Page last updated at 18:00 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Swat peace rally reporter killed

March in Mingora, Swat
There was no miltary presence for the Mingora rally

A Pakistani TV journalist has been shot dead after covering a peace mission by a radical Taleban cleric in Swat in the country's north-west.

Musa Khan Khel, who worked for Geo TV, was shot in the head but it was not known who carried out the attack.

Hundreds of people earlier marched in Swat in support of a deal that will bring Sharia law in return for an end to Taleban insurgency.

They were backing Sufi Mohammad, who sealed the deal with the government.

The details surrounding Mr Khel's death were unclear but a number of reporters have previously been killed or kidnapped in the north-west.

Local police official Khaista Khan told AFP news agency: "Musa Khan Khel was shot dead by unknown gunmen near Matta town."

Geo TV managing director Azhar Abbas said: "Musa's brother Essa Khan Khel called us and confirmed that Musa is dead."


Meanwhile Sufi Mohammad is expected to meet his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, the current head of the Taleban in Swat, to finalise details of the deal.

The government says the Taleban must now lay down their arms.

Our condition for accepting [the Taleban's] demand was that they establish peace
Bashir Bilor,
senior provincial minister

The deal sparked celebration among many in the region who have been caught in the crossfire of the army's battle with Taleban militants.

However, critics inside and outside Pakistan have condemned the deal, saying that it constitutes appeasement of the Taleban.

Sufi Mohammad addressed a crowd in Mingora, the main town in Swat, telling them: "I have come here to establish peace and I will not leave until this mission is achieved.

"People will soon start getting justice and there will be a durable peace."

Hundreds carried black and white flags as they rallied alongside the cleric, with residents lining the roads. There was no military presence.

'Positive manner'

Sufi Mohammad later left Mingora for the nearby town of Matta, where he was expected to meet Maulana Fazlullah and other Taleban leaders. However, the cleric's spokesman said no time had been fixed for the meeting.

The Taleban have fought a violent campaign to bring their own system of government to Swat, a campaign that has included beheadings and the destruction of hundreds of schools.

Tribal areas map
Tens of thousands of people have fled the former tourist haven.

Residents have also heavily criticised the military for failing to avoid civilian casualties.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan says it remains to be seen how much influence Sufi Mohammad carries, as he has been away from the region for a long time and his repeated denunciation of armed violence has had little effect on the insurgency.

However, our correspondent says there is considerable war fatigue in Swat and people would be happy to live under any system provided there was peace.

US officials have reportedly privately expressed dismay over the Sharia deal.

However, the Pakistani government insists it should be seen in a "positive manner".

Senior provincial minister Bashir Bilor said: "Our condition for accepting their demand was that they establish peace. We are hopeful, with the cooperation of Sufi Mohammad, we will restore peace."

Information Minister Sherry Rehman said the deal was "the public will of the population of the Swat region".

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