Taliban, Pakistan Province Agree To Cease-Fire
ARI SHAPIRO, Host:
We're joined now by NPR's South Asia correspondent Philip Reeves. Good morning.
PHILIP REEVES: Good morning.
SHAPIRO: Tell us more about the details of this agreement we're talking about.
REEVES: The agreement would allow for the introduction, or the enforcement rather, of Islamic judicial practices in a big chunk of the northwest called Malakand. Now, many people in that part of Pakistan have actually been saying they want Islamic law, and they're not talking about the Taliban's very harsh variant of Shariah law - with beheadings and stonings and, you know, ban on female education and so on - they're just fed up with a judiciary that's extremely slow and broken down and they want swift, locally administered justice that conforms to their religious beliefs.
SHAPIRO: And describe the place where this is all playing out. The Swat Valley used to be one of Pakistan's biggest tourist destinations I understand.
REEVES: The army has been trying for more than a year, off and on, to drive the Taliban out of that area. They've taken control of it and their foothold there is now very strong indeed. There has been some terrible violence there. And the idea behind this agreement from the provincial government's point of view is to try to establish some peace in the area and to allow the government to reestablish some sort of administrative control there.
SHAPIRO: This is remarkable. I understand that 12,000 Pakistani troops have been unable to overwhelm 3,000 Taliban forces, or thereabouts.
REEVES: Yeah. You have to bear in mind the physical conditions though. It's mountainous, the Taliban use guerilla tactics, it's hit-and-run. And the army has alienated an awful lot of people in Swat Valley by, for example, indiscriminately shelling, according to residents, villages in the area and by introducing all sorts of restrictions, such as curfews, that have bought the economy of the area to its knees.
SHAPIRO: So, do you think this peace deal could work?
REEVES: The other important issue I must mention here is that apparently it's the case that they're going to ask the Taliban in Swat to disarm. Now, a lot of people are very skeptical about whether the Taliban will ever do that.
SHAPIRO: Now, as you said, this is a peace deal between the Taliban and the provincial government in this northwest part of Pakistan. How does the federal government of Pakistan feel about this?
REEVES: But beneath the surface, his government may see this as a way of splitting the Taliban in Swat from the rest of the Taliban in the northwest. So, it's not impossible that they are tacitly allowing this to play out to see what happens.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's South Asia correspondent Philip Reeves. Thanks a lot.
REEVES: You're welcome.
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