Pakistan-Taliban deal: Islamic law for peace in Swat Valley
The militants released a Chinese engineer held hostage for nearly six months ahead of the cease-fire announcement.
Months of fighting in Pakistan's Swat Valley region appear to be near an end as the Pakistani government agreed Monday to accept Islamic law and suspend its military campaign against Taliban-linked militants in the region.Skip to next paragraph
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The move came after the militants announced a 10-day cease-fire Sunday in anticipation of a peace deal. The Associated Press reports that it includes the enforcement of sharia, or Islamic law, in the region, which was once a tourist haven and home to Pakistan's only ski resort. Critics say the deal is a concession to the militants and a dangerous precedent for Pakistan's civilian government to set. Others call it a fait accompli in a region already controlled by the Taliban and long weighed down by an inefficient colonial-era court system.
Pakistan's daily newspaper Dawn reports that in addition to the cease-fire, militants released Long Xiaowe, a Chinese engineer held for nearly six months, as a "goodwill gesture." Other sources told the paper he was released after "payment of a huge amount of money as ransom," which was denied by the Taliban.
One, the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, known by its Urdu initials TSNM, is led by Sufi Mohamed, and the other is the Taliban Movement of Swat, led by his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah. Mr. Mohamed was imprisoned for eight years after organizing Pakistani men to travel to Afghanistan to fight American forces, but was released last year.
Although the two groups are considered separate, Mr. Fazlullah says his group will abide by any deal agreed to by his father-in-law, reports the Associated Press. Both share a commitment to Islamic law in Swat and have campaigned for it violently since 2007.
"That was our only demand," [Fazlullah's spokesman] told the Associated Press via telephone. "Once Islamic law is imposed there will be no problems in Swat. The Taliban will lay down their arms."...
Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for the North West Frontier Province, confirmed that authorities were talking to members of the Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammed, or the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law, on ways to implement on-the-books regulations allowing Islamic judicial practices.
Any formal truce would be a major concession by the government, which, despite a military operation in Swat involving 12,000 Pakistani Army troops, has been losing ground to a Taliban force of about 3,000 fighters. The militants have kept a stranglehold on the area for months, killing local police officers and officials and punishing residents who do not adhere to strict Islamic tenets.