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Pakistan signs new pact with Islamic militants to implement Sharia law in province

[JURIST] The government of Pakistan [JURIST news archive] reached an agreement Monday with Islamic militants in the Pakistani North West Frontier Province (NWFP) area of Swat to implement Islamic Sharia law [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive], according to Pakistani government officials. The implementation of Sharia law in Swat is contingent upon peace [NYT report] between the Pakistani government and Islamic militants linked with the Taliban [JURIST news archive] operating in the area. The agreement is seen by some as a government concession [Dawn report] to Islamic militant groups in the NWFP. As with an earlier tentative agreement [JURIST report] reached in May 2008 to establish Sharia law in the Swat area, Monday's agreement will create a separate justice system [BBC report] for the whole region.

The May 2008 agreement [Guardian 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. Violence by Islamic militants has long been a problem in Pakistan's outlying provinces. Earlier in 2008, Pakistan's top Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud [BBC profile] and four others were charged [JURIST report] in the assassination of former prime minister Benzhair Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Meshud is the commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban, a group of Islamic militants with links to al Qaeda. He has denied involvement in the attack.

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