Karachi, 5 May (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - As residents of Pakistan's Swat valley began fleeing their homes to avoid conflict between the Taliban and the armed forces, militants extended the radius of their attacks to the Khyber Agency and other areas on the Afghan border. But now mainstream Sunni scholars have retaliated by unanimously declaring the Taliban and militant leader Sufi Mohammad outlaws and urging the government to immediately stop all negotiations.
With a massive military operation expected in the North West Frontier Province's Swat valley, dozens of Pakistani security forces men were under siege by Taliban militants late Tuesday.
The local administration announced the relaxation of the curfew in the district and asked residents to leave the area so that Taliban would not use them as human shields.
NWFP information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said on Tuesday up to 500, 000 people are likely to be displaced from Swat.
Meanwhile, a suicide attack was carried out in the Khyber Agency and the militants opened new fronts in the Mohmand and Bajaur agencies against the security forces in a strategy to engage troops and divert them from the Swat operation.
Significantly, this time the Taliban failed to muster the support of mainstream political and religious leaders.
“We demand the government to immediately stop all negotiations with Sufi Mohammad and his outlawed TNSM (Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi)," Ejaz Sarwat Qadr, head of the religious party, Sunni Tehrek told Adnkronos International (AKI) by telephone from a Sunni party conference in Rawalpindi.
"The government should not have started negotiations with outlaws. Neither the Sufi Mohammad nor the Taliban know anything about Islam, Islamic jurisprudence. They are the product of a tribal culture.
"The government should maintain its writ at all cost and sort out the outlaws through a military operation, the chief of Sunni Tehrik Ejaz Sarwat Qadri told AKI on telephone from Rawalpindi where he was attending a grand conference of all Sunni parties.
The Sunni conference on Tuesday condemned the Taliban’s occupation of shrines and their intention to destroy them.
The conference unanimously urged the government to declare Sufi Mohammad an outlaw because of his statements against the constitution and establish the writ of the state.
Pakistan is a majority Sunni state where the adherents of Sunni Muslim revivalist Deobandi movement and fundamentalist Wahabi school of thought are estimated to comprise 10 to 15 percent of the country's population.