"The interior minister, in spite of the fact that he has refuted those reports, has admitted that there has been an escalation," Hyder said, "and that if the government did lose its patience and the militants in that area did not stop their activities then the deal would be off."
 
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Hyder said that the government was talking from a position of strength having fortified positions and moved the military into the Swat valley.
 
"The government's contention is that as long as those people do not allow the government to re-establish its power over the entire region, then they will not give in to any of their [the Taliban's] demands.
 
"Many analysts are looking at this as a warning shot by the government to the Taliban, saying to them that the challenge to the government is unacceptable," Hyder said.
 
Hyder said that there are elements within the Taliban who are averse to peace with the government and are attempting to sabotage any dialogue between the two sides.
 
Quid pro quo
 
Pakistan's government had promised to pull out troops from the northwestern valley of Swat after signing the peace agreement.
 
In return the Taliban was expected to shut training camps, hand over foreign fighters and halt suicide attacks on government installations and security forces under the 15-point pact.

Located about 90km from the Afghan border, Swat, which is tribal, though not a part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), had been the main tourist destination in North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) until last year.

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Meanwhile, in continued violence, an attack on the police on Sunday night in Matani, near Peshawar, the NWFP's capital, killed four policemen and wounded a senior police officer.

"The militants hid near a petrol station and opened fire on the  police van," Nasirul Mulk, a senior police investigator, told the AFP news agency.

"It was a surprise attack - the police party could not even retaliate because the hail of bullets was so sudden."

In another incident, four policemen escorting Sufi Muhammad, chief of the banned pro-Taliban group Tahreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM), were wounded in a bomb blast on Monday, officials said.

Pakistan's Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the attack.

Maulvi Umar, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, said Sufi Muhammad was not the target but advised him not to travel with security forces.

Think-tank claim

In related news, a report published on Monday by a US think-tank said Pakistani intelligence agents and paramilitary forces have helped train Taliban fighters and given them information about US troop movements in Afghanistan.

The study by the RAND Corp said that the US will face "crippling, long-term consequences" in Afghanistan if Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are not eliminated.

"Every successful insurgency in Afghanistan since 1979 enjoyed safe haven in neighbouring countries, and the current insurgency is no different," said the report's author, Seth Jones.

"Right now, the Taliban and other groups are getting help from individuals within Pakistan's government, and until that ends, the region's long-term security is in jeopardy."

Pakistan's military spokesman rejected the findings.