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Will Taliban lay arms for amnesty?

world Updated: Apr 26, 2009 23:06 IST

Pakistani authorities and a religious hardline group are holding talks on the option of announcing a general amnesty for the Taliban in the Swat valley in exchange for the militants laying down arms.

The Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi, a religious hardline group that had earlier negotiated a peace deal in Swat, is seeking the release of 200 Taliban prisoners and is willing to issue a religious edict with top clerics asking for the disarmament of the militants, The News daily reported today.

The TNSM and the North West Frontier Province government are holding negotiations to ensure the success of the peace deal and the smooth implementation of the Nizam-e- Adl Regulation, which envisages of Shariah law in Swat.

The details of the edict are also being finalised for disarming the Taliban, the report said. The NWFP government has made it clear that it has done its bit to restore peace in Swat and it is now the turn of TNSM chief Sufi Muhammad to deliver his end of the bargain.

Once agreed, it will be signed by four to five TNSM scholars, including Sufi Muhammad. Once the religious edict is issued, the source said, the Taliban are expected to lay down arms before a Qazi in front of the media. This would follow the voluntary disarming of Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah's militia.

The Taliban have demanded the release of 200 prisoners arrested during military operations. Sufi Muhammad, who has issued some irresponsible statements recently, has been asked to show restraint and avoid making remarks that might derail the peace process.

Pak launches offensive

Pakistan on Sunday launched a new offensive to halt the advance of Taliban militants in the country's northwest, the military said, after the extremists ambushed troops, killing one soldier.

The country has come under Western and domestic pressure to rescind a deal to put three million people in the northwest region of Malakand under Islamic law, which critics charge has only emboldened the Islamist militants.