Pakistan’s government has reached a new peace agreement aimed at stopping a militant group from threatening the northwestern city Peshawar. VOA’s Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad on the latest in a series of controversial agreements that critics say have mainly strengthened pro-Taliban fighters in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Government representatives released details of the agreement on Thursday, after tribal leaders agreed to guarantee that the local extremist group would leave a key town just outside the provincial capital Peshawar and stop hostilities against the government.
Tribal elder Malik Hashim was a member of the delegation and spoke to VOA by telephone from Khyber agency, where the talks took place.
He said the leader, Mangal Bagh, promised that his people will not attack official government offices or paramilitary forces in both the settled and rural areas of Khyber.
Pakistani paramilitary forces launched operations in Khyber in late June after locals complained bands of extremist fighters had moved into settled areas and began harassing people and enforcing strict moral codes. There were also increased sightings of Taliban militants in Peshawar during this time.
The paramilitary forces met little resistance but have since stayed in the region during the talks to provide security. The head of Pakistan’s interior ministry, Rehman Malik, said Thursday that some of those troops would now begin leaving.
He said not all of the paramilitary forces will withdraw – those who remain will ensure the militants do not return.
Afghan, NATO and U.S. officials have been critical of similar peace agreements the Pakistani government has struck in recent months, saying withdrawing troops and striking peace deals have mainly allowed Taliban fighters safe refuge to launch attacks in Afghanistan….
Meanwhile, the Taliban show they can still menace Peshawar at will: “Pro-Taleban militants end police station siege in Pakistan,” from Agence France-Presse, July 10:
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Pro-Taleban militants ended their siege of a police station in restive northwest Pakistan when troops arrived early Thursday, police said.
Police said they requested reinforcements after around 200 militants surrounded a police station in the Hangu district of Northwest Frontier Province late Wednesday to demand the release of seven suspected extremists.
“˜The Taleban ended the siege of the police station around 3:00 am (2100 GMT) when troops started arriving,” local police station chief Jehangir Khan told AFP….