Thu, Apr 09, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Ban deplores flogging of woman in Swat Valley

AP , UNITED NATIONS AND PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday the flogging of a woman in Pakistan was “unacceptable,” and that Pakistan’s chief justice had made the right decision in launching an investigation.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry opened an inquiry, saying the case represented “a serious violation” of the law and fundamental rights.

The two-minute video shows a screaming woman in a body-covering burqa face down on the ground with two men holding her arms and feet in the country’s northwest, where the government recently agreed to introduce Islamic law to end a rebellion by Taliban militants. A third man in a black turban with a long beard whips her backside repeatedly.

“While I appreciate different systems and traditions in many different countries, respecting and upholding basic human rights — this is most important,” Ban told reporters. “These are universally accepted and upheld principles which we must respect.”

The Pakistani government agreed to allow Islamic law in the Swat Valley under a peace deal with a hardline cleric, sparking criticism from activists who are worried extremists will violate basic human rights, especially those of women.

The video that emerged on Friday sparked further criticism, although it appeared to have been made before the peace deal was struck in February.

Meanwhile, at least five people died in a gun battle with Taliban militants trying to expand their stronghold in the Swat valley, police said yesterday.

The clash puts more strain on government efforts to reach a peace accord in the troubled region, which critics including US officials warn could amount to a surrender to extremists.

Police said a group of Taliban fighters had crossed from Swat into a mountainous area of Buner, a previously peaceful district to the southeast, on Monday.

After the militants ignored appeals from community leaders to go back, armed tribesmen and police confronted them, sparking a battle that left three officers and two tribesmen dead, local police officer Zakir Khan said.

Khan said more than a dozen Taliban also were killed before the battle died down, but provided no evidence to back up the assertion.

He said community elders were still trying to persuade the Taliban to leave.

Provincial officials agreed in February to impose Islamic law in Swat and surrounding areas to halt 18 months of terror and bloody fighting between militants and security forces that killed hundreds of people.

But Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has yet to sign an order introducing the new legal system, fueling predictions that the flimsy peace in the area won’t hold.

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