Pakistan to end military operation and implement sharia in Malakand Division
The Pakistani government has negotiated an agreement with the Taliban in the war-torn district of Swat to end the fighting in exchange for the implementation of sharia, or Islamic law in a large region of the Northwest Frontier Province.
Negotiations on the five-point agreement have been conducted between the government of the insurgency-infested Northwest Frontier Province and Sufi Mohammed, the spiritual leader of the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law, and Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Swat Taliban and Sufi's son-in-law.
The provincial government agreed to allow for the implementation of sharia law the entire Malakand Division, a large region in the Northwest Frontier Province made up of the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, and Chitral, Geo News reported. The government agreed to end the military operation in Swat and participate in the "rebuilding process," ARY Television reported. Girls schools, which have been savaged by the Taliban and forced to close, will be reopened.
Sufi Mohammed's Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law will be at the forefront of establishing a new political administration in Swat, according to the according to the ARY Television report. He "will pave public opinion for a new local administration, to be established in Swat, by holding public gatherings throughout the district."
Other parties have been advocating for the implementation of sharia. Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, or the Pakistan Movement for Justice, called for the government to allow for sharia law not just in the tribal areas and the northwest, but throughout the country. Khan and his party are considered moderate by some observers of Pakistan.
"The government must devise new policy to safeguard the interest of Pakistan rather than the US in the region," Khan said, while criticizing the government for allowing Predator strikes to be launched against al Qaeda and the Taliban from its territory. "On one hand the government is carrying out drone attacks on its own people while shedding crocodile tears on the other," Khan said, referring to the recent disclosure by a US senator that the US is operating Predators strike aircraft from Pakistani soil.
Three large protests were held in Swat and Peshawar, the provincial capital, advocating for sharia. University student protested in Peshawar, while a local non-governmental organization called the "International Human Rights Commission" demanded the immediate implementation of sharia in Swat.
The current agreement to implement sharia in the Malakand Division and end the fighting in Swat mirrors a similar deal that was agreed upon by the same parties just 10 months ago. On April 22, 2008, Sufi was freed from prison in exchange for the implementation of sharia and an end to the fighting in Swat.
Mullah Fazlullah. Click image to view the slideshow of the Taliban Leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The deal collapsed over the summer. Sufi's followers and the Swat Taliban claimed the government failed to allow for the implementation of sharia, while the Swat Taliban continued to attack police and military forces in Swat and throughout the region. Another peace agreement signed between Fazlullah and the government in May 2007 also failed.
Pakistani forces have been fighting Islamist aligned with Fazlullah since November 2007. Fazlullah runs the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law in Swat and merged with Baitullah Mehsud's Tehrik-e-Taliban, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, in December 2007.
The Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law (Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammad or TNSM) is known as the "Pakistani Taliban." This group is behind the ideological inspiration for the Afghan Taliban. The TNSM sent more than 10,000 fighters into Afghanistan to fight US forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. Sufi's forces were decimated in US airstrikes and he was arrested after returning to Pakistan. His group was later banned.
Fazlullah has successfully organized a campaign opposing polio vaccinations and has forced the closure girls' schools throughout the region. More than 200 schools have been destroy in Swat since fighting began in 2007. He advocates sharia and violence against the government on broadcasts on his illegal FM radio.
The fighting has destroyed Swat's once thriving tourist industry. Fazlullah's forces have burned down the popular ski lodge and bombed the lifts.
The TNSM also holds sway in other war zones in Pakistan's northwest. Faqir Mohammed is the leader of the TNSM in the Bajaur tribal agency. The military has failed to defeat Faqir's forces despite waging a brutal military operation that began in July 2008. Bajaur is a stronghold for the TNSM and serves as a major hub for al Qaeda and Taliban operations in eastern Afghanistan. The joint al Qaeda and Taliban Shadow Army has conducted operations alongside Faqir and Fazlullah's forces in Bajaur and Swat.
The peace agreement will ease the pressure on the Taliban in Bajaur, provide a safe haven neighboring areas, and allow the Taliban and allied extremist to concentrate forces in the tribal agency.
For additional information on the situation in Swat, see:
• Taliban capture, release 30 security personnel in Swat
Feb. 4, 2009
• Pakistani forces regain control of region in Swat
Feb. 1, 2009
• Swat Taliban summon government officials to sharia courts'
Jan. 25, 2009
• Taliban rule Pakistan's 'valley of death'
Jan. 23, 2009
• Pakistan 'lost control' in Swat
Dec. 6, 2008
• Taliban rampage in Pakistan's Swat district
June 27, 2008
• Pakistani government inks peace deal with Swat Taliban
May 21, 2008
• Swat joins 'Talibanistan'
July 7, 2007