Maulana Sufi Mohammad, head of the Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammed, as he was freed from a Pakistani prison. Photo from Dawn.
One day after the Pakistani government signed a peace accord with a violent Pakistani outfit operating in the Malakand Division in the Northwest Frontier Province, the government said future deals are currently in the works.
Yesterday’s peace accord with the outlawed Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammadi (the TNSM, or the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) resulted in freeing Sufi Mohammed, a radical Taliban leader behind attacks on NATO and Afghan forces and civilians in Afghanistan. The peace agreement is being hailed as a model for future agreements with other Taliban factions in the Northwest Frontier Province.
The release of Sufi and the peace agreement with the TNSM “was a step towards bringing peace to Malakand division” and “delivered the government’s message of peace to other militant organizations,” the Daily Times reported, based on statements from Arshad Abdullah, the provincial Minister of Law for the Northwest Frontier Province. “Agreements aimed at bringing peace to the country in general and NWFP in particular were in the pipeline, and the government was negotiating with other militant factions, including [Maulana] Fazlullah’s.”
Fazlullah, the leader of the TNSM in Swat and Sufi’s son-in law, has led an armed uprising against the Pakistani government and military in the settled district. His faction of the TNSM apparently was not represented in Monday’s peace accord.
Pakistan’s central government has again indicated it is willing to negotiate with the Taliban, but said it would not be “blackmailed” by them. “We won’t listen to their demands that are totally unrealistic,” said Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. “If they want us to hand over [jailed] terrorists as a [precondition] for talks, that will not happen.” But the TNSM demanded the release of Sufi Mohammed as a precondition for talks with the government.
Gilani also said the Taliban must disarm before any talks would be held. He also indicated he would be willing to negotiate with Baitullah Mehsud, who was behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and a suicide bombing campaign across Pakistan. “They should [put down] their arms first. Not only [Baitullah] Mehsud but also other [armed] tribes who are not militants,” he said in an interview with Newsweek.
The deal with the TNSM
The Pakistani government, led by the representatives of the ruling provincial government of the Awami National Party, held a jirga, or meeting, to hash out a six-point peace agreement with the TNSM representatives in the northern areas of the Northwest Frontier Province. The TNSM chiefs in attendance include Malakand chief Maulana Mohammad Alam, Swat district chief Maulana Abdul Haq, Maulana Badshah Zaib from Upper Dir, Maulana Salar Khan and Saiful Malook from Buner, Dr Ismail from Bajaur, and Multan Mir from Malakand, Daily Times reported.
The deal requires the TNSM to hold the local and national government “in high esteem,” work for the peaceful implementation and enforcement of sharia law, condemn attacks on the government, and cooperate with the government to establish the law and “restore peace.” The agreement also states that all Muslims have “the right to launch a peaceful struggle for the implementation of Shariat-e-Muhammadi.” The government has the right to take action “if they do not refrain from militancy.”
The Pakistani government also dropped charges against Sufi and 30 other members of the TNSM. Sufi was captured in 2002 as he attempted to lead a group of his fighters into Afghanistan to attack US forces. The TNSM was banned in 2002 under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
There is no obligation for TNSM members to root out al Qaeda in their areas. The TNSM merely “distanced itself from ‘elements’ involved in attacks on government officials, installations and law-enforcement agencies and condemned ‘miscreants’ indulging in such activities,” Dawn reported. “Miscreant” is a term the Pakistani government uses to describe al Qaeda.
The Pakistani government, under the leadership of President Pervez Musharraf and the direction of former Northwest Frontier Province governor Jan Orakzai, has signed similar agreements with the Taliban in the tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, and North and South Waziristan and the settled district of Swat. The Taliban used these peace agreements to expand its control throughout the region and launch attacks along with the Taliban against Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and the West.
See The Fall of Northwestern Pakistan: An Online History for more information on the rise of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and the peace agreements signed between the government and the Taliban.
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