Pakistani Taliban in Swat refuse to give up arms

The militants had struck a deal to relinquish their weapons in return for Islamic law in the region.

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Militants in the Swat valley of northwestern Pakistan are refusing to abandon their weapons, despite having won concessions from Pakistan's president, including the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law. The announcement deepens worries that the agreement with the militants will not bring peace to the region.

While militants aligned with the Pakistani Taliban struck a peace deal with authorities in Swat in February, the accords were not implemented until this week, when President Asif Ali Zardari signed the agreement. Though the terms of the agreement were not revealed, government officials had said that the militants would have to relinquish their arms. But Reuters reports that Taliban militants said they would not abide by that deal.

A Pakistani Taliban spokesman in the scenic valley, a one-time tourist destination 125 km (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, said they would be keeping their guns.
"Sharia doesn't permit us to lay down arms," Muslim Khan said by telephone. "If a government, either in Pakistan or Afghanistan, continues anti-Muslim policies, it's out of the question that Taliban lay down their arms."

However, the spokesman for the Swat Taliban faction also said that the guerrillas would abstain from displaying weapons in public, according to the Asian Tribune.

Militants ... put [a] ban on the display of any kind of weapon by anyone including their own activists in the public places including markets.
Talking to the media persons in Mingora (Swat) on Tuesday, spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Muslim Khan, said there will be no display of arms by the Taliban members in Malakand division [which encompasses Swat].
He said they had taken up arms only for implementation of sharia and now when the government had signed the bill for its implementation militants have no desire for use of weapons.

Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the former leader of the Swat-based insurgent group who has since worked as an intermediary between the government and the Taliban, called on the fighters abandon their weapons after the implementation of the accord, reports Bloomberg.

"People will be told to give up weapons and in the region live in peace," Sufi Muhammad, chief of a pro-Taliban group, said at a televised news conference in Swat today, announcing the April 19 rally [for peace].

However, it is unclear how much influence he has over the movement in Swat, of which he has not officially been a member for some years.

The News International, a Pakistani daily, describes the process by which the sharia regulations (known as the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation) will be implemented. The local government will appoint judges trained in Islamic law, who will oversee local disputes.

The chief minister ruled out fears of some quarters that the new law would prove a parallel judicial system. He said no clause or article was in contravention of the Constitution and there was nothing to worry about for the rights organisations.
[North West Frontier Province Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti] said the system would provide speedy justice and cases would be decided in four to six months. He said concerns of all the sects had been addressed. Responding to a question, the chief minister said the Taliban had already abandoned armed patrolling and there was no justification for the militants to display arms after the promulgation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation.

While some locals welcome the implementation and hope that it will bring an end to the fighting, others worry that the deal will create safe havens from which guerrillas can attack Afghanistan and the West. According to a report from Deutsche Presse Agentur, insurgents in the Swat valley are divided between those interested in local causes and Al Qaeda-aligned elements, who want to strike against the West.

On one side, there are Islamist insurgents with local interests. They are led by ... Maulana Fazlullah, who launched an armed campaign against the government in October 2007 for the enforcement of Islamic sharia law in Swat....
The [other] faction consists of foreign fighters and local militants trained by al-Qaeda operatives, who operated in the Afghan region of Tora Bora where Osama bin Laden dodged US forces in early 2002 before going underground.
Led by hardline chief commander Ibn Amin, and six other commanders, the group follows al-Qaeda's 'global jihad' philosophy and has little interest in peace in Swat.
'They know if the peace agreement is fully implemented, al-Qaeda fighters will have to leave the region. This is something they cannot accept,' said [a] lawmaker.

This concerns officials in Washington and Afghanistan. The online Afghan news website Quqnoos reports that the Swat deal will have "horrible impacts" on Afghanistan.

Afghan President's Spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, told a news conference in Kabul that the peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban harms the security of the region.
Afghan officials said they will share the concerns with the Pakistani government to make sure it will not negatively affect situation in Afghanistan.
It [the peace deal] is the concern of Afghanistan and the international community," said Humayun Hamidzada.
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