Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

Leader begins key visit to Swat

Supporters of pro-Taleban cleric Sufi Muhammad pray in Mingora, the capital of Pakistan's Swat valley, 21 February 2008
The Taleban say they will release all prisoners they are holding

The chief minister of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province has made his first visit to Swat since a key peace deal was agreed to end militancy there.

Ameer Haider Hoti is handing over compensation money to those affected by the conflict.

The scenic valley has long been blighted by militant violence.

But the authorities and a key radical cleric recently agreed a deal that would bring Sharia law to the region in return for an end to Taleban militancy.

Separately on Monday at least four people were killed and five injured when a suicide bomber detonated explosives as certificates were handed out at a women's seminary in Karbala in Balochistan province.


This is Mr Hoti's first visit since the deal and indeed his first since taking over as chief minister a year ago.

He was initially scheduled to visit later this month.

But, officials say, the visit was brought forward after the radical cleric, Sufi Mohammad, said on Sunday that he was dissatisfied by the delay in appointments to the the Islamic courts that would administer the Sharia law.

Sufi Mohammad, the chief of TNSM (Tanzim-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi) who is mediating talks between the government and militants, also complained that both sides were delaying releasing prisoners there were holding.

Tribal areas map
Addressing a press conference on Sunday, Sufi Mohammad warned that the TNSM would start setting up protest camps if the Islamic courts were not set up and prisoners not swapped by 15 March.

The top district administrators of Swat met Sufi Mohammad and assured him that the judges would be appointed before then.

A senior official in the region told reporters after the meeting that Sufi Mohammad himself would interview the judges.

He also said that the cleric had given him a list of militant prisoners being held by the government.

The situation in Swat remains tense and the militants are yet to disarm or end their hold over areas they control.

Swat has been the scene of bloody clashes between militants and government forces since November 2007.

More than 1,000 civilians have died in shelling by the army or from beheadings sanctioned by the Taleban. Thousands more have been displaced.

The Taleban have also destroyed nearly 200 schools, most of them for girls, during a sustained campaign against secular education in Swat.

In the Balochistan attack, witnesses told the BBC Urdu service's Azizullah Khan that two teachers at the seminary were among the dead.

The attack occurred after a speech by Maulana Shirani, the chief of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party who is known to oppose Taleban militants.

The attacker blew himself up after he was stopped trying to reach Maulana Shirani, police said. He was unhurt.

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