Pakistan signs peace accord with Swat Valley militants

May 21st, 2008 - 11:54 pm ICT by admin  

Peshawar (Pakistan), May 21 (DPA) The Pakistani government Wednesday signed a peace accord with militants seeking to impose Taliban-style Islamic rule in the country’s restive valley of Swat. “Peace talks with Swat militants have been successful and we hope that the agreement will bring peace in the region,” said Bashir Bilour, a senior minister in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), after signing the 15-point pact.

Under the treaty, the government will gradually withdraw security forces from the region, he added. “In return, Taliban committed to refrain from attacks on security personnel and government property.”

Bilour, a member of the liberal Awami National Party that leads the provincial government in NWFP where Swat is located, said the militants have also agreed to dismantle the terrorist “training camps” run by their leader, firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlullah.

The Pakistani army launched a major operation in Swat in late October to clear out followers of Fazlullah, who had formed a private militia to impose Taliban rule.

The months of clashes left hundreds of people dead, prompting the government to launch peace talks with the rebels last month.

There will be a strict ban imposed on the private militias, and displays of arms will be completely prohibited, said Bilour. “Steps would be taken for the release of militants currently in government’s custody.”

The agreement came a day after Islamic militants targeted a security checkpoint in the Ningolai area of the volatile valley, killing one policeman and injuring another, according to a statement from the Pakistan Army.

The insurgents also set ablaze two girls’ schools, it said.

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

The country has in the past signed peace deals with tribal rebels but according to many analysts and Washington these have given militants the opportunity to regroup and strike back in increased strength.

“Given past failures, we have raised our concerns about these negotiations with Pakistan’s leaders,” Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in written testimony Tuesday.

But Pakistan has its reasons for signing peace deals as it has been hit by dozens of suicide attacks over the last 14 months, leaving more than 1,000 people dead, creating an atmosphere that has adversely affected the economy.

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