More political turmoil expected if Zardari does not ink peace deal

Awami National Party threatens to pull out of provincial government.

Gulf News

Islamabad: Pakistan could witness more political turmoil coupled with law and order problems in its sensitive Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan if President Asif Ali Zardari refuses to sign a peace deal between the provincial government and cleric Sufi Mohammad in the next few days, officials said.

The provincial government led by liberal Awami National Party (ANP) has already made it clear to Zardari that in case he refused to sign the deal that paves way for enforcement of Sharia law in the restive Malakand area (Swat being part of it), the party would pull out of the provincial government, media reports said. But there was no independent confirmation of this resolve as most of ANP's top leaders are adopting a "wait and see" policy.

Some political analysts however do not discount American pressure on Zardari to halt the peace deal with Swat Taliban.

Zardari is already on a weak political wicket after last month's battle with his political rival Nawaz Sharif over the reinstatement of a chief justice.

New turmoil could cost him heavily as the country's powerful military, already heavily engaged in tribal areas of the country, wants peace with Swat Taliban.

Zardari said recently that as soon as peace was restored to Swat valley he would sign the agreement.

But this statement was not taken well by the cleric, who moved out of Swat to Timar Garah along with his followers as a sign of protest.

He had returned to Swat in February to demand Sharia for Swat. His arrival in Swat marked the return of normalcy in the region.

But his departure had put the whole process in jeopardy though both Sufi and the North West Frontier Province government say the peace deal is still intact.

As a result of the peace deal, inhabitants of the restive Swat valley saw some normalcy after many months of military operations in the area.