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February 24, 2009
Taliban declares an indefinite cease-fire in Swat Valley

Schools have been destroyed by violence in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, but some are reopening under the new peace deal with militants. Photo: IRIN

In Pakistan on Tuesday, Taliban militants agreed to extend a cease-fire in Swat Valley, which is largely under control of the militants. Violence in the area has killed hundreds, and up to a third of the population has left.

The Taliban said the cease-fire announced with the government last week would be extended for an indefinite period. As part of the truce, the government agreed to allow the Taliban to impose stricter Islamic law.

The truce has brought relative peace to the area, with schools re-opening. But some argue that the price for this respite is too high, and that the government has conceded to insurgents.

A blogger at “Deadpan Thoughts” in Karachi, Pakistan, criticizes the government for the deal:

So what have we gained from this ceasefire? Stoppage of the bloodshed I guess and the return of Swat to perhaps a peaceful state.  However we have also left the implementation of this shariah law in the hands of people who may chose to do with it as they want. […]

Thus in short the government of Pakistan has abandoned Swat to the wolves, and our esteemed politicians are more than happy crowing about the saving of lives and what not, going on about their bandwagon long march with no goal in sight.

Blogger Ahmed Humayun at World Politics Review agrees, arguing that the deal will have severe and damaging effects on the power of the state:

What has prompted the government to surrender its electoral mandate? Fear. In recent months, 12,000 Pakistani troops stationed in Swat and its surrounding environs have been unable to dislodge 3,000 determined militants. Extremists have killed tribal elders, law enforcement officers, and elected representatives of the ANP, and then displayed their bodies in public squares. After repeated assassination attempts on his life, even the ANP’s leader was forced to temporarily flee the province three months ago.

[…]If Pakistan eventually sets up the courts demanded by the militants, it will have ratified a new political dispensation where non-state actors are free to dictate state policy. Islamists will be convinced that what they cannot achieve electorally, they can win through armed force. As it currently stands, rather than isolating and marginalizing extremists, the compact has conferred legitimacy on radical ideology and vindicated jihadist tactics.

Blogger “Zaheerul Hassan” in Lahore disagrees, writing that Pakistan should look for more opportunities to work with Islamists:

Islamists whom we brand as extremists and terrorists, if handled wisely, can become the real strategic assets of Pakistan. […] I reckon, whether we like it or not, we will have to admit that the Islamists are the best fighting force available in Pakistan. By virtue of rough terrain and inclement weather conditions they live in, frugal way of living, valorous stories of their rich past, their ability to fight and use the gun and to brave extreme hardships, closeness to religion and believing in life hereafter, fearless and preferring to die than to surrender, not leaving their dead or wounded in battle behind under any circumstances, dedicated to the given cause and fighting their foes to the last irrespective of superiority of the enemy in terms of manpower, material and technology.

[…]Accord in Swat is a good beginning which must be followed up. Unwarranted concerns expressed by USA, western countries and India must be ignored. President Zardari should give peace a chance and shouldnʼt dither signing the accord. If this chance is frittered away under pressure from our detractors, the bloodletting would intensify with harrowing consequences.

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