Truce in Pak’’s NWFP just giving breathing space to Taliban: NYT

March 6th, 2009 - 3:08 pm ICT by ANI  


Peshawar (Pakistan), Mar.6 (ANI): The truce inked between the government in Pakistans North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the defunct Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) last month in the Swat region, seems to have allowed the Taliban a chance to expand their harsh religious rule, reports the New York Times. Just days after the truce was signed, a member of a prominent anti-Taliban family returned to his mountain village, having received assurances from the government that it was safe.
The Taliban promptly kidnapped and tortured him before killing him. The militants then erected roadblocks to search cars for any relatives who dared travel there for his funeral. None did.
This week, two Pakistani soldiers who were part of a convoy escorting a water tanker were shot and killed because they failed to inform the Taliban in advance of their movements.
The imposition of the Shariah, in the area,includes a ban on music, a requirement that shops close during calls to prayer and the installation of complaint boxes for reports of anti-Islamic behavior.
Local residents are skeptical that girls schools will be allowed to reopen.
Previous accords with the militants in Pakistans semi-autonomous tribal areas have effectively created mini-states with sanctuaries for Qaeda and Pakistani militants.
The Pakistani government has argued that the truce in Swat would free the Pakistani Army, reduce civilian suffering and satisfy popular dissatisfaction with the local judiciary. However, hundreds of thousands of people who have fled in the past six months to camps in surrounding districts or to relatives homes are staying put, unsure what they would encounter if they dared to return.
The Pakistani government agreed to the cease-fire with an aging Islamic leader, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, on February 16 after the army had already ceded about 70 percent of Swat, a pocket of snow-capped peaks and fertile valleys, to Taliban fighters.
The government said it saw the truce as a way to separate what it considered to be more approachable militants, like Muhammad, from hard-line Taliban leaders like Maulana Fazlullah, his son-in-law, who is a young warlord flush with money and weapons.
There was no mention of the future of girls education in the accord on Wednesday, an ominous sign, said opponents of the Taliban.
The militants have burned hundreds of girls schools in Swat in the past year, and banished the students to their homes.
The chief minister of the North-West Frontier Province, Ameer Haider Hoti, said during a visit to Swat this week that the girls schools would reopen. But the provincial government is strapped for money, and there is speculation that the government cannot afford to rebuild the burned schools.
Local and provincial officials appear to be powerless in the face of the Taliban, and many remain in exile in Peshawar. Some officials have fled to Islamabad, the capital, some as far as London.
Those who have ventured into Swat to negotiate the accords with the Taliban have been shown who is in charge. (ANI)

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