, ISLAMABAD, Apr 14 – Pakistan’s president has signed a controversial regulation to put part of the country under Islamic law as part of peace efforts to end a brutal Taliban insurgency, an official said.
President Asif Ali Zardari’s move formalises a deal between a pro-Taliban cleric and the local government in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) that critics say will embolden Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists.
His spokeswoman said the deal, agreed in February, had been signed on Monday night.
The deal applies to Malakand, a district of around three million people in NWFP that includes the Swat valley — a former ski resort that has been ripped apart by a fierce insurgency.
Thousands of Taliban followers spent nearly two years waging a terrifying campaign to enforce sharia law in Swat — beheading opponents, bombing girls’ schools, outlawing entertainment and fighting government forces.
The sharia deal incited further controversy when a video broadcast on Pakistan television this month showed the public flogging of a veiled woman in Swat that incensed many in the Muslim nation.