Pakistan, militants agree to truce in Swat Valley

May 9th, 2008 - 11:38 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad, May 9 (DPA) Pakistani government and the pro-Taliban militants Friday agreed on a ceasefire in Pakistan’s restive north-western district of Swat, hours after a policeman was killed in an attack on a security convoy in the area, officials said. The truce was reached in a meeting between the government of North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), which is lead by liberal Awami National Party (ANP), and the representatives of radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah in Chakdara area of the district.

Wajid Ali Khan, a provincial minister, who attended the meeting together with two other senior ministers, confirmed to DPA that the accord had been reached with the militants.

“It was our first direct contact with Taliban, a confidence building measure. We have agreed on a ceasefire. We are meeting again within a week,” the minister said.

Fazlullah’s spokesman, Muslim Khan, who also participated in the parleys, said: “It was an effort for restoring peace in the region. We have agreed on ceasefire.”

Under the agreement, the militants ensured that they would observe the ceasefire and halt attacks on the state property, troops and girls’ schools. The government in return assured not to arrest any of Fazlullah’s followers or pound their hideouts.

The agreement came hours after the suspected militants ambushed a security convoy in Swat district, leaving one policeman killed.

Security forces were searching and cordoning off an area in Kabal when they were fired upon, the army said in a statement.

One police officer and three paramilitary soldiers were injured in the ambush, it said.

Violence swept through Swat late last year when the military launched an offensive against Fazlullah, whose men took control of key towns in the district and enforced self-defined Mohammedan laws.

Fighting between the militants and government troops continued for several weeks, leaving hundreds of people dead.

A fragile ceasefire was reached in March after the newly-elected NWFP government offered to hold peace talks with the pro-Taliban fighters in Swat and tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, where the Taliban once ruled until they were forced from power in a US-led offensive in late 2001.

The peace process was halted April 28 when a spokesman of the militant umbrella organization - Tehrik Taliban Pakistan - announced it would suspend negotiations with the authorities.

Since then, the militants in Swat and other areas have renewed their assaults on security forces.

But this did not impede the peace negotiations which led to a preliminary peace agreement.

Indirect peace dialogue between Islamic rebels and the government is also underway in the tribal belt, which is believed to be safe-havens for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants launching cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

This has raised concern in US which leads the fight against terrorism in the war-torn country.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in Washington May 5 that his country expected “Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to be strong partners against violent extremists in Pakistan’s frontier areas.”

“Let me be clear,” he added, “we will not be satisfied until all the violent extremism emanating from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas is brought under control.”

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