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Terrorism & Security

Pakistan seeks peace deal with militant tribe

The release of Maulana Sufi Muhammad in Islamabad on Monday suggests a shift in relations between the new government and militants.

By Anand Gopal / April 24, 2008

Earlier this week, Pakistani authorities freed a leading pro-Taliban militant who reportedly raised an army of thousands to oppose the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Observers say Maulana Sufi Muhammad's release from prison heralds a new era of negotiation between militant groups and the new government in Islamabad.

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Following the release, a ruling party official in the new Pakistani government said that envoys were engaged in talks with the Mahsud tribe in South Waziristan, in an apparent bid to secure a peace deal, reports the Associated Press.

The tribe includes Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan's top Taliban leader who is accused of ties to al-Qaida.
Mehsud is wanted for a string of suicide attacks in Pakistan. The previous government has accused him of [former Prime Minister Benazir] Bhutto's assassination in December. Mehsud has reportedly denied involvement and Bhutto's party has not repeated the assertion.

On Monday, the Pakistani daily Dawn reports that Sufi Muhammad, leader of the guerrilla group Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), or the Movement to Enforce Islamic Laws, was released Monday after six years in detention. His release came after a six-point agreement between TNSM and the government.

He was released ... following an agreement with leaders of the banned organisation who denounced militancy and condemned the elements involved in attacks on state institutions, police and other law-enforcement agencies....
"The organisation (TNSM) respects the government of Pakistan and state institutions so that peace and the writ of the state is restored in Malakand region," said the agreement signed at the Chief Minister's House....
Under the agreement the TNSM pledged to continue its struggle for the enforcement of Shariat by peaceful means.

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