Pakistani Taliban on Sunday announced a 10-day truce in the militancy-hit Swat valley to facilitate negations between authorities and a top militant ideologue on implementing Islamic law in the region.
The move comes a day after the Taliban released a Chinese engineer abducted by them six months back in a "goodwill gesture".
Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan announced the unilateral ceasefire after the North West Frontier Province government and Maulana Sufi Mohammad, the head of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammedi (TNSM), reached an agreement on introducing the Islamic judicial system.
"We are announcing a 10-day ceasefire," Muslim Khan told reporters, adding the Taliban reserved the right to self-defence if security forces did not stop fighting. As a goodwill gesture, the Taliban had also released a Chinese engineer they had held captive for over five months, he said.
TSNM spokesman Ezat Khan told journalists a formal agreement on implementing Shariah or Islamic law in Swat and Malakand districts is likely to be announced by the NWFP government.
Speaking after talks between officials and Sufi Mohammad in Timargarah town in Dir district, Ezat Khan said a TSNM delegation will visit Swat valley to convince the militants fighting security forces to give an opportunity to the peace process.
NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti will chair a meeting of ministers and political and religious leaders tomorrow at which he is expected to formally announce the agreement on the Islamic judicial system.
Sufi Mohammad, who was freed from detention by the federal government last year after he renounced violence, is the father-in-law of Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of the Taliban in Swat.
Islamic militants in the valley are still holding John Solecki, an American citizen working for an UN agency, and have threatened to kill him within 72 hours if the government did not release 141 women allegedly detained in the country.
Swat, located just 160 km from Islamabad, has been in turmoil since October 2007 when troops launched a major operation against Fazlullah and his fighters. Hundreds of people have been killed in fighting between the militants and security forces backed by artillery and gunship helicopters.
Though the NWFP government and the local Taliban signed a peace deal in May last year, it collapsed within months. Security experts believe the peace pact was used by the militants to regroup.
The Taliban in Swat have executed dozens of government employees, including policemen, and people they accused of indulging in "un-Islamic" activities. They have banned the education of girls and bombed or torched nearly 200 schools in the valley.
The militants, who control most parts of Swat, have also banned the playing of music in public transport and barred barbers from shaving beards.
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