Pakistan urged to overturn provincial Sharia law ordinance Benjamin Hackman at 12:44 PM ET
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the Pakistani government to reverse [press release] a recently signed ordinance [JURIST report] that imposes Islamic Sharia law [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) area of Swat, saying it poses a "grave threat" to human rights by putting the Taliban [JURIST news archive] and its affiliates in administrative control. HRW said that the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 [text] creates a framework to unconstitutionally empower the Taliban by "formal acquiescence" of control over the region. The statement accused the Taliban of violating international human rights standards as well as the Pakistani constitution [text] and called for details of a February 15 agreement [JURIST report] between the Taliban and Pakistan to be made public. That peace deal was widely considered to require the Taliban to surrender its arms, but a Taliban spokesman on Wednesday called disarmament "out of the question" [Reuters report]. The ordinance will create a separate justice system [BBC report] for the Swat region, and HRW urged the government to protect women's rights as well as the rights of dissenters.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile] signed the ordinance Monday after Pakistan's National Assembly [official website] voted to recommend [Dawn report] the measure. The agreement for the implementation of Sharia law in Swat has been seen by many as a controversial concession [Dawn report] by the Pakistani government to Islamic militant groups. A May 2008 agreement [Guardian report; JURIST report] to establish Sharia law in the Swat area, which collapsed amid ongoing violence between Islamic groups and the Pakistani military, provided that militants would halt suicide attacks and hand over foreign fighters under local protection. In exchange, an Islamic justice system would have been created to operate in parallel with the secular system, and established Pakistani courts would have been advised by Islamic scholars.
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