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Taliban spread tentacles

world Updated: Mar 06, 2009 23:19 IST

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The Taliban and the Pakistani army signed a truce in February in Swat, the once-popular tourist area just an hour north of the capital. But far from establishing peace, the pact seems to have allowed the Taliban free rein to expand their harsh religious rule.

Just days after the truce was signed, a member of a prominent anti-Taliban family returned to his mountain village, having received assurances from the government that it was safe. He was promptly kidnapped by the Taliban, tortured and murdered.

This week, two Pakistani soldiers were killed because they failed to inform the Taliban in advance of their movements.

On Wednesday, the provincial government signed an accord with the local Taliban leader that imposes Islamic law, or Shariah, in the area, and institutes a host of new regulations, including a ban on music, a requirement that shops close during calls to prayer and the installation of complaint boxes for reports of anti-Islamic behavior.

The Pakistani government argued that the truce in Swat would free up the Pakistani army, reduce civilian suffering and satisfy popular dissatisfaction with the local judiciary.

The government said it regarded the truce as a way to separate “more approachable” militants, like Muhammad, from hard-line Taliban leaders like Maulana Fazlullah, his son-in-law, a young warlord flush with money and weapons. Fazlullah, backed by the main Pakistani Taliban group and Qaida fighters, led the fight in Swat against the Pakistani army.

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