Pakistan releases pro-Taliban official

Wanted flyer for Swat Taliban leaders.

A Pakistani court has ordered the release of Syed Muhammad Javed, the pro-Taliban commissioner of the Malakand Division, the region that encompasses the Swat Valley. Javed openly aided the rise of the Taliban in Swat after being appointed commissioner in February. He openly facilitated the Taliban takeover of neighboring Buner, a move that forced the government to launch a military operation to drive the Taliban out of Swat and the surrounding regions.

Pakistani journalist Zahid Hussain summed up Javed’s role in aiding the Taliban in an article written in Dawn on May 31, 2009. Javed hosted a victory party for the Taliban in early April after the government capitulated and signed the Malakand Accord, which gave the Taliban control over a huge swath of northwestern Pakistan. The party was a virtual who’s who of Taliban leaders in the northwest.

The faces of militant commanders for whose capture the government has announced millions of rupees seem all too familiar. Just three weeks before the start of the latest round of military operation in Swat I met most of them – not in their mountainous hideouts, but in the official residence of a top bureaucrat in Mingora, barely a few hundred metres from the army garrison.

Accompanied by dozens of well armed Taliban fighters, Muslim Khan, Sirajuddin, Mahmmod Khan and some others (who are said to be responsible for killings of hundreds of soldiers and civilians) were being hosted by the former commissioner of Malakand, Syed Mohammad Javed.

The only person conspicuous by his absence was Maulana Fazlullah, the man with a head money of Rs50 million. ‘He is in Kabal for some important work,’ I was told by one of his lieutenants.

It was April 12 and the commissioner had just returned from Buner where he had apparently brokered a truce between the Taliban threatening the district after the Swat peace deal and the local Lashkar who had long resisted the militant onslaught. It later transpired that the so-called peace accord virtually disarmed the Lashkar and handed over the control of Buner to Taliban.

There was little doubt that Mr Javed, who was known for close links with Sufi Mohammad, had drawn the accord to the advantage of the Taliban. But even he couldn’t have anticipated the consequences.

More shock was in store when later that evening I saw Faqir Mohammed walking in with a large entourage. Escorted by an Uzbek bodyguard he was whisked inside a large hall where a number of commanders squatted on a carpeted floor.

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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