Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan.
The Swat Taliban are on the verge of dissolving the controversial Malakand Accord while the Pakistani government scrambles to keep it alive.
Muslim Khan, the spokesman for Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah, said the peace agreement “practically stands dissolved” as the military is attacking Taliban forces throughout the Malakand Division.
The government signed the Malakand Accord with Taliban front man Sufi Mohammed on February 16. The peace agreement called for the end of military operations in Swat, the end of Taliban operations, and the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, in the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Chitral, and Kohistan, a region that encompasses nearly one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.
“Our peace agreement with the NWFP government practically stands dissolved,” Khan told The News. “Forces are attacking us and our fighters are also retaliating” against Pakistani security forces and government officials.
“If the Awami National Party [the ruling, secular Pashtun party in the Northwest Frontier Province] supports us, we will not harm them,” Khan said. “But if they sided with the government, they too will become our target.”
Khan said the Taliban would focus on Pakistan’s federal government and the military because they are carrying out the policy of the United States. “However, our main target will be security forces and the rulers of Pakistan,” he noted. “We will also act in other cities of Pakistan but will not target the general public.”
Amir Izzat Khan, the spokesman for Sufi Mohammad, the leader of the banned pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law] and father-in-law of Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah, told The News that the peace agreement is still intact but it would end if the military operations in neighboring Dir and Buner continued.
“If the prevailing situation persists, the government will lose control over the area and reaction to the government actions will also be witnessed in other cities of the country,” Khan threatened. “In that situation, even the TNSM will be unable to control the situation.” In the past, the TNSM has admitted the group has the ability to control the Taliban violence in Swat and the surrounding districts.
The government, however, is eager to keep the peace agreement alive. Last Friday, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial Minister of Information, said military operations would end once the Darul Qaza, or Islamic appellate courts, were established in the Malakand Division. Military officials also indicated the Buner and Dir operations would only last a week, signaling they had no intentions of ejecting the Taliban from the districts. Yesterday the government rushed the establishment of the courts. But the move only angered the Taliban and the TNSM, who claim they were not consulted.
The Taliban takeover of Swat and the government’s approval of the Malakand Accord have fueled the expansion eastward from the tribal areas. The Taliban’s move into Buner has put the Taliban within 60 miles of Islamabad and close to several nuclear facilities and the vital Tarbela Dam. The Taliban also moved into Mansehra and established bases and a training camp in the region.
Government and military officials have dismissed the Taliban threat to Islamabad and its nuclear facilities, but at the end of April, the local Islamabad government ordered troops to deploy in the Margala hills just north of the city to block a Taliban advance, while the Haripur government beefed up security at the Tarbela Dam.