Swat Taliban refuse to lay down arms
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Taliban will not lay down their arms in a northwestern valley as part of a deal that included the introduction of sharia law but will take their ‘struggle’ to new areas, a militant spokesman said on Wednesday.
President Asif Ali Zardari, under pressure from conservatives, signed a regulation on Monday imposing sharia law in the Swat valley to end Taliban violence.
The strategy of appeasement has alarmed US officials, while critics say the government has demonstrated a lack of capacity and will to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Details of the deal have not been made public but government officials backing the pact have said part of it was that militants would give up their arms.
But a Pakistani Taliban spokesman in the scenic valley, a one-time tourist destination 125 km northwest of Islamabad, said they would be keeping their guns.
‘Sharia doesn’t permit us to lay down arms,’ Muslim Khan said by telephone. ‘If a government, either in Pakistan or Afghanistan, continues anti-Muslim policies, it’s out of the question that Taliban lay down their arms.’
Some Taliban fighters last week moved out of Swat and into Buner district, only 100 km from Islamabad, and Khan said his men would push into new areas.
‘When we achieve our goal at one place, there are other areas where we need to struggle for it,’ he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-Shariat-i-Muhammdi, which Sufi Mohammad heads, announced a public rally in Mingora on April 19, DawnNews reported.
Sufi Mohammad said the rally is ‘intended to appreciate the sincere efforts and cooperation of the government which has ensured the enforcement of Sharia.’
He reiterated that laws under the Nizam-i-Adl regulation will be tailored for the common man and will provide amnesty to militants.
He further said ‘the decisions of Qazi courts will not be allowed to be challenged in any other court of the country, including the Supreme Court.’
The TNSM Chief asked the people of Swat to work together with the government to maintain peace in the region and praised the Awami National Party for its efforts in implementing the Sharia regulation.
Militants infiltrated into Swat in 2007 from strongholds on the Afghan border to the west to support cleric Sufi Mohammad.
Khan said militants would go to Afghanistan to fight US-led forces if Afghan Taliban called for help.
‘Our struggle is for a cause and that’s to enforce Allah’s rule on Allah’s land. We will send mujahideen to Afghanistan if they demand them,’ he said.
One security analyst, retired Brigadier Syed Mehmood Shah, said peace could be found if the government disarmed the militants: ‘The agreement should be given a chance.’
But another said the Swat militants were part of an expanding network.
‘There is no comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy from the military or government. They are not taking it seriously,’ said Khadim Hussain of the Aryana Institute think-tank.