Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza

In Show of Lenience, Pakistan Releases Militant Leader

May 05, 2008 10:19 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The new Pakistani government has released a pro-Taliban leader and invited dialogue with militants. Some call the policy a step toward peace, others fear renewed violence.

30-Second Summary

The Pakistani government released militant leader Maulana Sufi Mohammad in late April, following a peace deal and talks in Peshawar with the chief minister of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), reports the BBC.

The new Pakistani prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gillani, also says his government will negotiate with any militants who are willing to reconcile.

Sufi Muhammad had been held by Pakistan since being arrested in November 2001 upon his return from Afghanistan, where he led tribal members in support of the Taliban fighting U.S. forces.

Tufail Ahmad, of the Middle East Media Research Institute, says that suicide bombings in Pakistan have halted—possibly as a result of recent talks—but the new policy will only benefit the Taliban. “The Taliban have the upper hand, pursuing their own agenda and achieving success with a key demand for—at an early stage in the talks—a mini-shari’a (religious) state within Pakistan,” Ahmad says.

But columnist Nasim Zehra of the Khaleej Times asserts that Pakistan’s ability to bargain with militant groups improved with Sufi Mohammad’s release. She predicts that the new government’s emphasis on negotiation over confrontation will make influential fundamentalist leader Maulana Fazlullah, of the group Tehreek e Nafaz e Shariat e Muhammadi (TNSM), more amenable to talks.

“Any demand that Fazlullah surrender before the opening of dialogue with him is unrealistic and will not work,” she says. “It is equally unrealistic to expect that without a chastened Fazlullah on board there will be peace in the region.”

Headline Links: Top Pakistani militant released

Key Player: Yusuf Raza Gillani

Opinion & Analysis: Experts differ on outcome of Sufi Muhammad’s release

Related Topics: NWFP government receives list of demands from Taliban


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