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.
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.
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.
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.
the concern has focused on militants in North and South Waziristan,
where Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud has vowed to launch attacks on
coalition forces in Afghanistan. In Khyber agency, northeast of
Waziristan, there has been concern over militants threatening an
important overland transit route for commercial trade as well as
supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan.