But that is no surprise as most belong to ANP and PPP and were busy pulling their long-in-hiding skunk ‘leader’ Asfandyar Wali out of his bunker for a much holier purpose — offer support to another skunk Zardari. Of course they could not manage to get that brave pathan out of his hole but they did manage to get him in front of a camera.
Oh, and a very interesting thing: ANP now claims — after all this time — that the “accord with militants was signed under duress” and Asfand puts up this wild claim: “One militant wearing a suicide vest placed himself behind Afrasiab Khattak and one behind Mian Iftikhar (the party’s senior leaders) during the signing ceremony.”
Here are some news items from that day when about the same deal Bilour proclaimed “Congratulations, we have reached an agreement“:
Thursday, May 22, 2008
PESHAWAR: The Taliban militants operating under the command of Maulana Fazlullah in Swat on Wednesday signed a 16-point peace agreement with the Awami National Party-led NWFP government and agreed to disbanding the militia, while denouncing and renouncing suicide attacks and stopping attacks on the security forces and the government installations.
“Congratulations, we have reached an agreement,” was the first sentence uttered by the leader of the government team, Senior Minister Bashir Bilour, as he walked out of the conference hall to speak to reporters, who were waiting at the Civil Officers Mess from 10 am.
The Taliban were represented by their spokesman Muslim Khan, Ali Bakht, Maulana Muhammad Amin, Mehmood Khan and Nisar Khan, while the government team consisted of senior ministers Bashir Bilour and Rahimdad Khan, NWFP Environment Minister Wajid Ali Khan, ANP provincial President Afrasiyab Khattak and MPA Shamshir Ali.
After the talks that continued for eight-and-a-half hours, Bashir Bilour announced that both the sides had signed a 16-point peace agreement and hoped that now there would be peace in the violence-shattered Swat valley.
“Swat was the only district shattered by violence and the poor law and order, which was also affecting the rest of the province. But now the agreement would restore peace,” he said. It took only 13 days to reach a final agreement on such a complex issue. The first round of talks was held in Chakdara on May 9, in which both sides agreed to a ceasefire and in the second round of negotiations held at the Shahi Mehmankhana on May 13, the negotiating teams achieved consensus on several issues. On Wednesday, they signed the final peace agreement.
The ANP-PPP coalition government in the NWFP had also signed an agreement with the Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi on April 21, which bound the organisation to remain peaceful and honour the government writ. That agreement had paved the way for the release of its founder, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, who was in jail since December 2001.
Reading out the agreement, Bilour said the militants had agreed to the following:
1-To accept and honour the writ of the federal and provincial governments
2-Shariat-e-Muhammadi would be implemented in erstwhile Malakand Division in letter and spirit.
3-The militants would not malign religions of other citizens.
4-The cases of the (Taliban) prisoners would be reviewed and a decision about their release would be made.
5-The government is assured that its law enforcement agencies, government officials, buildings and installations, police stations, police officials, Police Lines, Army, Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, bridges, roads and electricity installations would not be attacked. There would be a ban on keeping private militia. The Taliban would denounce and disown suicide attacks, remote-controlled bomb blasts and bomb blasts in all private, government buildings and shops.
6-The Army would be gradually sent back to barracks in accordance with the prevailing situation.
7-All foreign militants would be handed over to the government besides an assurance from the militants that they would not attack barber shops and markets visited by women.
8-The government would look into all damages done during the operations and would compensate all deserving victims.
9-The Taliban would not oppose vaccination against polio, measles, smallpox and TB, including all those administered to children, and would not obstruct women’s education.
10-There would be complete ban on the display of weapons and only licensed arms would be allowed.
11-The incidents of kidnapping and car-lifting must be condemned and subsequently eliminated and all those training centres where militants and suicide bombers were being trained would be dismantled besides those places where explosives were being made.
12-In line with the rules of the authorised license, there would be permission to talk on FM radio channel.
13-The local Taliban would cooperate with the government in the investigations of incidents of murders, robbery and other crimes.
14-The government would take action in the area against oppressors, bribe-takers, adulterers, thieves, dacoits and kidnappers in order to rid the society of such elements.
15-An Islamic university would be set up in Mamdheri Complex, which would be run by a joint government-Taliban committee.
In the last and the 16th point, an 11-member joint committee was named to ensure the implementation of the agreement. The members of the committee included Wajid Ali Khan, MPA Dr Shamshir Ali, DIG Malakand Range, district police officer Swat, district coordination officer Swat from the government side and Maulana Muhammad Amin, Ali Bakht, Muslim Khan, Mehmood Khan and Nisar Khan from the Taliban side.
From the government side, the agreement written on a simple paper was signed by Afrasiyab Khattak, Bashir Bilour, Rahimdad Khan, Wajid Ali and Dr Shamshir Ali, while Muslim Khan, Maulana Muhammad Amin, Ali Bakht, Mehmood Khan and Nisar Khan signed the agreement on the behalf of the Taliban.
There was no mention in the agreement about the Taliban commander Fazlullah, or whether he had been granted amnesty. The peace agreement, if truly implemented, would pave the way for durable peace in the militancy-hit Swat valley.
The people of Swat were ecstatic over the peace agreement and hoped that the scenic valley’s past glory would be restored. “A third force tried on the eve of the third round to sabotage the peace talks by attacking schools and security persons, but thank God they failed in their nefarious designs and the peace agreement was signed,” an area resident told The News by phone from Mingora.
Talking to reporters, a member of the Taliban negotiating team, Ali Bakht, said the government would release 200 Taliban in the next two weeks. Meanwhile, sources among the militants claimed the Taliban commander in Swat Maulana Fazlullah and his comrades were given amnesty and the government had assured the Taliban that it would not take action against them.
However, there was no word on the fate of the rebel cleric and his men in the agreement. Senior minister Bashir Bilour also parried questions about Fazlullah’s fate. “The committee, which has already been formed, will decide about it,” he replied.
The sources, however, added that they had intentionally not included the general amnesty clause in the agreement to avoid any embarrassment, but Fazlullah and his comrades had been granted amnesty. Asked about the cases against Fazlullah and his supporters, they said it was the responsibility of the government to withdraw these cases.
“He (Fazlullah) and our other comrades are free now. The government will not harass Fazlullah or other Taliban as promised, and if it does, it will be violating the peace accord signed today,” they said.
The sources said all the activists of the Fazlullah-led movement would now return to their homes. They said they were satisfied with the agreement and had signed it for the sake of peace in the region.
Swat Taliban ‘renounce militancy’: Peace pact signed with Fazlullah’s men
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.