/ languages

Choisir langue


Swat Valley pro-Taliban rebels declare indefinite ceasefire

Article published on the 2009-02-24 Latest update 2009-02-24 10:03 TU

Students attend prayers at school in Swat Valley (Credit: Reuters)

Students attend prayers at school in Swat Valley
(Credit: Reuters)

Rebels loyal to the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat Valley have promised to lay down their weapons indefinitely on Tuesday after the government signed a controversial deal to accept Islamic Sharia law as the only system of justice in the surrounding Malakand division. The rebels had been fighting for Sharia-only law for the past two years. For their part, they will release prisoners.

Thousands have fled the valley, once the site of a tony Pakistan ski resort. The local government hailed the news, but the deal has come under criticism by the US, Europe, Afghanistan and India, sparking concern that militants in the North West Frontier Province might want to expand their Taliban and Al-Qaeda-flavoured fervour.

The ceasefire applies to the Swat Valley, but not to other parts of the north where the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are also located.

Rebels had been waging a campaign of terror to enforce sharia law, including bombing girls' schools and outlawing entertainment in addition to fighting government forces in the region.

All boys' and some girls' schools were open on Monday, but attendance was down for fear of ongoing security issues. Local education official Sher Azfal said that 191 schools had been destroyed in the valley, including 122 schools for girls.

No date has been put forward as to when the sharia law edict will be implemented. Rebel leader Maulana Fazlullah said that the ceasefire would be made permanent if the government convincingly upheld its promise of allowing sharia law to be implemented.