Taliban to review Pakistani government's truce in Swat

Other News Materials 22 February 2009 14:14 (UTC +04:00)

A Pakistani government official claimed that a "permanent ceasefire" was reached with militants in the troubled Swat valley, but the Taliban said their Shura council would decide once their own 10-day truce ends next week, media reports said Sunday.

The Taliban last weekend announced a unilateral ceasefire, which will expire on Wednesday, to welcome talks between a hard-line Muslim cleric, Maulana Sufi Mohammad, and the authorities for enforcement of Sharia laws in the region.

The North West Frontier Province government on Monday said that under an agreement with Mohammad, Islamic system of justice would come into force in Malakand division, of which Swat is a part, soon after peace was restored in the valley.

"Today we are announcing a permanent ceasefire. The Taliban have (also) endorsed the ceasefire," the English-language Dawn newspaper cited Malakand commissioner Syed Mohammad Javed as saying on Saturday.

However, in an pirate FM radio broadcast, Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah said, "We have heard that the government has announced a permanent ceasefire, but we have already announced a ceasefire and we will consider an extension when it ends."

Fazlullah, who is the son-in-law of Mohammad, said progress on implementation of Sharia law in the region would form the bases of any extension in the truce.

Swat, once dubbed "the Switzerland of Pakistan," has been in the grip of violence since 2007, and the fighting between the Taliban militants and government troops has killed around 1,200 people, besides causing a mass exodus from the picturesque mountain town.

During their rebellion, the insurgents also destroyed hundreds of schools after banning girls' education. Later, they allowed the girls to get education up to fourth grade.

On Saturday, Javed said schools for boys would reopen from next week, while negotiations were continuing with the Taliban to also reopen the institutions for girls.

Pakistan's efforts to trade partial enforcement of Sharia law for peace have drawn a mixed response.

Some Western powers fear that the apparent submission and the peace deal would embolden the militants. But Pakistan said it did not surrender to the Taliban, rather the move was in wake of popular public demand.

Thousands of people last week staged demonstrations in Swat, demanding enforcement of Sharia law and the withdrawal of government forces from the region.