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Central & South Asia
Truce agreed in Pakistan's Swat
Provincial government and tribal group agree 10-day ceasefire in Swat Valley.
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2009 06:37 GMT

Swat Valley has been in turmoil since 2007 with 
troops battling tribal fighters [GALLO/GETTY]

A pro-Taliban armed group has agreed to a 10-day ceasefire with the Pakistani government in the country's northwestern Swat Valley region.

Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the so-called Taliban in Swat, agreed to observe the truce to show his support for peace negotiations currently under way, his spokesman said on Sunday.

The ceasefire announcement comes amid negotiations between the regional government of  North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the leader of Tahrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi, a group that aims to implement Islamic law in Swat.

Al Jazeera has learned that Sharia (Islamic law) may be introduced in both Swat Valley and Malakand district as part of the five-point peace agreement expected to be announced on Monday.

Sufi Muhammad said a five-member delegation of his group would meet NWFP's chief minister in the provincial capital Peshawar on Monday to finalise the deal.

The peace accord had reportedly been delayed for two months by Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president.

"It was only after the nod from the president to the provincial government that this dramatic development did come about," Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's Pakistan correspondent, said.

Troubled region

Sufi Muhammad was released last year after spending almost eight years in jail for sending his men to fight in Afghanistan during the 2001 US-led invasion.

In depth


 Swat: Pakistan's lost paradise

The religious leader has been holding a peaceful protest for months outside his native village in Dir, where negotiations have so far taken place.

Swat Valley itself has been in turmoil since 2007 with conservative groups fighting government troops to press for Sharia.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless after months of violence in the region.

Much of the violence has been blamed on the group led by Fazlullah, who is the son-in-law of Sufi Muhammad.

Muslim Khan, a spokesman for Fazlullah's group, Tehreek Taliban Swat, told Al Jazeera that as a gesture of good will, they had released a Chinese engineer held captive for more than five months.

Long Xiaowei, the telecommunications engineer, was taken to Peshawar after he was released in Barikot town earlier on Sunday, officials said.

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad confirmed that Long had arrived at the mission and would soon travel back to China.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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