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Central & South Asia
Swat leaders step up truce pressure
Por-Taliban politician contradicts Pakistan government's permanent-ceasefire announcement.
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2009 06:49 GMT

Representatives of the Pakistan Taliban have brokered an open-ended truce in Swat [EPA]

A Pakistani Taliban leader has said his fighters will only extend the 10-day truce in the Swat valley if the government introduces unspecified "practical steps".

Saturday's statement by Maulana Fazlullah undermined a government announcement that Islamabad had brokered an open-ended ceasefire in the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.

"We heard that the government announced a permanent ceasefire, but we have announced a 10-day ceasefire and we will consider an extension when it ends," Fazlullah said, referring to the truce that is due to expire on Wednesday.

The new developments follow 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 [Islamic law] in the area around Swat.
Swat is a part of Malakand, a district in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
Fazlullah did not specify what measures the group wants the government to implement before a long-term truce can be agreed.
However, he urged Pakistan to enforce sharia in the area and to create "an environment of confidence".
Details unclear
Syed Mohammad Javed, the commissioner of Malakand, said on Saturday that the pro-Taliban fighters had made a "commitment" to a ceasefire.
But 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."
Western powers, as well as many Pakistanis, have been alarmed by the government's offer to implement sharia in Swat in return for a ceasefire 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.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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