Pakistan has signed a landmark peace agreement with pro-Taleban militants near the Afghan border. The deal aims to end several years of often intense fighting inside Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal area.
Senior military commanders and local militant leaders exchanged hugs and congratulations after signing the agreement in Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area.
The peace deal aims to end a long running conflict between government security forces and tribal groups inside the volatile region near the Afghan border.
Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told reporters in the capital, Islamabad, that the process was initiated some time ago by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. He says that as a result of lengthy negotiations a ceasefire has been implemented in North Waziristan. He says the ultimate goal of the agreement is a lasting peace in the region.
Under the new accord, tribal leaders have agreed to expel foreign extremists in the area and help end cross-border attacks.
In exchange, the government has released more than 100 prisoners from the tribal areas and will end most of its security operations in the area.
President Musharraf has repeatedly promised to dislodge local and foreign extremists active in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal areas. Many Taleban and al-Qaida extremists escaped to Waziristan after a U.S.-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
Pakistan subsequently deployed thousands of soldiers to the area in a long and bloody campaign to regulate the border and defeat local militants. But security experts say Afghan insurgents and remnants of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network have managed to established several bases in the region.
The Afghan government has complained to Pakistan that militants are staging cross-border raids from these bases, a charge Pakistan denies.
Mr. Musharraf is to fly to Afghanistan on Wednesday to discuss regional security issues.