The Swat Taliban have rejected the provincial government’s overture to establish Islamic courts in the Malakand Division and said their followers would never surrender their weapons, as the security situation in Swat rapidly deteriorates.
Taliban spokesmen claimed that the government had failed to consult the Taliban on the establishment of the Darul Qaza, or the senior Islamic appellate court, for the Malakand Division and had backtracked on an agreement established during negotiations just days ago.
The government had agreed to end the military operations in the neighboring districts of Dir and Buner and to consult with 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.
Sufi previously had demanded that he was to select the Qazis, or judges for the Islamic appellate courts. The government had negotiated the Malakand Accord with Sufi and the agreement went into effect on February 16. The peace agreement called for the end of military operations in Swat 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.
Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan also rejected the establishment of the Darul Qaza, claiming it was imposed “under the shadows of jets bombing and shelling,” according to Dawn. Khan said the government failed to consult with Sufi and claimed the government violated the Malakand Accord by launching the military operations in Dir and Buner. “He warned of befitting response if military operation was again imposed on them in Swat,” Dawn reported.
Khan also demanded sweeping powers for the Malakand-based Islamic courts. “He said Darul Qaza should be so powerful that it could summon the president, prime minister, Maulana Sufi Mohammad and even Maulana Fazlullah to appear before it,” Dawn reported.
The Swat Taliban has refused to disarm, one of the key points in the Malakand Accord. “Taliban cannot renounce weapons, they are ornaments of Muslims,” Khan told a Pakistani television station.
Taliban continue attacks in Swat; military silent
As the military continues operations in Dir and Buner and appears to be positioning for an operation in Shangla, the Taliban continue to run roughshod over the government and security forces in Swat. Immediately after the signing of the Malakand Accord, the Swat Taliban violated the agreement by kidnapping and killing security and government officials, conducting armed patrols, setting up illegal checkpoints, and halting military convoys.
In the past two weeks, the Taliban have kidnapped 15 security officials and murdered two others. The Taliban captured four policemen in Swat on April 30, five policemen on April 28, and six Frontier Constabulary personnel on April 20.
Today, the Taliban kidnapped and murdered two government officials and beheaded them. Khan claimed the murders were revenge for the deaths of two low-level Taliban commanders in Swat the prior day.
The situation in Swat has grown worse as the Taliban are now actively patrolling in Mingora, the main town in the district. Taliban fighters raided the Mingora Grid Station, which caught on fire after a gunfight with security forces there. The power grid was shut down and several regions in Swat went dark. The Taliban also bombed a boys’ school.
The military and government have ignored the repeated Taliban violations of the peace agreement and instead have searched for ways to keep the agreement intact.
The Taliban, emboldened by the government’s willingness to accede to their demands, moved hundreds of fighters into neighboring Buner and have pushed forces into Mansehra and Haripur, two districts on the outskirts of Islamabad. While the military and government have downplayed the threat to the capital, the local Islamabad administration moved paramilitary troops into the hills north of the city to protect against a Taliban advance.
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