by the United States as merely giving insurgents time to regroup, but Pakistan says force alone cannot defeat the extremists wreaking havoc there and attacking US troops in neighboring Afghanistan. Meanwhile, three missiles destroyed a house in the Kurram tribal region of the northwest, causing some causalities, witness Iqbal Khan said. It appeared likely that the attack was the latest in a barrage against suspected militants in the border region by unmanned American aircraft since August last year, but it was not immediately possible to confirm that. Pakistani officials were not immediately available to comment. Dawn News TV station said up to 15 people were believed killed in the strike. Regaining the Swat Valley from militants is a major test for Pakistan's shaky civilian leadership. Unlike the semiautonomous tribal regions where al-Qaida and Taliban have long thrived, the former tourist haven is supposed to be under full government control. A 30-member delegation from a banned militant group in Swat arrived in the provincial capital Peshawar on Monday to finalize details on the deal, said Amir Izzat Khan, a spokesman for the Tahrik Nifaz Shariat Mohammadi or the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law. He said government representatives had agreed to their demand of imposition of Islamic or Sharia law. "This will bring peace in Swat for sure," Khan said. Farahatullah Babar, a presidential spokesman, said the deal would be announced after the meeting, but declined to give details. A Taliban spokesman said Sunday the militants had agreed to a 10-day cease-fire as a goodwill gesture. Provincial government leaders confirmed they were talking to the group about ways to impose Islamic judicial practices in the Malakand division, which includes Swat. Provincial law minister Arshad Abdullah said the deal would require the militants to first give up violence. Then existing laws governing the justice system can be amended or enforced, he said. "They have to succumb to law," Abdullah said. "They have to put down their arms."