Sharia verdicts cannot be challenged in Supreme Court: cleric

Islamabad, April 16: Verdicts handed down under the newly-imposed Sharia laws in parts of Pakistan’s restive northwest cannot be challenged in the Supreme Court but only before special appeal courts, says a Taliban-linked radical cleric.
“The judicial system here (Malakand division of the North West Frontier Province) will be different from the rest of the country. Here, all the cases will be settled in the Qazi courts in accordance with Sharia,” The News Thursday quoted Sufi Muhammad as saying.

A Darul Qaza or appeals court would be set up at the divisional level so that the people do not have to move the high court or the Supreme Court against Sharia court verdicts.

Sufi Mohammad’s Tanzeem Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) and the NWFP government Feb 16 inked a controversial peace deal under which Sharia laws would be imposed in Swat and six other districts of Malakand in return for the Taliban laying down their arms.

“With the signing of the Nizam-e-Adl (Sharia regulation), all the judges in the old judicial system have been made non-functional and now, only those judges having command on Shariah will be appointed,” he said.

President Asif Ali Zardari, on his part, has now taken the easy way out, saying the Nizam-e-Adl could be withdrawn if peace did not return to Malakand in return for the imposition of Sharia laws. He was speaking in Tokyo Wednesday during a donors conference called to raise much-needed funds for the country.

The News noted in an editorial Thursday that there had “been a wave of despondency” in the country since parliament passed the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation Monday and Zardari ratified it the same night.

It also noted that many were “fearing” that “the caving-in we have seen in Malakand could be a first step in a more strident charge by militants out to seize the country as a whole. Some have already threatened to march on Islamabad”.

“The demoralization and de-motivation we see everywhere as many of us feel that their government cannot and will not protect them can have only a negative effect,” the editorial, headlined “The capitulation continues”, added.

“The militants now speak from the mighty pedestal of power, while the rest of us cower below. They will use this power, as they have done before, to crush ordinary people – particularly the most helpless,” it said.

At the time of the signing of the deal, Zardari had said he would ratify it only if peace returned to the area. He, however, developed cold feet in the face of strident Western criticism of the accord on the ground that it amounted to bowing before the Taliban.

Zardari then tossed the accord to parliament, which Monday passed it by a majority after the Muttahida Quami Movement walked out in protest.

The Sharia laws formally came into force Wednesday with NFWP Governor Awais Ahmad Ghani and Chief Minister Haider Hoti signing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation.

Curiously enough, the APP news agency report on the signing ceremony said the Sharia laws would be enforced in the Malakand division, which includes Swat, and the Kohistan district.

Hitherto, it had been thought that the Sharia laws were only being imposed in the Malakand division. That they will also be enforced in the Kohistan district, which is not part of Malakand, led to speculation that there there could be more to the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation than meets the eye.

The full details of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation have not been made public.