Pakistani soldiers collect the bodies of their comrades killed during a suicide attack last week. Click to view.
The fighting between government forces and Maulana Qazi Fazlullah’s Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law, also called the Pakistani Taliban), is back on after a week of violence, beheadings, and a purported cease-fire.
Just as the Pakistani military completed a deployment into the settled district of Swat in the Northwest Frontier Province, Fazlullah’s fighters hit a convoy with a suicide bomber. A brief day of fighting was followed by a cease-fire, beheadings of soldiers and civilians, Taliban demands, and then more fighting.
The situation in Swat rapidly deteriorated over the summer and fall of 2007 after the government signed a peace agreement with Fazlullah, effectively given him control of Swat. Below is a timeline of events since October 25.
The military completed its deployment of over 3,000 paramilitary forces from the Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, and Frontier Reserve Police to the settled district of Swat. Fazlullah’s Taliban launched a suicide attack against a military convoy. Thirty troops and civilians were killed, with 17 wounded.
The Pakistani military launched an operation against the Taliban in Swat and purportedly surrounded Fazlullah’s compound. Later that day, the Pakistani military and Fazlullah’s fighters agreed to a cease-fire. The Taliban, however, ignored the cease-fire.
That evening the Taliban went on a rampage in Matta capturing six soldiers and policemen at a bazaar and seven civilians in a nearby van. “The bodies and severed heads [of the police and soldiers] were then paraded in front of local residents to scare them,” The Age reported. “[The seven civilians] were also slaughtered by terrorists who accused them of collaborating with the government forces,” the provincial police chief said.
Despite the beheadings, the cease-fire held on Saturday and the Pakistani military abandoned its siege of Fazlullah’s madrassa compound. The Taliban were back in control of the madrassa, established checkpoints, and carried out armed patrols.
Fazlullah, who is said to be in hiding, released his deputy and spokesman to talk to the media and lay out their demands. Sirajuddin, Fazlullah’s spokesman, denied involvement with the beheadings but warned Fazlullah’s men may uses beheading and suicide attacks against government forces. “If a military operation starts against us there will be suicide attacks as well as a guerrilla war,” he said.
“Sirajuddin laid out Fazlullah’s demands,” the Daily Times reported. “Hostilities would cease if Shariah was adopted and the government released Sufi Muhammad, Fazlullah’s father-in-law who was jailed in 2002 for having sent thousands of volunteers to Afghanistan during the US-led invasion in 2001.”
Sirajuddin also blamed the government’s actions against the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad for the situation in Swat. “The situation in the whole country, particularly here, has changed because of Lal Masjid,” Sirajuddin said. “This situation is the reaction to Lal Masjid.”
Muslim Khan, Fazlullah deputy, said sharia law was the end goal. “We have a one-point agenda and that is the enforcement of Shariah in Swat and the rest of Malakand region in accordance with the assurance given to us by the government,” Khan said. “We have yet to announce a jihad against the government and in that case the situation will turn from bad to worse.”
The Chief Minister of the Northwest Frontier Province said that it is “our legal and constitutional right, but also our legal and constitutional responsibility” to restore the writ of the government in Swat. “How can I negotiate with the people who are Pakistanis but don’t want to live under the Constitution. … They have to be held accountable for what they do to people.”
The next day, fighting resumed between Fazlullah’s forces and the military. Pakistani ground troops, backed by helicopter gunships, are said to have launched a strike in Manglor village, about six miles northeast of Mingora. “They are operating to establish the writ of the government in areas where miscreants have threatened public peace and order,” said Major General Waheed. “The security forces have extended their positions.”
The military reported 10 Taliban and three civilians were killed in the fighting, while local sources told The News 11 soldiers were killed.