The Pakistani Press exposes the Waziristan Accord as an agreement between the government and the Taliban
“Rebel” tribal elder Maulvi Abbas Khan (right) presenting a copy of the Quran to Pakistan Army Commander Lt Gen Safdar Hussain in Shakai near Wana, South Waziristan. Photo from 2004. Click image to view.
While Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and a host of government functionaries continue to claim the Waziristan Accord was an agreement with the tribes that will further peace in the tribal regions, the Pakistani press continually refutes the government line. Dawn, the Pakistani newspaper that provided the details of the Waziristan Accord, digs deeper and discovers the agreement was indeed between the Taliban and the government. The tribes were essentially sidelined.
The deal was signed with militants and not with tribal elders, as is being officially claimed. The signatories are the two principal parties to the conflict: (a) the administrator of North Waziristan as the government representative, and (b) militants and clerics who until September 5 were on the wanted list. Among them are Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Maulana Sadiq Noor, Azad Khan, Maulvi Saifullah, Maulvi Ahmad Shah Jehan, Azmat Ali, Hafiz Amir Hamza and Mir Sharaf.
The first two in the list are top militant [or Taliban] clerics and the remaining six were nominated by them to co-sign the agreement, sources say, adding that they were all pardoned by the government subsequent to the deal. The agreement identifies them as ‘fareeq-e-doum’ (second party). As the names indicate, no tribal elder from the Utmanzai tribe was among the signatories, as claimed by the government. The 45-member inter-tribal jirga handpicked and nominated by Governor Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai countersigned the document as the interlocutors. Period.
Governor Jan Aurakzai [or Orakzai] is a known Taliban sympathizer and is a proponent of expanding the terms of the Waziristan Accord throughout the tribal agencies.
On September 5, we noted that senior Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader Tahir Yuldashev were present at the signing. On September 23, we noted that major Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, including members of the Central Shura, fully backed the Waziristan Accord.
Dawn goes on to document the violations of the truce, items we’ve documented here since its signing: the continuation of targeted assassinations, the presence of ‘foreigners’ in the region, the absence of Pakistani troops, the rise in crime and the existence of two Taliban offices in Miramshah. The Taliban themselves mentions ten offices in the note pinned on the chest of an assassinated “spy.”
The Friday Times of Lahore took a trip to Miramshah and discovered the Taliban have near total control of the city. Iqbal Khattak describes the scene:
Markets were open, streets were full of people and many long-haired people known as the ‘Taliban’ were patrolling the bazaar in 4×4 SSR jeeps and on foot, brandishing Kalashnikov, rifles and other weapons. Vehicles were leaving from the general bus stand in all directions and trailers were bringing different commodity items into the bazaar and carrying exports goods to Afghanistan through the Ghulam Khan check-post. There are few signs of government presence, however. All check-posts have been vacated and paramilitary jawans are almost gone except at one or two places. The military is back to the barracks. I only saw two tribal policemen at one place near the Dattakhel bus stand.
The local view is the Taliban have gained the upper hand in signing the “truce.” “The Taliban have emerged victorious from the accord. Whatever demands they put on the table were met (by the government),” said Pehlawan Malik Mir Kazim, an elder in a town near Miramshah. “This is the general perception among the people here.” Kazim refutes the claims the Waziristan Accord was designed to counter the Taliban. “If that were true the Taliban would not be moving around openly without any fear of the government,” said Kazim.
The militants are clearly triumphant and enjoying the freedom of movement the accord has afforded them. As one 22-year old militant Bismillah Khan put it: “It is great to move around without fear of encountering the troops.” Former FATA security chief Brig. (Retd), Mehmood Shah said the accord gave the Taliban complete freedom of movement and the “chances of presence [sic] of high value targets” must have grown following the government’s lifting of travel restrictions on militants. The Taliban look fresh, their hair well-oiled. “They were mostly battle-fatigued and dust covered when they were fighting the troops and moving constantly from one place to another,” Rasool Khan, a chemist near the agency headquarters hospital, told TFT.
This has far-reaching implications. The Taliban and al Qaeda have a safe haven in every sense of the word. They are no longer the tired, hunted fugitives concerned about the Pakistani Army. Their energies can now be directed from survival to current and future operations. The Pakistani government has not ceded authority over the tribal agencies, only control. Musharraf has repeatedly stated cross border raids from U.S. and NATO forces would be unacceptable violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty. The Taliban and al Qaeda have openly established training camps and are recruiting, arming and training fighters, and sortieing them into Afghanistan, within Pakistan, and beyond.