ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The Taliban called a cease-fire in Swat Valley in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan on Sunday, after the provincial government in the region agreed to some of the demands of the pro-Taliban militant group Tereek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-Muhammadi (TNSM), according to local media.
The NWFP provincial government and Sufi Muhammad, the founder of TNSM, negotiated an agreement to enforce Islamic law in the neighboring Malakand District, instead of the existing judicial system that was introduced during British rule.
Amnesty International, in a statement issued on Feb. 16, says the agreement shows a dangerous disregard for the human rights of the people of Swat Valley, effectively handing them over to the Taliban.
“Girls and women have been systematically targeted by the Taliban for gender based violence and discrimination. Their rights to freedom of movement, work, and education have been severely curtailed. The Pakistani government cannot just abandon these people and sign away their rights,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.
Representatives of the NWFP provincial government, however, say they reached the agreement on the behalf of the people of Swat Valley.
According to a report in the Pakistani newspaper The Daily Times, Chief Minister of the NWFP, Ameer Haidar Hoti, said that the decision to implement Islamic law was not made under pressure from the Taliban, but because the citizens of Swat Valley demanded that such an agreement be made.
The Daily Times also reports that Pakistan’s federal government, under President Asif Ali Zardari, has approved the decision but says it will not sign the official documents until peace is restored in the region.
The people of Swat Valley have been living with ongoing violence perpetrated by both the Taliban and Pakistani army, which is fighting against them. Since 2007, hundreds of thousands of Swat Valley’s 1.5 million residents have fled the region.