The Swat Taliban released a senior Swat district official and six of his Frontier Corps bodyguards after kidnapping them as they travelled to the town of Mingora. The government freed three Taliban fighters who were detained in the provincial capital of Peshawar. The incident was a violation of the ceasefire agreed upon by Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah’ and the government and military.
“The government has released two (of) our men and soon they will release the third,” said Muslim Khan, the spokesman for the Swat Taliban. “The government violated the agreement by arresting our men in Peshawar and killing [another] in Dir that is why we had to do this.”
According to Dawn, the district official was “kidnapped intentionally because TTP [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] wanted to give a lesson to the government that if the deal is violated then such incidents will continue to take place.”
Khan initially claimed the Swat official was his “guest” who was present for discussions and tea. “He is our guest,” Khan told the media. “We have to discuss some issues with him. We will serve him with tea and then free him.”
The kidnapping took place as Pakistan’s military threatened to abandon the ceasefire and reinitiate military operation operations. “If it [the peace agreement] does not restore peace in the area, the government will have to go for other options including military operation,” said Major General Athar Abbas, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military.
The military did not react to the kidnapping of the Swat official and his six bodyguards despite this being a clear violation of the ceasefire.
Abbas also said the military would remain in Swat until peace was enforced, despite Fazlullah’s demand the Army leave the district and the Frontier Corps remain in barracks.
Background on the Malakand Accord
The government agreed to impose sharia, or Islamic law and end military operations in the Malakand division, the administrative region that is made up of the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, and Chitral. The agreement essentially cedes more than one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province to the Taliban.
The government succumbed to negotiations after the military was defeated in three separate operations in Swat since November 2007. Fazlullah’s followers have been in complete control of Swat for two years and have imposed sharia on its people for that long.
The agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, was reached with Sufi Mohammed, the father- in-law of Fazlullah and a radical Islamist who sent more than 10,000 Taliban fighters to attack US forces in Afghanistan. Sufi claimed that he would control the sharia courts.
The Taliban agreed to a 10-day ceasefire, which expires on Feb. 25. There have been conflicting reports about the extension of the ceasefire. Some reports claimed Fazlullah agreed to extend the ceasefire “indefinitely” while other reports said Fazlullah will make a decision on Feb. 25.
On Feb. 20, Fazlullah issued a list of demands to be met in exchange for a permanent ceasefire. He insisted the Pakistani Army withdraw from Swat and the Frontier Corps remain in barracks, and that the government release all Taliban prisoners, withdraw all criminal cases and grant amnesty, and pay reparations to the Taliban.
The Pakistani government has agreed to such demands in the past, including in North and South Waziristan, Khyber, and in Bajaur.
For more information on developments with the Malakand Accord, see:
Feb. 22, 2009
Feb. 20, 2009
Feb. 18, 2009
Feb. 18, 2009
Feb. 15, 2009
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