Pakistan Approves Strict Law In Swat Valley
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
And now we turn to India's neighbor, Pakistan. In what looks like a concession to the Taliban, Pakistan's president has signed a controversial measure that makes Islamic law the official legal system in the rest of Swat Valley. The mountainous area in the northern part of the country used to be a prime tourist destination. Now, it's a stronghold for militants. Washington and its Western allies worry that the deal could make Swat Valley more of a haven for extremists than it has already become. NPR's Julie McCarthy joins us on the line from Islamabad. Hello, Julie.
JULIE MCCARTHY: Hi, there.
MONTAGNE: Now, let's talk about why the Pakistan government signed this deal.
MCCARTHY: Now, human rights groups see this as the government surrendering to extremist views that repress women and mete out harsh punishments. And the United States is also wary, seeing this as a gambit for the Taliban to gain legitimacy.
MONTAGNE: Well, what, then, does this agreement mean as far as the legal system goes, and as far as what people can expect there in Swat in the way of justice?
MCCARTHY: And this school says look, you know, the ruling politicians there didn't advocate Islamization when they were elected and that, you know, this is only the prerogative of militants who are being assuaged by this deal.
MONTAGNE: Well, Julie, what's the evidence that the militants are expanding their reach?
MCCARTHY: Now, since the deal was signed last night, they have retreated from Bunir. But few expect that that retreat is going to be very long-lasting.
MONTAGNE: Just briefly, how is this agreement between Pakistan and the Taliban expected to affect U.S.-Pakistan relations?
MCCARTHY: Well, you know, the Obama administration is looking to tie its aid package to Pakistan to progress made here on the fight against militancy. What has happened here in the past 24 hours is that President Zardari and his government have got a little cover because the parliament came along and overwhelmingly urged the president to sign this deal yesterday. So he could say to Washington, look, it's not just me. The nation believed this was the best course to avert further public upheavals.
MONTAGNE: Julie, thanks very much.
MCCARTHY: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Julie McCarthy, reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.
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