Muslim leaders and the Pakistani government have agreed to restore strict Islamic law to a northern region in a bid to counter a Taliban insurgency. The move is likely to raise concerns in the West but Pakistan is hoping it will drive a wedge between religious conservatives and al-Qaeda and Taleban linked militants.
One local leader said he believed peace will return after Sharia law is implemented. Pakistani forces have been battling an uprising in Swat and other northern areas in recent years. The govenment believes it cannot win by force alone and has to make concessions. But the US fears the deal will simply give insurgents time to regoup. Western governments also object to Sharia law’s treatment of women, although analysts do not believe courts in Swat would hand down Taliban-like sentences. Relations between the US and Pakistan have been further strained by recent missile attacks on Taliban targets in the northwest of the country. At least 26 people were killed in the latest strike by a suspected unmanned US aircraft in the Kurram region. Islamabad says such attacks are counter-productive.