Pak Taliban urge lawmakers to back Swat deal
Pakistani lawmakers who do not support a peace deal with the Taliban that imposes Islamic law in a northwestern trouble spot will be considered apostates, a spokesman for the extremists warned Monday.
Muslim Khan did not say whether the Taliban would punish legislators opposing the deal other than to say a militant council would discuss the matter. Apostasy, or abandoning Islam, is a serious charge that in some quarters carries the death penalty.
The provincial government in northwest Pakistan agreed in February to impose Islamic law in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas in exchange for a cease-fire with Taliban fighters who have terrorized the area for some 18 months, killing hundreds.
But Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has delayed signing the agreement. The federal government said over the weekend that he wanted opinions from members of Parliament first. A floor debate was expected later Monday, though it was not clear whether lawmakers would vote on the issue.
The deal is unpopular in the West and among many Pakistanis, who consider it a surrender to the extremists.
Zardari's delay has angered northwestern Pakistan leaders, who say an Islamic legal system meets the demands of local residents for a more efficient legal system and is the best hope for ending the bloodshed in Swat.