After a day filled with blogging and work, this CHUP editor was too spent to include a last-minute post on a significant development that occurred late yesterday, when government authorities and militants reportedly scrapped their widely covered peace deal. According to the Daily Times, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik said on Monday that this decision came after these militants “reneged on their promise to stop violence.” The NWFP government signed a peace deal with Taliban-linked militants in the Swat Valley last month, and they had agreed to stop attacking Pakistani security forces as part of this agreement. However, the Times noted, “The announcement comes a day after Taliban militants killed four policemen in an ambush in Mattani, near Peshawar. The Taliban accused the government of not honoring its commitments under the deal on Sunday.”
However, perhaps my stalling on covering the development was for the best, since media outlets later reported on Tuesday that Pakistan denied ending the deal. Dawn Television quoted Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema, who asserted the Swat peace deal had not been scrapped, that “it remained intact.” According to a newswire, Malik’s statement on Monday incited a sharp response from local militants in the Pakistani tribal regions. Maulvi Omar (or Mullah Omar), the spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban, the umbrella organization for several militant groups, “reportedly said that the militants would turn cities of settled areas into battlefields if the government scraps its truce with them.” Although there may have been some truth to Rehman Malik’s announcement yesterday, the government, in its statements today, were quick to backpedal in order to avoid the threat of further violence.
BBC News reported on a related development that is significant within the negotiations context. According to the news agency, “Health officials in north-western Pakistan say they have embarked on a polio vaccination drive in the Swat area without resistance from militants.” Such a development is important given that militant leaders in Swat have campaigned against polio vaccinations since 2006, when Maulana Fazlullah, or the “Radio Mullah,” started telling people in his FM radio sermons that the vaccine was intended to render their children impotent. Recently, however, the BBC reported that the militants would abide by the terms of the peace deal, “provided the government did not force parents to vaccinate their children.” Although vaccination teams in the past have often been kidnapped or beaten up, the current campaign has reportedly “kicked off to a smooth start.” According to BBC News, “Polio has been eradicated from most of the developed world, but new cases are still being reported from Nigeria, India and Pakistan.” [Image from Daily Times]