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President pressured on Swat deal

PAKISTAN'S Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani joined opposition leaders yesterday to pressure the president to sign a law that would impose Islamic rule in a northwestern valley in exchange for peace with the Taliban.

A Taliban spokesman said lawmakers would be considered to have abandoned Islam if they opposed the deal, which many Western and Pakistani critics have said represents a dangerous surrender to extremists behind a campaign of terror in the Swat Valley and more broadly across the border region with Afghanistan.

The provincial government in northwestern Pakistan agreed in February to impose Islamic law in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas in exchange for a cease-fire with the local Taliban.

But President Asif Ali Zardari has delayed signing the agreement, something that would likely bring fresh international criticism of his one-year stint at the helm of the nuclear-armed country.

His stance has long been that he won't sign until peace is achieved in the area - but he hasn't defined what that means.

Judges trained in Islamic law have already began hearing cases in Swat and witnesses say the Taliban is in effective control of much of the region.

Those brokering the deal have given few specifics about conditions placed on the Taliban. But Pakistan People's Party information secretary Fauzia Wahab said the Taliban was supposed to cooperate with security forces, denounce suicide attacks, close their training camps and turn over their weapons, among other measures.

They hadn't kept their end of the bargain, she said.


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