The Swat Taliban have again violated the indefinite ceasefire they signed with the government, with the ambush of a military convoy by Taliban fighters. The Taliban took credit for the ambush that killed two soldiers killed and wounded one officer, and blamed the military for the attack.
“Security forces are making movements without any prior information, which force Taliban to carry out attacks,” Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told the Associated Press. “We do reserve a right to defend ourselves.” Khan said the military was required to inform the Taliban about any movements in the district.
Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the attack was “unprovoked.” Abbas said the “peace committee,” headed by Sufi Mohammed, the radical, pro-Taliban cleric, was made aware of the military’s movement.
Sufi Mohammed, who is supposed to be moderating between the government and the Taliban, put the blame on the government for the violations of the ceasefire.
“I will abandon efforts for peace if the security forces and the government continue violations of the peace accord,” Sufi said, according to Daily Times. “The Taliban are doing nothing wrong … the government is responsible for violations.”
The Taliban and the government agreed to an indefinite ceasefire as the peace agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, is negotiated. The peace agreement, if signed, would put an end to the brutal fighting in Swat, which began in 2007 and resulted in the Taliban’s taking total control over the district.
The Taliban have violated the ceasefire several times since it was implemented in late February. The most prominent case took place just days after the ceasefire took effect. The Taliban captured the district coordinating officer for Swat and six of his Frontier Corps Guards. A Taliban spokesman said the officer was a “guest” who was detained to “discuss some issues.” The government freed several Taliban prisoners to secure the captives’ release. Two days ago, the Taliban kidnapped a Frontier Corps officer and five of his troops and also attacked a military vehicle transporting sick troops.
The military has failed to retaliate for the violations of the ceasefire, and instead has lodged complaints with the peace commission.
Zardari: government negotiating with “traditional local clerics” and not the Taliban
The latest violation of the Swat ceasefire took place just one day before Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari penned an article in The Wall Street Journal defending Pakistan’s conduct in the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Zardari denied negotiations were being conducted with the Taliban.
“In the highly volatile Swat Valley, our strategy has been to enter into talks with traditional local clerics to help restore peace to the area, and return the writ of the state,” Zardari wrote. “We have not and will not negotiate with extremist Taliban and terrorists. The clerics with whom we have engaged are not Taliban. Indeed, in our dialogue we’d made it clear that it is their responsibility to rein in and neutralize Taliban and other insurgents.”
But Zardari’s claim that negotiations are not being carried out with “extremist Taliban and terrorist” and instead are being held with “traditional local clerics” becomes difficult to defend when looking at the main cleric behind the peace negotiations: Sufi Mohammed.
Sufi Mohammed is the spiritual leader of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, or the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law. Sufi led more than 10,000 Pakistanis into Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001. The Pakistani government jailed Sufi after his return from Afghanistan and banned Sufi’s radical group.
The government released Sufi from jail in the fall of 2007 to negotiate a peace agreement with Mullah Fazlullah, the Swat Taliban leader and a senior deputy in Baitullah Mehsud’s Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Sufi claimed to have eschewed violence after being released from prison. The 2008 peace agreement failed and the Taliban took full control of Swat shortly afterwards.
Sufi and the Swat Taliban 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.”
“From the very beginning, I have viewed democracy as a system imposed on us by the infidels. Islam does not allow democracy or elections,” Sufi told Deutsche Presse-Agentur just days before the Malakand Accord was signed. “I believe the Taliban government formed a complete Islamic state, which was an ideal example for other Muslim countries.”
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.