The Swat Taliban have withdrawn from the two-month-old peace agreement, citing the central government’s unwillingness to sign the legislation that will impose sharia courts in the Malakand Division.
The peace agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, put an end to military operations in Swat and the surrounding regions and established sharia, or Islamic courts. The Malakand Accord was imposed in Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Chitral, and Kohistan, a region that encompasses more than one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.
Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the radical pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law], recently called off the peace agreement and ended all peace camps in the region. Sufi blamed President Asif Ali Zardari for failing to sign into federal law the legislation to establish sharia courts and blamed Zardari for any repercussions.
“From now on, President Zardari will be responsible for any situation in Swat,” Sufi said, according to Dawn. “The provincial government is sincere and our agreement with the provincial government is intact, but we are ending our peace camp.”
Sufi claimed to have eschewed violence after being released from prison in November 2007 as a condition of a similar failed peace agreement in Swat. Sufi led more than 10,000 Pakistanis into Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001. Mullah Fazlullah, the radical anti-government cleric behind the insurgency and terror attacks in Swat, is his son-in-law.
The Swat Taliban and Sufi’s TNSM maintained very close links to the radical administration of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, the pro-Taliban mosque in the heart of Islamabad whose followers enforced sharia and kidnapped policemen just one mile from the seat of government. The Pakistani military stormed the Lal Masjid in July 2007 after a several-month standoff. More than a hundred followers and more than a dozen soldiers were killed in the battle.
In recent interviews, Sufi has declared his hatred for democracy and the West, and described Mullah Omar’s regime in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 as “ideal.”
Sufi is the father-in-law of Mullah Fazlullah, the Swat Taliban leader who is responsible for nearly two years of bloody violence in Swat that killed hundreds police and paramilitary troops and caused the exodus of more than 500,000 of Swat’s estimated 1.5 million residents. During the fighting between the Swat Taliban and government forces, the Swat Taliban targeted police officers, tribal leaders, and politicians. Family members of government officials and tribal leaders were killed, and their homes were torched. Suicide attacks and beheadings were commonplace in Swat during the fighting.
The military ceased operations in Swat in February 2009 after it failed to dislodge the Taliban. Sufi brokered a peace agreement between the government and the Taliban. Under the agreement, the government has committed to implement sharia, end the military campaign, and release Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban agreed to end attacks. But the Taliban has violated the agreement several times: the Taliban kidnapped the district coordinating officer and his bodyguards, murdered two soldiers, and captured a Frontier Corps officer and several of his men. In addition, the Taliban never gave up its weapons and continues to conduct armed patrols and manage checkpoints in some regions of Swat. Yet the government has failed to respond to these violations of the accord and instead has released more than 50 Taliban leaders and fighters from custody.
The collapse of the Swat accord takes place as the Swat Taliban are working to take the neighboring district of Buner by force. More than 100 Taliban fighters entered Buner on April 5. Just two days later, the Taliban clashed with local militias and police who are attempting to halt the Taliban advance. Five police and tribal fighters and 16 Taliban were reported killed in the clash, but the Taliban have continued to move through Buner.