Pro-Taliban Militants, Gov't Sign 'Permanent Peace' Agreement in Pakistan

Pro-Taliban militants encouraged by tribal elders signed an agreement with Pakistan's government Saturday to ensure "permanent peace" in this volatile northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border, intelligence officials said.

Under the agreement, which is likely to be unveiled by the government next week, no militant will attack government officials or security forces, and in return the army deployed in North Waziristan "will not carry out operations against them," said an area intelligence official on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

"This is a good development because the Taliban have promised to stay away from militancy," said the official, adding "the Taliban have also agreed to distance themselves from foreign militants."

CountryWatch: Pakistan

The official gave no further details, but a second area intelligence official — who also didn't want to be named because of sensitive nature of the issue — said the accord was signed at a seminary near Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan where the military has carried out several operations against militants in recent years.

Residents have welcomed the cease-fire and urged the government to take steps for lasting peace.

Although no other details about Saturday's accord were immediately available, militants in the past have demanded the release of their associates arrested after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

They have also asked the government to abolish military checkpoints in North Waziristan.

Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in its war on terror and it has asked the militants to lay down arms, evict foreigners from their areas and refrain from crossing the Afghan border to attack coalition forces.

Pakistan has deployed more than 80,000 troops in the country's tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda chief Usama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are believed to be hiding.