NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts openly controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat. Click map to view.
Maulana Fazlullah’s TNSM violates the terms of its May “peace agreement”
As the Red Mosque standoff in the heart of Islamabad enters its fifth day, the mosque’s supporters in the Northwest Frontier Province have attacked the government. In Swat, a settled district in the Northwest Frontier Province, Maulana Qazi Fazlullah, a 28-year-old radical cleric, has called for his followers to strike at government agencies for taking action against the Lal Masjid. “In broadcasts on his FM channel on Tuesday and Wednesday, [Fazlullah] asked his supporters to take up arms against the government to avenge the action taken against Lal Masjid and carry out suicide attacks,” Dawn reported on July 4.
Fazlullah’s followers have carried out his call for violence. In the five days since the Red Mosque standoff began, four major attacks were carried out against police forces in the district. Six have been killed and thirteen wounded in shootings, roadside bombings and ambushes throughout the region.
North of Swat in the district of Dir, four soldiers were killed, including two officers, and another was critically wounded in an IED attack. The army convoy was reported to be heading into Swat in preparation for a possible “showdown between supporters of Maulana Fazlullah and law-enforcement agencies.”
Fazlullah is in direct violation of a “peace agreement” he signed with the provincial government. The terms of the nine-point peace deal required Fazlullah to “support the polio vaccination campaign and education for girls, as well as government efforts to establish law and order,” the Daily Times reported on May 23. “He also agreed to wrap up all training facilities for militants and making of 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 would “look for legal ways to withdraw cases against the cleric.”
Maulana Fazlullah is the son-in-law of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the jailed leader of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law). He is said to have “close links with the administration of the Lal Masjid,” according to Sharif Virk, the chief of police for the Northwest Frontier Province. Fazlullah has successfully organized anti-polio and anti-girls schools campaigns throughout the region. The Swat region is believed to be a haven and training ground for the Pakistani Taliban. “Militants from Waziristan are present in Swat in great numbers,” and being sheltered by the TNSM, The News reported just one day prior to the signing of the “peace treaty.”
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 U.S. 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. Forty-five Pakistani soldiers were killed after a suicide bomber sent by Faqir struck at Pakistani Army recruits training outside of the Dargai base in the NWFP. The Pakistani government signed Bajaur over to the TNSM in March 2006.
The Swat administration is wringing its hands over Fazlullah’s call for violence in the wake of the Lal Masjid standoff. “A peace jirga held on Friday condemned the recent attack on District Police Officer Mazharul Haq,” Dawn reported. “The jirga presided over by Maulana Fazal Haq expressed concern over tension in the valley. It decided to hold a meeting with Maulana Fazlullah to defuse the tension.”
But the peace jirga refused to hold Fazlullah accountable for his call for jihad on his radio stations and the subsequent violence. “Members of the jirga said it was not clear which party had breached the peace agreement between the government and the cleric,” Dawn reported. “They said FM stations should not be used for promoting personal interests, but there should be no ban on using them to propagate Islam.”
An anonymous American intelligence source has informed The Long War Journal that the Pakistani government is quietly negotiating a series of “peace deals” with the Taliban throughout the Northwest Frontier Province, much like the deal cut with Fazlullah. The Pakistani government is stinging from the international condemnation over the Waziristan and Bajaur Accords, which surrendered the tribal agencies to the Taliban and al Qaeda.
But the deal in Swat has done nothing to curb the rise of the TNSM, or prevent al Qaeda from training in the region. Fazlullah is still strong, as the recent attacks on the police demonstrates. Like in Tank and Bannu, the police in Swat have been intimidated by Fazlullah’s TNSM.
Swat is clearly Taliban country.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.