Mingora, Pakistan: About 15,000 people marched for peace in Pakistan’s Swat valley on Wednesday, led by a cleric who signed a deal to enforce Islamic law in the troubled area, witnesses and police said.
New direction: Pakistani Islamist supporters arrive for talks with Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah in Mingora on Tuesday. Chand Khan / AFP
Soofi Mohammad, leader of the Shariah movement, led the crowd in the valley’s main town Mingora.
“I have come here to establish peace and I will not leave until this mission is achieved,” Mohammad told the crowd.
The marchers, carrying black and white flags, paraded through town with the cleric, who advised them to recite only Quranic verses.
Mohammad, who arrived in Mingora on Tuesday, met administration and military officials overnight, his spokesman Amir Izzat said.
He is hoping to meet Maulana Fazlullah, who led a violent campaign to enforce sharia in Swat after Mohammad was jailed in Pakistan, Izzat said.
He did not give date and venue of the meeting.
Mohammad will try to convince the Taliban to lay down their arms in the scenic valley.
Monday’s controversial deal between the elderly Mohammad and the Pakistani government to enforce Shariah law has sparked concern from India, the US and Nato.
India has warned of the “danger to humanity” posed by the Taliban.
Commenting on the deal, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said late on Tuesday that the Taliban was nothing short of a “terrorist organization”.
“Taliban believes in nothing but destruction and violence. In my assessment, Taliban is a danger to humanity and civilisation.”
Meanwhile, the US has observed that Islamic law is within the framework of Pakistan but it has refrained from making any comment on the peace deal.
“As I understand it, Islamic law is within the constitutional framework of Pakistan. So I don’t know that that is particularly an issue for anyone outside of Pakistan to discuss, certainly not from this podium,” state department spokesperson Gordon Duguid said.
Refraining from passing any comment on the peace deal, Duguid said the US is in touch with the government of Pakistan on this issue.
“We are discussing the issue. But that’s about all I have for you at the moment. We’ll wait and see what their fuller explanation is for us,” he told reporters.
(‘PTI’ contributed to this story.)