PESHAWAR, May 21: The NWFP government and militants led by Maulana Fazlullah signed an agreement on Wednesday to restore peace in Swat.

“Taliban have accepted government’s writ in the region and will help the local administration in maintaining law and order in the district,” NWFP’s Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour told newsmen. Mr Bilour had led the govt’s side in talks with the militants.

He said the Taliban had renounced militancy and promised not to attack troops and government installations. They have also agreed to eliminate all sources of militancy and stop training suicide bombers.

The 15-point peace agreement envisages a phased withdrawal of troops from the district and requires Maulana Fazlullah’s supporters to stop attacks on security forces, and government officials and installations.

No group will be allowed to recruit a private militia.

Under the agreement, the government will enforce Sharia laws in the district and withdraw cases registered against the Taliban. A joint committee will scrutinise the cases filed against militants, including Maulana Fazlullah.

The Imam Dheri seminary, which served as the headquarters of the maulana, will be converted into an Islamic University. A committee comprising local ulema, MPAs, the district coordination officer and assistant coordination officers will manage the university.

Maulana Fazlullah has been allowed to run his controversial FM radio station with the permission of the authorities concerned.

Display of weapons will be banned in the district.

No-one will be allowed to obstruct polio vaccine campaigns and girls’ education.

The militants promised not to attack barber shops and music centres.

The Taliban will help the action taken by local authorities against kidnappers, robbers and other criminals.

The government will pay compensation to the people who have lost their relatives in the military operation and whose houses have been damaged.

The agreement calls for eliminating training centres for suicide bombers and stopping preparation of explosive devices in the area.

The government was represented in the talks by Mr Bilour, Senior Minister Rahimdad Khan, Environment Minister Wajid Ali Khan and ANP’s provincial chief Afrasyab Khattak.

The militants were represented by Maulana Fazlullah’s aide Muslim Khan, Maulana Mohammad Amin and Ali Bakht. The talks lasted more than six hours.

Mr Bilour said a committee comprising representatives of the government and Taliban had been formed to ensure implementation of the agreement.

Taliban shura member Ali Bakht said: “We accept all the terms and conditions of the agreement and we are hopeful that the deal will bring peace to our area.”

But while the agreement has rekindled hopes for peace in what once was a tourist hotspot, observers said they like to wait for the reaction of more hardened Jihadi elements like Jaish-i-Mohammad fighters and non-local militants, mostly from Punjab.

Immediately after the agreement was reached, a commander of the militant outfit in Peochar, Mian Said Jamal, announced that his Shariat court would settle a land dispute on Sunday.

The government launched the military operation in Swat in November 2007 after militants led by ‘Maulana Radio’ had tried to seize control of the district and cut off the Karakoram Highway that links Pakistan with China. Scores of people have died in suicide attacks and bomb blasts over the past six months in the area.

Over 5,000 military and paramilitary troops, 300 men of the Frontier Constabulary and 1,200 policemen were deployed in the region.

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