Pakistani government inks peace deal with Swat Taliban
The Pakistani government has signed another peace agreement with the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier province. After striking a deal with a banned radical Taliban outfit in the Bajaur region, a peace agreement has been signed with Mullah Fazlullah's Taliban faction in the settled districts of Swat and Malakand.
The peace deal in Swat and Malakand comes after several rounds of negotiations. A 15-point agreement was signed with representatives of the Northwest Frontier Province and representatives of Fazlullah's Taliban. The major points of the agreement are as follows:
• Sharia law would be imposed in the Swat and Malakand districts;
• The Pakistani Army will gradually withdraw security forces from the region;
• The government and the Taliban would exchange prisoners;
• The Taliban would recognize the writ of the government and cooperate with security forces;
• The Taliban would halt attacks on barber and music shops;
• The Taliban cannot display weapons in public;
• The Taliban would turn in heavy weapons (rockets, mortars);
• The Taliban cannot operate training camps;
• The Taliban would denounce suicide attacks;
• A ban would be placed on raising private militias;
• The Taliban will cooperate with the government to vaccinate children against diseases like polio;
• Fazlullah's madrassa, the Imam Dherai, would be turned into an Islamic university;
• Only licensed FM radio stations would be allowed to operate in the region;
• The Taliban would allow women to "perform their duties at the work place without any fear."
Just yesterday, the government denied that security forces would be withdrawn from Swat and other Taliban hotspots such as South Waziristan.
Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is de facto control; yellow is under threat.
The Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with Fazlullah in May 2007 with similar terms. The terms of the nine-point peace deal signed in 2007 required Fazlullah to support the polio vaccination campaign and education for girls, as well as government efforts to establish law and order. He also agreed to shut down training facilities for terrorists, stop manufacturing weapons, and support the district administration in any operation against anti-state elements. Fazlullah's followers were also to stop carrying weapons in the open. In return, Fazlullah was permitted to continue broadcasting his illegal FM radio programs and the government dropped criminal cases lodged against him.
The Taliban promptly disobeyed the terms of the deal, and began to overrun police stations and enforce sharia law in the district. The Taliban used the government's siege and assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, as their reason to violate the peace agreement. But Fazlullah and his fighters began violating the agreement long before the Red Mosque incident.
Fazlullah's forces overran much of Swat and neighboring Shangla. The government launched an operation to dislodge the Taliban from Swat in November and vowed to oust them by December. But the military has fought a grinding campaign that has failed to defeat the Taliban. The Pakistani security forces operating in the small district lost 195 soldiers, policemen, and Frontier Constabulary paramilitaries during a year of fighting.
Fazlullah is the son-in-law of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the leader of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM - the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law). He had close links with the administration of the Lal Masjid. Fazlullah has successfully organized anti-polio and anti-girls schools campaigns throughout the region. The Swat region has been a safe haven and training ground for the Pakistani Taliban.
The TNSM is known as the "Pakistani Taliban" and is the group behind the ideological inspiration for the Afghan Taliban. The TNSM sent over 10,000 fighters into Afghanistan to fight US forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. Faqir Mohammed, a senior leader of the TNSM in neighboring Bajaur agency who is wanted by the Pakistani government, kicked off a suicide campaign after the air strike on the Chingai madrassa in October 2006.
The Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with the TNSM on April 21. The government freed Sufi Mohammed. The government is also close to signing a peace deal with Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban behind a brutal suicide and conventional military campaign in the tribal areas and in greater Pakistan.
The terms of Swat and TNSM peace deals and the proposed South Waziristan agreement are similar. None of the agreements calls for the Taliban to halt cross border attacks inside Afghanistan.