Monday, April 21, 2008
Today's release of a leading pro-Taliban militant apparently signals a change in policy by the new government in Pakistan. Maula Sufi Mohammad, a leader of the Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM) movement who had been in custody since November 2001, was freed after a meeting with the chief minister of the volatile North West Frontier Province. The release, which was accompanied by a peace agreement with TNSM, could be the start of similar agreements with other rebel groups thought to be hiding in the largely lawless border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sufi Mohammad led hundreds of tribal men into Afghanistan to support the Taliban after the United States invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Reuters international news service. The United States gave more than $10 billion to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf over 10 years to encourage him to gain control over the border region, where remaining members of the Taliban leadership, as well as Sept. 11 suspect Osama bin Laden, is thought to be hiding. But the new government has offered to negotiate with rebel groups, and Sufi Mohammad was released after eight leaders of TNSM movement signed a six-point peace agreement that commits the group to help create conditions for the restoration of government control over the Swat district of NWFP. The Reuters international news service says the agreement includes a declaration by TNSM that the killing of police, soldiers or other government employees is "un-Islamic."