Official kidnapped in Pakistan, despite Swat Valley cease-fire

Girls study this week in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where education fhas been an issue in peace talks.
A top official in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley was kidnapped Sunday — a day after a cease-fire between the government and Taliban militants was supposed to go into effect.

Kushal Khan was on his way to take up his new post as the District Coordination Officer when unknown gunmen kidnapped him and six members of his security guards near Mingora, the valley’s main city, officials said. Khan was nabbed a day after the provincial government declared a permanent cease-fire agreement with Taliban militants in the valley. Yet, hours after the announcement, Maulana Fazlullah — the Taliban commander in the area — was playing down the agreement with aggressive rhetoric in a radio broadcast. Fazlullah said militants will continue their fight to impose Islamic law, or sharia, in the region. Watch cease-fire deal with Taliban » Swat Valley, located in North West Frontier Province, was once one of Pakistan’s biggest tourist destinations. It is situated near the Afghanistan border and about 186 miles (300 km) from the capital city of Islamabad . Watch what sharia law requires The valley boasted the country’s only ski resort until it was shut down after militants overran the area. The area was also a draw for trout-fishing enthusiasts and visitors to the ancient Buddhist ruins in the area.

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In recent months, however, militants have unleashed a wave of violence that has claimed hundreds of lives across the North West Frontier Province. The militants want to require veils for women, beards for men and ban music and television. The fighting has displaced nearly half of Swat’s population, officials said. The central government has long exerted little control in the area, but it launched an intense military offensive in late July to flush out militants. As retaliation for the military presence, the Taliban carried out a series of deadly bombings, beheadings and kidnappings — and said the attacks will continue until the troops pull out. On Saturday, the government of the province said it had reached a deal with the Taliban for a permanent cease-fire.

It marked a major concession by the Pakistani government in its attempt to hold off Taliban militants. The agreement means boys’ schools will reopen on Monday and camps will be set up for Swat residents who have fled the fighting or whose homes had been destroyed. Watch what sharia law requires »