August 30, 2008 | FDD’s Long War Journal

Pakistan declares Ramadan cease-fire

The Pakistani government declared a cease-fire in the Taliban-controlled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Offensive military operations in the tribal areas and Swat will cease from the night of Aug. 31 until Oct. 2, Rehman Malik, Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani's adviser on internal security, told Geo TV. Suspected suicide bombers could still be targeted, Malik said, and security forces could defend themselves from attacks.

In the past, the Taliban have used cease-fires and peace accords to rest, rearm, refit, and consolidate their control over territory in their sphere of influence. The Taliban have been pressing the government to halt operations in the tribal regions.

The cease-fire declaration comes after the military and the Taliban have battled in the Aurkzai, South Waziristan, and Bajaur tribal agencies and the settled district of Swat.

Heavy fighting has been ongoing in the region around the Kohat Tunnel after three Taliban suicide bombers attacked a military outpost in the region. Five soldiers were killed and 37 were wounded in the assault. The strategic tunnel, which links Peshawar to Karachi in the South, has been closed due to clashes.

The Taliban assaulted a fort in South Waziristan earlier this week, which triggered a round of fighting that resulted in 23 Taliban and several soldiers killed. In Swat and Bajaur, the government claimed scores of Taliban fighters were killed in artillery and air attacks.

Pakistani politicians in Swat said the government has lost its writ in Swat, and politicians and their families are being hunted and killed by the Taliban. Members of the Awami National Party, an ethnic Pashtun political party that controls the Northwest Frontier Province and advocates a peaceful end to the fighting, has suffered the brunt of the Taliban attacks.

“We cannot go to our constituencies for fear of being killed,” the provincial minister for science and technology said. “Swat is burning. Innocent people are being killed,” said the provincial minister for forests. “Whether it is mosques, women and children or young and old, none of them is safe. The [members of the provincial assembly] cannot return home,” said the provincial information minister.

The Taliban have also intensified their suicide campaign over the past month. Taliban bombers have struck in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Wah, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, and Bannu, killing more than 170 Pakistanis and wounding more than 240, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups maintain secure bases in Pakistan's tribal areas and in some of the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. These groups have established 157 training camps and more than 400 support locations in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

The Taliban has organized some of its fighters into military formations. Al Qaeda has reformed the notorious 055 Brigade, the Arab legion of al Qaeda fighters that was destroyed during the initial US assault in Afghanistan in late 2001. Additional al Qaeda brigades have been formed, intelligence officials informed The Long War Journal.

Foreign al Qaeda fighters have flocked to the Pakistani border regions. On July 23, Gilani and his cabinet were told that more than 8,000 foreign fighters were operating in the tribal areas.

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