Pro-Taliban militants called a month-long cease-fire on Sunday in a Pakistani tribal region on the Afghan border to give tribal elders a chance to broker a settlement after months of fierce fighting.
“We decided that there will be a total cease-fire in the area from our side for one month, as the government wants to set up a tribal jirga here,” Abdullah Farhad, a commander of the Islamist militants in North Waziristan, told Reuters.
Security forces have killed more than 300 militants, including 75 foreigners in North Waziristan since last year, after the military switched its offensive from South Waziristan.
Several Arab lieutenants of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden have been killed in North Waziristan, and U.S. drone aircraft have carried out missile strikes on al-Qaida targets from across the border in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has some 80,000 regular army troops on the border with Afghanistan, most of them deployed in North and South Waziristan where al-Qaida-linked militants have been operating alongside Taliban and tribal sympathizers.
“We want tribal jirga (council) to work freely and settle the issue,” Farhad said.
He said the militants were calling on the government to abolish all new checkpoints in the region and replace security forces deployed at checkpoints with tribal police.
He also demanded the release of imprisoned tribesmen and the reinstatement of officials who had been removed from their jobs in the semi-autonomous region.
“If our demands are fulfilled, we can consider extending the cease-fire,” Farhad said.