Nirupama Subramanian

Pact has only reaffirmed militants’ control of Swat: experts

Not clear how government plans to gain control

Most girls’ schools are still shut in Swat valley

ISLAMABAD: Taliban militants in Pakistan’s Swat district declared an “indefinite” ceasefire, eight days after the NWFP government agreed to set up Sharia courts in the region.

But it is still not clear how the government plans to bring back under its control an area that is dominated by the militants, with most commentators of the view that the agreement has only reaffirmed Taliban control of Swat. As a “goodwill” gesture, the militants also released four paramilitary personnel, with a spokesman promising to release all security personnel in their custody soon.

The ceasefire announcement came after Taliban Commander Mullah Fazlullah consulted his deputies on Tuesday. It was welcomed by the top government official of Malakand division, which includes Swat. Syed Javed Mohammed, commissioner of Malakand, described it as a “positive” development that would be welcomed by all the people of Swat, who he said were yearning for peace, first and foremost.

There was no immediate reaction from the Awami National Party, which heads the provincial government, or from the Pakistan People’s Party-led federal government. Government offices and schools in Swat are reported to have reopened, but attendance was thin.

Most girls’ schools are still shut as the Taliban has not yet indicated how they intend to proceed on this issue. The government has said it will implement the agreement once peace is fully restored in Swat. President Asif Ali Zardari has yet to sign into existence a law that will enable the provincial government to set up the courts.

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