TANK, April 23: The leader of Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, has ordered his fighters to “immediately cease their activities” in the tribal region as well as the NWFP.

“Baitullah Mehsud has issued directives to all his comrades that in order to restore peace in the region, they should cease their activities forthwith both in the tribal region as well as the settled districts of the

NWFP,” said a pamphlet released on Wednesday. “He has warned that his directives should be complied with and those violating them will be publicly punished,” it said.

A spokesman for Baitullah confirmed the contents of the pamphlet circulated in South Waziristan Agency and the adjoining districts of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan. The development follows behind-the-scenes negotiations between the amir of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the government, conducted through tribal interlocutors.

A 15-point draft agreement, to be signed between the Mehsud tribe of South Waziristan and the local political administration, calls for an end to militancy, exchange of prisoners, withdrawal of the military and resolution of issues in accordance with local customs and the Frontier Crimes Regulation.

Maulvi Omar, who speaks for Baitullah, told Dawn that the military had begun pulling out of the Mehsud area as a result of the talks.

The draft agreement envisages the Frontier Corps would replace the military in the area.

Sources said that military presence in the Mehsud territory was already very thin, except for a limited number in Razmak. A military spokesman, however, denied that any orders had been issued to pull out the army. “Not yet,” Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said. “So far we have not received any orders from the government.”

Maulvi Omar said talks between the two sides were “coming to fruition”. The agreement would incorporate demands from the two sides, he added.

He claimed that the TTP had in custody more than 100 military, paramilitary and government officials. They would be released after the signing of the peace accord through a grand tribal jirga.

Maulvi Omar said talks were under way on two tracks — at the provincial level to restore peace in the settled districts, including Swat and Darra Adamkhel, and for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“There will be full compliance from our side,” he said, adding that he was more optimistic than ever before that peace would finally return to the region.

He said the government had released three of their people, including Maulana Sufi Mohammad.

He expressed the hope that the government would also withdraw forces from other areas.

Ismail Khan contributed to the report from Peshawar

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