Taliban militants indefinitely extended a ceasefire yesterday in the Swat Valley, granting more time for peace talks that the US worries could create an insurgent haven in the region.
Troops and insurgents have observed a truce in the valley since Feb. 15, when Pakistani authorities offered to introduce Islamic law in the region if militants lay down their arms.
A hardline cleric is negotiating a possible deal on behalf of the government.
The Taliban ceasefire was due to expire today, but spokesman Muslim Khan said insurgent leaders decided to extend it “for an indefinite period.”
“From our side, there will be no hostility against the government and the army and we expect the same from them,” Khan said.
Pakistani officials say the offer to introduce Islamic law in Swat and surrounding areas addresses long-standing demands for speedy justice that have been exploited by the Taliban, which residents say now control much of the region.
But NATO and the US have voiced concern that any peace accord could effectively cede the valley to militants who have defied a yearlong military operation, beheaded opponents and bombed girls’ schools.
Many analysts doubt the Taliban would accept the mild version of Islamic law on offer or that they would loosen their grip on the valley, which lies just 160km from the capital, Islamabad.