[QODLink]
Central & South Asia
Ceasefire agreed in Pakistan's Swat
Pro-Taliban fighters agree "permanent ceasefire" after successful talks over sharia.
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2009 17:19 GMT

Representatives of the Taliban fighters have been attending talks with the government [EPA]

Pro-Taliban fighters in Pakistan have agreed to a "permanent ceasefire" in Pakistan's northwestern Swat valley, a senior government official has said.

Maulana Fazlullah, the commander of the Pakistani Taliban, was expected to announce the ceasefire later on Saturday.

"They have made a commitment that they will observe a permanent ceasefire and we'll do the same," Syed Mohammad Javed, the commissioner of Malakand, a region of Northwest Frontier Province, said.

Javed said efforts were being made to persuade the Taliban to allow girls' schools to reopen. During the violence in Swat, fighters torched around 200 girls' schools in a campaign against female education.

 Muslim Khan, a Taliban spokesman, said that Fazlullah would make an announcement about the deal on the radio shortly.

"I can't say what he would say, but there would be good news for people of Swat," Khan said.

The development follows talks between local officials and a group headed by Maulana Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah's father-in-law and the leader of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi, regarding the implementation of sharia, or Islamic law, in the area.

'Commitment to peace'

"Things are going well so far. Both sides - the local Taliban as well as the government - are happy with the progress of the talks," Raja Asad Hameed from Pakistan's The Nation newspaper told Al Jazeera.

In depth


Swat: Pakistan's lost paradise

Sharia in Pakistan's Swat

"The spokesperson from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, led by Maulana Fazlullah, have already said that they have given full authority to Sufi Mohammad to go for any decision about the fate of Swat.

"It looks as though he has the mandate of all sides ... and he has expressed his commitment to bring in peace, and at the same time sharia law, to Swat."

The government has already agreed to implement sharia in Malakand district, which contains Swat, in return for a ceasefire deal.

Western powers, as well as many Pakistanis, have been alarmed by the government's offer.

Concerns over deal

They fear that a ceasefire could result in another sanctuary in Pakistan where al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters could move freely.

They also worry that Taliban fighters elsewhere in the region will be encouraged by the government's move.

Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from Islamabad, said that the details of the deal were still unclear and that the Taliban might want to act as the "enforcers" of sharia in Swat.

"The Taliban were trying to get the government to agree to their key demands - they included the implementation of sharia, the release of all Taliban prisoners," he said.

"But what they also wanted was to control [the implementation of] sharia law within the valley - that would mean a much tougher version of Islamic law than the one Sufi Mohammad had negotiated with the government."

Pro-Taliban fighters last week announced a 10-day truce in the region while the talks were under way.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
Residents count the cost of violence after black American teenager shot dead by white Missouri police officer.
join our mailing list