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'Peace march' in Pakistan's Swat
2009-02-18 08:23:54

Nato, the US and other Western governments have expressed concerns over the Swat ceasefire [AFP]

The Nation Press -

Hundreds of Swat valley residents have joined a "peace march" led by a Muslim religious leader.

Mohammed led supporters on Wednesday through Mingora, the main town in Swat, before meeting Pakistani Taliban leaders.

Swat is located in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), a region close to the Afghan border.

Mohammad, who served six years in prison for leading thousands of local men across the border into Afghanistan to fight US-backed foreign forces there, intends to persuade Pakistani Taliban leaders to lay down their arms for the long term.

"I ask you to remain peaceful. We have reached an agreement with the provincial governmetn and Nizam-e-Adl (Islamic system of justice) will soon be enforced here," he told his supporters.

"People will soon start getting justice and there will be a durable peace."

However, news of Monday's ceasefire agreement between the Pakistani government and pro-Taliban fighters has alarmed Nato, the US and other Western powers.

Washington 'furious'

Imran Khan, reporting for Al Jazeera from Mingora, said Nato has officially expressed "concerns" over the deal and that Washington, while yet to comment publicly, was "reportedly furious".

"Privately they [the US] are very concerned. This peace deal, they say, is appeasing the extremists and would only allow them ... to rearm, regroup, and to be able to carry out future attacks," he said.

In depth

Swat: Pakistan's lost paradise

Sharia in Pakistan's Swat

Khan said that the move would further worry the Americans, who had just approved sending an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan in an attempt to repel fighters sympathetic to the Taliban.

Britain also voice reservations about the deal, with the UK high commission in Islamabad saying: "We need to be confident that they will end violence, not create space for further violence."

However, Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, said he would only sign the deal to implement sharia across the Malakand division of NWFP if peace is genuinely restored.

Al Jazeera's Imran Khan said Pakistani Taliban fighters had a number of key concerns that could hamper any peace deal.

"They are worried that religiously it doesn't really satisfy their needs, they would like a much stricter version of sharia," he said.

"Politically they feel Mohammad will be able to take over Swat ... and, economically, the Pakistan Taliban run a number of businesses in this area and they have an informal system of taxation, some would call it violent extortion, which they fear they are going to lose."

Maulana Sufi Mohammad negotiated a 10-day truce between Pakistani Taliban fighters and government soldiers in exchange for implementing Sharia, or Islamic law, in the region.

Source : Al Jazeera and agencies - thenation press servecis
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