Pakistan’s Swat peace agreement in the crossfire

Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is de facto control; yellow is under threat.

Tensions have arisen over the Swat peace agreement signed last month. The central government said the Swat Accord has been negated due to Taliban attacks. The Taliban and the Awami National Party, which administers the Northwest Frontier Province, said the agreement is still valid and the central government cannot dissolve the accord.

“The Swat agreement is scrapped as the militants have (continued) their attacks on security forces,” said Rahman Malik, an adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister. Malik’s statement comes after four policemen were killed in an ambush in the provincial capital of Peshawar. On June 5, two policemen and two civilians were wounded in a shootout in Nowshera. Peshawar has been described as a “walled city,” while its police chief said the Taliban is poised to overrun the city.

Both the Taliban and the provincial government said the deal was intact. Bashir Bilour, the senior minister in the Northwest Frontier Province and the leader of the Awami National Party, “reacted angrily” to the central government’s announcement, according to the Press Trust of India. Bilour said the peace agreement was still intact, Pajhwok reported.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said that since the agreement was signed with the provincial government, and “not with Rehman Malik,” the central government could not negate the agreement.

Prior to the latest dispute over the peace agreement, the provincial government has been conducting prisoner exchanges with the Taliban. Seven Taliban in Swat were released on June 7; 64 were released in Swat on June 6; and 75 were freed in Malakand on June 4.

The Taliban put the Pakistani government on notice just one day ago. The Taliban distributed pamphlets to Pakistani news organizations that warned the government to stick to the peace agreements or face a new campaign of violence. The Taliban threatened to open “new fronts” within Pakistan. The extremists also said the government must end its support for the US-led war on terror “as its ramifications could be dangerous.”

This year, the government signed peace deals in Swat, Bajaur, Malakand, and Mohmand. Negotiations are under way in Kohat and Mardan. The Taliban has violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been inked.

For more information on the terms of the peace agreements in Swat, Bajaur, North Waziristan, and Mohmand, and the proposed terms for the agreements in South Waziristan, Mardan, and Kohat, see:

Descent into Appeasement

Pakistani government inks peace deal with Swat Taliban

Pakistan is negotiating a new peace agreement with Baitullah Mehsud (South Waziristan)

Pakistan revives the North Waziristan Accord

Pakistan releases Taliban leader, signs peace deal with outlawed Taliban group (Bajaur, Malakand Division)

Pakistan strikes deal with the Taliban in Mohmand

Negotiations with the Taliban under way in Kohat

Negotiations under way with Taliban in Mardan

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 history of peace agreements signed between the government and the Taliban.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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8 Comments

  • pjh says:

    This place is like some kind of hellish version of Alice in Wonderland.

  • Neo says:

    In other words is appears that the Taliban is attacking central government security forces while at the same time maintaining the peace treaty with the government of Northwest Frontier Province and Awami National Party. The Taliban feels free to attack central government forces and is attempting to use the peace treaty as a political ploy to isolate government forces.
    The Pakistani central government better watch out for this sort of move. Such moves could become a broader attempt isolate certain parties of the government with which the Taliban considers itself to be a war, from other parties with which the Taliban is at peace.
    Broad pronouncements by the Pakistani Army that the treaty is dead, might not serve the central government, unless it has broad backing by the parties. Such issues can become wedge issues that the central government might find itself divided on. Never give your political enemies a wedge issue. A more cautious policy might be to label treaty violations as criminal acts, than let the security forces defend themselves as needed. Don’t make broad pronouncements, but let the Taliban’s duplicity speak for itself. Making that duplicity known to the public is very important in the long term, but Pakistani Army shouldn’t assume it has broad support for any sort of broad military action at this point.
    Rahman Malik’s pronouncements do ring true. Politically though, that may not be the point, as pronouncements that the treaty is dead assume that government forces can actually respond. Along with that is the question of public backing. It is much easier to get public backing for the Army defending itself and citizens of SWAT, rather than backing any sort of general offensive.
    I don’t put any stock in the peace agreements either. Once a treaty has been made though, the Pakistani Army must make sure public anger is clearly against the Taliban for abrogating the treaty. The Pakistani Army may well be justified in pulling out of the peace agreement but politically their reaction might be too much, too soon.
    The Taliban can not be beat in western Pakistan this year. The central government may still have a chance to hold the Taliban’s spread in check though. As I have indicated before, the central government of Pakistan could potentially use the peace treaties to further discredit the Taliban, but that would require a level of political savvy I have yet to see from the Pakistani military.

  • Colawman says:

    Neo, I agree, but I think you fail to mention the elephant in the room. If Pakistan allows United States cross border action, to include aerial, the Pakistani Army would then be much more able to, not only hold, but begin marginalizing the capabilities of the Taliban and AQ.
    I understand there will be a public outcry, but tough times require tough decisions. If Pakistan wants to suffer the same fate Afghanistan did pre 9/11 they can continue to go it alone at the country’s peril.

  • KW64 says:

    Good thought Neo.
    Don’t let the Taliban create a wedge between the Awami League and the Central Government. Just brand those who fight as criminals and everyone should be able to get behind arresting those “Rogue Elements” trying to upset the carefully negotiated peace process. Meanwhile, you just might create a wedge within the insurgents like happened with the lawful portions of the Mahdi Militia and its criminal rogue elements in Iraq.

  • Neo says:

    “Wedge issues”

  • cjr says:

    We need to be realistic about what the Pakistani army can and cant do even if it wanted to.
    NWFT is 23 million people, about the same size as Iraq minus the Kurdish region. The Pakistani army is 500,000, about the same size as US Army without the Marines or National Guard. They have a budget of ~a few percent of the US. And at the same time, they have to maintain a strong presents opposite India.
    Even if the Pakistani army was given the whole hearted support from Pakistani government to get NWFT under control, it is unclear to me they even has half the capability to do so. At best they could control sections of the NWFT while continuing to taking casualties for many years. Hum….sounds like what Pakistani army was doing from 2002 to 2006 already.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 06/10/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

  • Mohammad Naeem says:

    Hi All! The comments above show the commentators don’t have good knowledge of Taleban phenomenon. Alternatively, it may be typical British/English anti-Pashtun views they are maintining since British-Raj era.
    Here is a statement from Awami National Party (ANP) regarding its peace agreement with Taleban in Swat, NWFP, Pakistan.
    //awaminationalparty.org/news/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=112&Itemid=1

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