Setback for Secular Pakistan With Swat Peace Deal

Score another win for Pakistan's extremists. Last week the Taliban extended their control into the country's heartland when the government signed a one-sided peace deal that gave in to the radicals' demands—not in the remote tribal wilds, as with most past bargains, but in the verdant Swat Valley, a onetime tourist destination only 160 kilometers from Islamabad. The government gets a ceasefire and a shaky promise of peace. The militants get the imposition of Sharia in the region. And secular Pakistan suffers another setback.

The agreement leaves jihadist forces in control of some 70 percent of the district that once was home to 1.5 million people, ratifying gains won through a terror campaign. Over the past year, the insurgents have killed more than 70 policemen and 150 soldiers, some of whom were beheaded. They have burned some 170 girls' schools and banned the selling of DVDs, the shaving of beards and criticizing the Taliban. At least 1,200 civilians have also died in the fighting, and up to 500,000 locals have fled the valley. The region has also become a magnet for Taliban from neighboring tribal areas, making Swat a potential staging ground for the expansion of jihadist influence into the populous Punjab plain.

Many war-weary locals have embraced the deal, hoping for peace and justice. But the irony is that the radicals are so divided, there's no guarantee the bloodshed will end. Which means that, thanks to the government's bungling, Swat residents may end up with the worst of both worlds: a new, intolerant leadership that can't even hold up its end of the deal.