1 The Long War Journal: Swat Taliban demands military withdrawal, prisoner release
Written by Bill Roggio on February 20, 2009 1:18 AM to 1 The Long War Journal
Available online at: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/02/swat_taliban_demand.php
The Swat Taliban have issued their opening list of demands in order to implement a peace agreement, agreed upon by a pro-Taliban group and the Pakistani government, that would end the fighting in Swat and impose sharia, or Islamic law, in more than one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.
As a precondition to ending the fighting in the region, the Taliban have demanded that the Pakistani Army withdraw from Swat and that the government release all Taliban prisoners, withdraw all criminal cases, and clear the way for sharia, or Islamic law, the Pak Tribune reported.
The Taliban issued similar demands for past Pakistan peace agreements in North and South Waziristan, Swat, Mohmand, and Arakazi. The government complied by releasing prisoners, dropping criminal charges, and pulling out the military. But in each case the Taliban failed to lay down their weapons.
A meeting on the Swat peace agreement was held Thursday in Swat's Matta region and was attended by leaders of the Swat Taliban, including Mullah Fazlullah and spokesman Haji Muslim Khan, and representatives of the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law (Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi or TNSM), including deputy leader Maulana Muhammad Aalam and spokesman Amir Izzat. Sufi and Fazlullah are also said to have held direct talks.
The government and the banned TNSM came to an agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, to end military operations and impose sharia law in the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, and Chitral in exchange for an end to the fighting. On Feb. 16, the Taliban and the Pakistani military agreed to a 10-day ceasefire in order to negotiate the agreement.
The negotiations are being spearheaded by Sufi Mohammed, leader of the TNSM. Sufi is also the father-in-law of Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah. He has taken more than 10,000 Taliban fighters into Afghanistan to fight US forces and openly supports Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
Sufi has been tasked with persuading the Taliban to put down their weapons to allow for the implementation of sharia. The Swat Taliban have imposed sharia law by force throughout the region while battling the Pakistani military. Since November 2007, the Swat Taliban have fended off three major military operations of the Pakistani military and won.
The Swat Taliban said they would raise the issues presented by the TNSM representatives to its shura, or executive council, and conduct a second round of talks on Friday.
Sufi predicted the Taliban would lay down their weapons and end the fighting within a week. He also "clarified that the sharia court system will be controlled by him, while the departments of economy, politics, culture, education and health will be under the control of the federal government," according to a report in a Pakistani newspaper.
For more information on the Malakand Accord, see:
• Analysis: Pakistan peace agreement cedes ground to the Taliban
Feb. 18, 2009
• Sufi Mohammed 'hates democracy' and calls for global Islamic rule
Feb. 18, 2009
• Pakistan to end military operation and implement sharia in Malakand Division
Feb. 15, 2009