Business as usual as the situation in Pakistan deteriorates
The U.S. pressure campaign to get Pakistan to clean up the Taliban and al Qaeda strongholds in the western and southern provinces has had a limited effect at best. After arresting Mullah Obaidullah and two other senior Taliban commanders in Quetta, Pakistan indicated it will go no further. “The ‘North Waziristan Peace Agreement’ will remain intact and it will not be rescinded,” reports The Nation. “Any new major operation in Waziristan will lead to serious repercussions for Pakistan and cause strong backlash, something that cannot be afforded and this has been plainly conveyed to the Bush administration,” an anonymous senior official told The Nation last weekend. “The US administration had been told that the peace agreement in North Waziristan and those entered into South Waziristan earlier needed time to succeed and those could not be rescinded.”
This news comes after the government concluded negotiation with Baitullah Mehsud, the most powerful Taliban commander in South Waziristan. While the Pakistani government has direct evidence linking the recent string of suicide attacks across the country to Baitullah, it none the less sees it fit to conduct negotiations with him. Baitullah has been linked to bombings in Islamabad (including an attempt on the Prime Minister Aziz), Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Peshawar and in South Waziristan.
“Baitullah Mehsud was very positive. He not only condemned the recent terrorist acts in the country but also assured that he would honour the agreement with the government signed in Spin Kai Raghzai in 2005,” Maulvi Mirajuddin Khan, the leader of the peace delegation told Dawn last Saturday. “This is the last chance for Baitullah,” Jan Aurakzai, the Governor of the Northwest Frontier Province, said according to Khan.
But the situation in South Waziristan, the tribal agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and greater Northwest Frontier Province continues to deteriorate.
Today, 15 were killed in the Azam Warsak village in South Waziristan after “Uzbek rebels and some local supporters” attacked a pro-government tribal leader in a bazaar. Twelve of those killed were Uzbeks. While this isn’t stated, the Uzbek group is Tahir Yuldashev’s Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has the support of Abdullah Mehsud, Baitullah’s tribesman in South Waziristan. Abdullah also supports Tajik terrorists in South Waziristan.
In North Waziristan, yet another “U.S. spy” was murdered, and another kidnapped. Over 200 pro-government tribal leaders and tribesmen have killed in North Waziristan since the signing of the ‘peace accord,’ and many of these murders aren’t reported in the Pakistani press, according to an American intelligence official.
The Taliban destroyed two barber shops and a music store in Khar in Bajaur agency, after issuing threats to barbers last week not to shave beards. The government hopes to sign a peace deal with the Taliban in Bajaur. The Taliban attacked a police patrol in Tank. Three journalists have been put on a hit list in Darra Adamkhel. “Death threats came in the form of pamphlets calling on the ‘faithful to kill the trio,'” notes the Daily Times.
Also in Darra Adamkhel, a Pakistani cameraman was beaten by followers of Maulana Fazlullah, a radical Islamist cleric in the Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariah Mohammadi (or TNSM). Maulana Fazlullah, who was arrested by police for preaching radical Islam on an illegal FM radio station, threatened the police prior to his arrest. “Next time my supporters will not leave the attacking policemen alive,” said Fazlullah. He is the brother in law of TNSM leader Maulana Sufi Mohammad, and his brother, Fazal Ahad, was killed during the Chingai air strike on the Taliban and al Qaeda camp last October.
As the Taliban continues to consolidate power in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, U.S. forces are continuing to conduct cross border raids into Pakistan.
This is only a temporary solution, as a Pakistan military operation is required to kill or capture senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the region. All of the negotiations with the ‘tribal leaders’ such as Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud will not cause the terrorist leaders to be handed over or result in the dismantling the Taliban infrastructure. That’s because the Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud, and others are on the same side as the Taliban and al Qaeda.