The Bajaur Accord is now official
The Taliban from Bajaur threaten a suicide campaign the same day the agreement is signed
NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies are openly controlled by the Taliban; yellow are under threat. Click map to view.
Today, the Pakistani government has officially inked the Bajaur Accord with the local tribes and the Taliban in the restive tribal agency. On March 17, the government came to an official verbal agreement with the Mamoond tribe. Today's agreement was with the Salarzai and Utmankhel tribes, as well as the 'local Taliban,' also known as the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (the TNSM, or Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law). "The local Taliban organisation has authorised me to sign this agreement and they have assured that they will not take part in any subversive activity," said Malik Abdul Aziz, the Taliban representative at the peace agreement, after the signing.
"The tribesmen and militants agreed not to give foreign militants safe haven in the area or allow 'subversive' activities, while the authorities pledged not to make arrests without consulting the elders," according to AFP. "The administration will not raid our places without any solid proof and withdraw warrants of arrests issued against our people on the basis of suspicion," said Aziz, the Taliban representative. AFP reports the Pakistani government has not agreed to withdraw military and security forces, unlike the Waziristan Accord.
The 'local Taliban' wasted no time in flexing its muscles. On the very same day the Bajaur Accord is inked, the 'local Taliban,' or TNSM, demanded the release of TNSM leader Sufi Mohammed. If Sufi is not released, the TNSM threatened to conduct a suicide campaign inside Pakistan. The TNSM claims to have over 100 suicide bombers available to strike at targets inside the country.
Suicide bombs are one of the TNSM's specialties. TNSM trains suicide bombers to hit targets in Afghanistan, as well as inside Pakistan. In this week's edition of the Weekly Standard magazine [Al Qaeda's Pakistan Sanctuary - Musharraf appeases the Taliban], I outlined the nature of the 'local Taliban' in Bajaur and their history after 9-11.
The tribal militants are led by Faqir Muhammad, government sources told Dawn, an English-language Pakistani newspaper, the day the agreement was made. Faqir Muhammad is a senior leader of the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws, which provided the ideological inspiration to the Afghan Taliban in the 1990s. Faqir's group sent over 10,000 fighters into Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. His two sons and two cousins were arrested by Pakistani authorities after returning from Afghanistan.
The Jamestown Foundation refers to Faqir Muhammad as "al-Zawahiri's Pakistani ally." His home in the village of Damadola was targeted by a joint U.S.-Pakistani airstrike in January 2006 after al Qaeda senior leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was believed to have been there. Zawahiri and Faqir escaped death, but Abu Khabab al-Masri, the chief of al Qaeda's WMD program, and several other senior al Qaeda leaders were killed in the attack.
In October 2006, Faqir called Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar "heroes of the Muslim world" and vowed joint efforts to fight the "enemies of peace" in Bajaur. Days later, the Chingai madrassa, which doubled as an al Qaeda and Taliban training camp, was hit by a U.S. airstrike, killing 84 Taliban, including Faqir's deputy, Liaquat Hussain. Faqir responded by attacking the Dargai military base with a suicide bomber.
Under the leadership of Faqir Muhammad, whom the Pakistani government refuses to arrest, Bajaur has become an al Qaeda command and control center for launching operations into eastern Afghanistan. Kunar, the adjacent Afghan province, is one of the most violent in the country.
The Pakistani government insists these 'local Taliban' are "patriots" who can be entrusted to secure the peace inside Pakistan while preventing cross border attacks in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Northwest Frontier Province is falling into the hands of the Taliban and al Qaeda.