NWFP in action to save Swat accord

June 21, 2008

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MINGORA, June 20: The NWFP government on Friday renewed efforts to save a peace agreement with the local Taliban in Swat.

NWFP Minister for Environment Wajid Ali Khan, who heads the provincial government’s implementation committee, held talks with Muslim Khan, Maulana Fazlullah’s spokesman, and other Taliban leaders at Dewlai area after they refused to resume talks in Peshawar on Friday.

Local Taliban accused the government of not implementing the clauses set in the May 21 peace deal and said if their demands were not met by Tuesday, the agreement would “cease to exist”.

Taliban’s demands include freeing 57 suspected militants arrested by the security forces during the military operation and pulling back army troops from the troubled district and enforcement of Shariat.

Mr Khan told Dawn that the government and Taliban had agreed to continue talks.

Reiterating the government’s sincerity in implementing the peace deal, he said: “I … will convey Taliban’s reservations to the government.”

Earlier, talking to Dawn, Haji Muslim Khan said that the peace deal was still “intact”, but it would be “scrapped” if the provincial government failed to implement the deal in its entirety by Tuesday, a deadline set by the 1,500-member ‘Taliban Shura’ recently.

DCO Swat Shaukat Khan Yousafzai told Dawn that he had contacted the Taliban leaders on Thursday night but they had refused to attend the meeting in Peshawar, disregarding the Shura’s policy.

The DCO said later he had contacted the minister and informed him of the development, adding that the minister was optimistic about his ability to persuade the Taliban to resume talks.

The Taliban spokesman said the government “appears to be very sincere, committed and dedicated in implementing the peace accord but for some reason … they are delaying honouring basic Taliban demands.”